How To Tell If Your Dog Is Pregnant

If you are a new breeder, the prospect of a new litter of pups is bound to be exciting…as well as stressful! Let’s cover some of the basics about canine pregnancy you need to know and also how to tell if your dog is pregnant.

Compared to human moms, dogs are pregnant for only a fraction of the time it takes to bring a new person into the world. From the time your bitch’s egg is first fertilized to the time she gives birth is about 63 days or two months.

At the end of the first month, the puppies’ heartbeats can be detected by your veterinarian and as your dog goes into her second month of pregnancy, the embryos form into recognizable little baby dogs.

By the beginning of the third month, if all goes well, the pups are nearly ready to be born. 

While it’s easy just to run to the pharmacy to pick up a pregnancy test for a human mom to be, it’s not so easy with our dogs. Your vet can do some diagnostic tests to help determine if your dog is pregnant or not. Among these are:

Abdominal palpation – This test involves having your veterinarian palpate (probe) your dog’s abdomen with their fingers to see if she can feel the fluid filled sacs which are surrounding the fetuses. Ideally this should be done at the 28 day mark, as after that, the sacs tend to lose their shape and cannot be so easily felt. 

Palpation is not something you should do yourself, as it’s not easy to know what you are feeling for and also, you could damage the developing pups.

Hormone level measurement – After 30 days of pregnancy, you bitch will start to produce the hormone relaxin, which is only found in pregnancy, so the test is fairly accurate.

X-rays – The most accurate way to tell if your dog is pregnant and this can also tell you the number of pups to expect. But, you must wait until the puppies’ skeletons are well enough developed to show up on the x-rays at about 45 to 55 days, with day 55 being the most accurate.

While diagnostic testing is preferred, there are also signs to look for as well, including weight gain, an incease in appetite and also an increase in nipple size. As the pregnancy progresses, you will see your dog’s breasts and nipples enlarge and there may be a discharge of milky fluid. 

Please remember there are other conditions besides pregnancy that can cause abdominal swelling and weight gain, so be sure to check in with your veterinarian to have her monitor the pregnancy. In a later article, we’ll talk about how to care for your pregnant dog.

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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