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Is My Dog Pregnant? Early Signs and Home Tests to Find Out [Vet Advice]

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pregnant dog in bed

“I’m worried Nala might be pregnant.” she told me. Nala’s owners had come home from the grocery store and found that the male dog they were fostering had gotten into Nala’s pen and was now tied to her. They thought that fostering an un-neutered male would be no problem because they would just put Nala away. That is, until they found the broken baby gate. 

Pregnancy is one of the top concerns I have from clients when it comes to taking care of un-spayed female dogs. Unintentional breedings as well as intentional breedings are common in the dog. Of course, the question in both of those unintentional and intentional breedings is always “is my dog pregnant?” 

4 Signs of Dog Pregnancy

1. Physical changes

Physical changes to the body many be seen fairly rapidly in dogs as a result of their short pregnancies with most gestations typically lasting from 58-68 days after breeding. During the first half of pregnancy, one may notice:

  • larger and more prominent mammary glands. The nipples may also start to become enlarged and look more “bubblegum” pink compared to the small and more pale pink color prior to breeding. In darkly pigmented dogs, one may only notice enlargement of the nipples rather than a color change. 
  • The vulva of the dog may also be seen to increase in size.
  • As gestation progresses to the second half of pregnancy, the mammary gland will continue to increase in size and milk production can be seen. Weight gain or increase in abdominal girth will also be noted as pregnancy progresses.
pregnant dog before and after pictures

It is important to note that all of these physical changes can also be seen with pseudopregnancy (“false pregnancy”) as well. If observing these signs, further action should be taken to determine if your dog is pregnant.

2. Vaginal discharge 

Vaginal discharge is common in the female throughout various stages of the reproductive cycle. Pregnant dogs may have a clear thick discharge similar to egg whites about one month post mating. If a female was to start developing a white, tan, or green tinted discharge that is fowl smelling, other reproductive health issues may be developing. Life threatening uterine infections, abnormal accumulations of uterine secretions, or miscarriages may be occurring with such discharges. Medical attention from a veterinarian should be sought at this point. 

3. Appetite changes

Depending on the female, some pregnant dogs may initially become more picky about eating or may simply decrease the amount that they eat as they just adjust to hormonal changes. Some dogs that would originally eat morning and evening may just eat in the morning or may just eat in the evenings.

dog with bowl of food

As pregnancy progresses, appetite often will pick up as they are now needing extra calories to maintain both themselves and the fetuses. If they are unable to get enough nutrition, you may notice a distended or larger belly while the ribs over the chest become more evident.


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As there are many health conditions that cause changes in appetite, it is important to talk with a veterinarian should you notice any changes in the eating routine of your pet. This is especially true if you are seeing changes in the mammary glands, nipples, and vulva, but there was no mating of which you are aware. 

4. Behavior Changes

Hormonal changes that result in pregnancy often result is behavior changes. There are a wide range of behaviors that may be exhibited in pregnant dogs. The most common observation is becoming more clingy, cuddly, or loving. In anxiety prone dogs, an increase in nervousness or separation anxiety may be noted. In rare cases, aggression towards house mates or people may develop when previously the female was very amiable.

In the late stages of pregnancy, nesting behaviors such as pacing, inability to settle down, scratching around at bedding or the ground may be observed. Adoption of inanimate objects (i.e. toys, stuffed animals, blankets, etc) and aggression when trying to take those objects away are also common findings.

How to Know For Sure If Your Dog Is Pregnant

Use a Home Pregnancy Test Kit

Most home pregnancy test involves collecting a blood sample from the vein of the dog. That blood is centrifuged to get either the plasma or serum off of the blood. The plasma or serum is then tested for a hormone found only in the dog placenta known as relaxin. Many of the home tests do require the owner to know how to draw blood as well as a centrifuge to spin the blood to collect the plasma or serum. It is important to note that human pregnancy tests will not work for dogs as they test for a hormone only found in humans. There is also not currently a test that uses urine of the dog to assess for pregnancy. 

Anything Else that Can Be Done at Home?

If you have tested your dog with a home pregnancy test and get a positive result along with having the clinical symptoms mentioned above, your dog is pregnant. Of course, as the pregnancy of a dog is very short, some individuals may just elect to see what happens. If pregnant, your dog will have puppies within roughly 2 months. 

Bring Your Dog to the Vet

A veterinarian can help determine if your dog is pregnant by a number of methods depending on the stage of pregnancy.

  • Palpation: If your dog is a small and is a fit weight, your veterinarian may be able to palpate the fetuses starting to develop. As the fetuses grow, it can be more difficult to differentiate from other medical conditions that can cause an enlarged uterus. Palpation may also be difficult to determine pregnancy if your dog is large, overweight, or very nervous and tensing her abdominal muscles on palpation.
  • Ultrasound: ultrasound can start to detect uterine vesicles (fetal sacs) developing as early as day 20-21 post ovulation. The fetal heartbeat can be detected with ultrasound between days 25-26. As it can be difficult to know sometimes when ovulation occurs if not testing for it during the breeding process, veterinarians often recommend waiting until day 28 before doing ultrasound. This ensures that if your dog was bred a few days before ovulation, the timing will still be effective to determine pregnancy. 
  • Hormone testing: As with the home pregnancy tests, relaxin can be tested by the veterinarian as well. It is possible to test for this hormone as early as day 21 with some of the veterinary assays. 
  • X-rays: X-rays are a definitive way of determining pregnancy if it is after day 48. X-rays are the most effective and recommended way to determine the number of puppies expected, which can be important for planning the birthing process as well as to be able to know if there are complications developing (i.e. not all the puppies have come out). Puppy counts are done by counting the number of mineralized heads of spinal columns noted. Prior to day 48, the skeletons are not mineralized enough to make a puppy count. X-rays cannot, however, determine if the puppies are alive and doing well. 

Best Dog Pregnancy Home Tests

There are a number of different home pregnancy tests on the market, many of which require a blood draw of varying amounts of blood and access to a centrifuge to collect the plasma or serum for the test. Of the home pregnancy tests on the marked, the two listed below appear to be the most reliable.

Witness Relaxin Canine Pregnancy Test

This easy to read pregnancy test can be used as early as day 21 post ovulation. The test kit does contain all equipment needed to collect the sample. It does require an owner to be able to draw blood from a vein, of which some individuals many not be capable or comfortable. It also requires access to a centrifuge as the test cannot be used on whole blood. Once the plasma or serum is colecd post centrifuge, it is mixed with a buffer and appleid to the test kit. Results can be read within ten to fifteen minutes. 

Bellylabs Pregnancy Test for Dogs

This easy to use home pregnancy test does not require knowing how to draw blood form a vein or the sue of centrifuge. The kit does contains a lancet to pierce the lip and a swab collect a droplet of whole blood from the lips. This blood covered swab is then mixed with a buffer and applied to a test kit. It does not require a centrifuge as it is run on whole blood. Results can be read in as little as ten to fifteen minutes. It is recommended to wait to run until day 28 post ovulation. If using according to the directions, it has been found to have a 96% accuracy rate in a small study. Larger studies are necessary to determine true accuracy percentage. 

If You Think Your Dog May Be Pregnant, Start Doing These 4 Things Now

If you know your dog was bred, but is too early to test or to see your veterinarian, it is important to to assume pregnancy to protect the puppies to be.

  1. Limit strenuous exercise: taking your pet on routine 10-15 minutes walks two to three times daily is perfectly healthy if your pet is used to that level of activity. Avoid doing high impact actives such playing frisbee, ball chasing, and sprinting for at least a couple of weeks during gestation.
  2. Provide high quality nutrition: talking to your veterinarian about a high quality adult diet is important not all for pregnancy, but also just general health. If already on a high quality diet, no diet change should be necessary for at least the first half of the pregnancy.
  3. Easy access rest: if ever in doubt about if your dog is pregnant, it is okay to let them chill out for a while. Making sure thy have a comfortable clean shaded rest place is important.
  4. Schedule a veterinary visit: taking your pet to their veterinarian to have a pre-natal examination and intestinal parasite testing will help to prepare the dam to have healthy puppies and to try to identify any potential complications that may develop with the patient. A veterinarian can also help to tailor nutrition and exercise plans to the particular patient.

FAQs

How Much Is a Pregnancy Test for a Dog?

Home pregnancy tests on the market range anywhere from $60 to $150 depending on the specific brand you choose.

What Do Dog Nipples Look Like When They’re Pregnant?

Dog nipples will often became swollen and may change in color in pregnancy. Later in pregnancy, the nipples may start screwing milk. Please note that these changes can also occur with pseudopregnancies (“false pregnancies”).

How Do Dogs Act When They’re Pregnant?

Pregnant dogs often become more clingy or depending on their owners. Some dogs will become more aggressive with pregnancy.

How Do Dogs Feel to the Touch When They’re Pregnant?

During pregnancy, dogs temperatures can run higher, so they may feel warmer to the touch. Pregnant dogs belly’s will also become larger, more distended, and hard as they get closer to parturition.

Author

  • Dr Steph Stroud, Veterinarian

    Dr. Stephanie Stroud completed her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri in Columbia, and is currently a veterinarian at Cornerstone Animal Hospital in Joplin, MO.

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Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.

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