Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.
What Are the Chances Your Dog May be Pregnant?
You may be looking for signs your dog may be pregnant, but before looking for signs, consider the chances of your dog being pregnant. When it comes to canine pregnancy, owners may scratch their heads wondering if their dog is going to expect puppies or not. Whether the breeding was planned or accidental, there are two important factors to consider that may heighten the chances your beloved dog will be soon a mommy.
The first factor to consider is the day of breeding. Female dogs are particularly fertile at a specific time of their cycle. Typically a dog's heat cycle is composed of 21 days and is divided in three phases.
The first phase is called pro-estrus and takes place when the dog experiences vaginal bleeding along with vaginal swelling. Typically pro-estrus lasts an average of 7 to 10 days. Male dogs at this point become extremely interested in the dog but typically the female dog will be reluctant to mate.
The second phase is called estrus. This is the ideal time for the dog to mate because she is actually fertile. The vaginal bleeding at this point will have turned into a straw-colored liquid. During this phase your dog will accept the male and allow him to mount.
The third and final phase is called diestrus and it signals that the fertile phase is over. The female at this point will be again reluctant to mate, however, males may still show interest.
If your dog has mated therefore, during the estrus phase which usually takes place 7-10 days after the bleeding has begun, chances are high your dog may be pregnant and puppies are on the way.
The other factor that may possibly heighten chances of pregnancy is if you witnessed a "tie". A tie occurs when the male and female dog mate and remain in a "locked" position for a few minutes. A "tie" helps grant that sperm is successfully delivered increasing chances of pregnancy. However, a tie is not a guarantee of pregnancy and a lack of tie doesn't necessarily translate into a non-pregnant state.
Having evaluated the odds of a possible pregnancy, now we move on to signs that may suggest puppies are on the way. While these signs may suggest pregnancy they may also suggest a false pregnancy, another reason why it is best to have the vet check for sure.
Are Puppies On The Way?
Twelve Signs of Pregnancy in Dogs
When it comes to pregnancy, there are early and later signs of pregnancy in dogs. To make things further more challenging, consider that dogs may go into what's known as false pregnancy which mimics a real pregnancy right after being bred. Distinguishing a false pregnancy from a real one can be a big challenge. Pregnancy in dogs typically lasts between 63 - 65 days. Following are several early and later signs of pregnancy in dogs
- Your dog may refuse food anywhere around the first weeks of pregnancy. This can be compared to morning sickness experienced by women. This is more noticeable in dogs who usually eagerly eat their meals compared to dogs who are by nature finicky eaters. Not all pregnant dogs will show this sign though.
- A decrease in activity may be another sign. Your dog may lay around more than usual as she goes through important hormonal changes. See your vet though if your dog appears to be sick.
- Nipples may appear slightly enlarged. Because this change is minimal, sometimes it is best to measure and compare nipple size before and after breeding.
- Physical changes can take place in your dog's private area. In a pregnant dog, the vulva may not completely shrink down- as it may do following a heat cycle. The vulva may therefore remain a bit swollen and soft. On top of the swelling, you may also see a sticky discharge on the hair around the vulva.
- Some dogs may become more affectionate and seek owner's attention more.
- While there may be a decrease in appetite in the early stages, as the pregnancy progresses your dog will want to eat more.
- As the pregnancy progresses, you will notice your dog's belly getting larger so to accommodate the puppies. As the belly enlarges it also starts appearing more pendulous than before.
- With a larger belly, you will also notice some weight gain around week four. It's a good idea to keep track of your dog's weight so that you can notice this change.
- Milk may start being produced a few days prior to whelping but some dogs produce it right after birth.
- Nesting behavior is rather a late sign. Your dog may start searching for a place to whelp the puppies. You may catch your dog digging and ripping things apart.
- Your dog may start to lick her private regions more frequently than unusual.
- About a day prior to giving birth, your dog will experience a body temperature drop but this will only be noticed if you take your dog's temperature.
Yout Vet Can Take Away All Guesswork
Five Ways to Tell Your Dog is Pregnant
While several signs of pregnancy in dogs may be subtle, some experienced breeders may be able to detect them readily because they deal with pregnant dogs often. However, the only way to know for sure as mentioned earlier, is to have your vet confirm pregnancy. This is important because if your dog is truly pregnant, you need to start feeding her a specific food. There are four ways for a vet to confirm pregnancy in your dog:
- After 21 to 25 days have passed after breeding, Relaxin, a substance that confirms pregnancy may be detected in your dog's blood work. While a relaxin test can be performed at home with a test kit sold online, it is far easier to have this test done by the vet. Many dog owners who have brought the home kit report to have encountered difficulties in performing the test as the blood needs to be professionally spun by a vet clinic.
- About 21 days after your dog's last breeding it is possible to have an ultrasound done. An experienced ultrasonographer should be able to determine if there is a puppy fetus present.
- After approximately 25 days, the puppy's heartbeats may be heard via stethoscope by your veterinarian.
- After about 28 days your veterinarian may detect puppy embryos simply by palpating your dog's abdomen. The embryos may feel like small walnuts. Do not attempt to palpate your dog on your own as you may risk injuring your dog.
- After 43 to 45 days have passed after breeding, x-rays may successfully detect the puppy's skeletons. This method requires a longer time because it requires that the pet's skeletons are calcified in order to be detected. X-rays are helpful because the vet can count the skeletons and determine litter size. This means that you will know how many puppies to expect and will readily know whether your puppy has finished whelping or not.
As seen, there are various signs that may confirm or rule out your dog's pregnancy. While physical cues may be hard to detect and not much reliable, your veterinarian is ultimately the only and best source to take away any guesswork.
For further reading
- The Dog's Heat Cycle Explained
A dog's heat cycle may appear to be something quite difficult to understand. Unlike other species, the heat cycle of canines does not seem to follow any logic such as following a specific seasonality or...
- Dog pregnancy test
Determining if your dog is pregnant or not can be somehow challenging, especially for the new owner or the inexperienced breeder. Many things need to be considered when trying to count the odds. Most likely if...
- Signs of False Pregnancy in Dogs
patriciaegreen Pseudocyesis it the medical term depicting false pregnancy in dogs. It typically occurs in female dogs that have not been impregnated approximately six to twelve weeks after their last heat. It...
- All about dog pregnancy
After your beloved dog has been matched with a handsome stud and successfully bred, the 63 day countdown has begun. A mix of emotions pour over you, of course, lots of excitement but also bits of anxiety as...
- Signs your dog is pregnant
When it comes to canine pregnancy there are two different types of owners: the
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2010 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 02, 2018:
Ashley, it seems a bit early to build a nest. There are chances you may be dealing with a false pregnancy.
AshleyG23 on February 21, 2018:
My dog has mater two weeks ago. Now her back four teats are swollen and she is building "nest". Is she pregnant?
Samantha on July 26, 2016:
my bitch was mated last week while she was fertile last one was Sunday and to days later she stopped bleeding does it mean she could be pregnant..?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 30, 2014:
It'snot impossible for an older to get pregnant but it's very unlikely. However, you are right to be concerned because you may feel she's too old to give birth and too old to be spayed. I think your best bet is to give your vet a call and see what options there are so you can plan accordingly. Back when I used to work for the vet, there were injections that would terminate pregnancy.
Abby on October 29, 2014:
My precious dog is 14yrs old and had just finished her cycle, she was unguarded for moments and a male dog hooked her. I am worried. Can she still get pregnant at this age?
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 15, 2012:
Only a vet can really confirm this, Pauline. Dogs can still get pregnant even though a tie did not last long. Best wishes!
pauline on August 14, 2012:
i took my dog to be mated on the 10, 11.12,and 13 day of her season starting ,she stood 3 or 4 times each time i took her but they never tied they almost did on 2 occasions but only for a second does anyone think that she could be pregnant
India Arnold from Northern, California on July 12, 2010:
This is good stuff. The signs can be so hard to detect without knowledge. This hub will help amny pet owners to be aware and to know what to look for.