It's difficult to tell right away when your dog gets pregnant. Just like human females, dogs typically don't start exhibiting the physical signs of pregnancy until some time in the second trimester. She might be a little extra hungry, or throwing up a bit here and there, or she might just be acting a little strange. It could be pregnancy, but she could just be having an off week, too.
How exactly do you know what to look out for? As always, we're here to help out: here is our list of 11 things to think about if you believe that your dog might be pregnant.
Both early in her pregnancy and toward the end you may notice that your dog's periods of sleeping and resting will increase. She will experience a bit of a bounce-back during the middle of her pregnancy, but for the most part you'll likely notice that your pup doesn't have her usual energy.
Make sure she's got a place where she can sleep comfortably -- after all, it's hard work creating a whole litter of puppies in just 9 weeks!
Not all dogs will experience their version of "morning sickness," but some will experience a decrease in appetite or mild vomiting during the first few weeks of their pregnancy. Don't try to force your pup to eat -- she should want to eat when she's able to, even if it takes her a couple of days.
You can, however, tempt her by giving her some of her favorite dog biscuits or leaving out some chicken or beef broth that will at least give her some nutrients if she's not able to keep down food. However, if you find that she's not able to eat at all for 3 or more days, seek veterinary advice, as she might need some help.
A change in the appearance of your dog's nipples is a sign that will start a few weeks into the pregnancy and continue throughout her entire pregnancy. Typically they will become larger, more protruding and darker in color. The hair around the nipple area will also begin to thin out and eventually recede entirely from the nipples in order to prepare for breastfeeding.
As she gets especially close to delivery, you may notice that she is leaking colostrum, which is a precursor to the production of milk.
Many female dogs will show signs of increased development of the breasts just after their typical heat cycle. However, if you notice that the breasts continue to increase in both size and shape, becoming actual individual teats, this is a sign that your dog may be pregnant.
As with the nipples, the hair covering her breast area will typically recede as her pregnancy continues.
Most dogs, just like humans, experience an increase in appetite during their pregnancy -- they're eating for way more than one now! In some dogs this sign will appear early in their pregnancy, and in others it may take a few weeks to show up.
If you think that your dog may be pregnant, it's fine to allow her to eat a little more -- but don't allow her to binge. Space her feedings throughout the day so that she's always got something in her tummy and she's not overfeeding.
Once you've confirmed her pregnancy you can continue to increase her food intake at her direction while still spacing her meals throughout the day.
Just like a pregnant human, a pregnant dog has different levels of hormones running through her as her pregnancy advances, and these can sometimes cause her to act differently than you're used to. A dog who is typically a little clingy might now be seeking a little more alone time, and a dog who is typically independent might need a bit more coddling that usual. She can also exhibit focus issues, antsiness, agitation, anxiety and many other behavioral changes.
As with most things in pregnancy, try to be understanding and let your dog work through it -- but if the behavioral changes are especially drastic and continue for more than a few days, make sure to check in with your vet to make sure that she's not trying to tell you something.
As your dog moves along through her pregnancy you will notice several changes in the appearance of her abdomen. During her second trimester (around week 5) she will begin to noticeably gain weight. The amniotic fluid in the uterus will also increase, making her abdomen appear rounder and larger. If you feel her belly, it should feel round and firm, not fat and squishy.
Her abdomen will continue to grow larger as her pregnancy moves along, and during the last 2 weeks you may even be able to occasionally see the puppies moving around and "kicking" in her belly.
As your pup's pregnancy moves along you will likely notice the presence of some discharge in her vaginal area. Again, this is something that will vary from dog to dog, but during the pregnancy it is typical to notice a clear-to-pinkish colored discharge.
As the pregnancy moves along, especially right before she gives birth and during birth, you may notice a change in the type and color of the discharge. This could have many reasons from typical serious, so make sure to monitor and write down any changes you see in her discharge and give your vet a call if anything seems particularly off.
Late in the third trimester your dog will begin preparing to give birth by exhibiting what we call "nesting" behavior. You may notice her seeking privacy, looking for a quiet space and creating a "nest" by digging and bundling soft things like rags or blankets. This is your cue to help mama out and create a nest for her, if you haven't already done so in advance.
Find a place where she can have solitude in your home, even if it's just off in a corner of a room, and create a safe space with soft blankets and things that have your dog's smell on them (just make sure that you don't use anything you'd mind her giving birth to a litter of puppies on). You can even create a little fort for her or hang a privacy curtain if it's particularly difficult to find her her own space in your home.
She's about to go through a very tough time giving birth and an even tougher time taking care of her litter after they're born -- she's going to need all of the comforts that she can get.
Dogs can also experience "false pregnancy," a psychological phenomenon similar to a hysterical pregnancy in human females. A false pregnancy will typically develop immediately after a heat cycle, whether or not there was any breeding activity. A false pregnancy can cause a dog to exhibit many of the physical symptoms of a real pregnancy including weight gain, mood swings and even lactating -- without the actual physical presence of a growing litter.
The symptoms will typically subside within a month or so, and your pup will be brought back to reality. This may be a difficult time for her, as she is dealing with the loss of an imagined litter and heightened hormonal activity. She may seem to "adopt" a litter to fill the void, and those babies could be anything from a herd of stuffed toys to a group of smaller animals of another species to somebody else's puppies.
If she's just playing mom and the situation is harmless, it's typically best to just let her deal with the situation in her own way for awhile before you eventually transition her back to reality. However, if she's taken puppies from another litter or is causing a war with the neighbor's cat, you may need to intervene to keep things from getting out of control.
As usual, nothing really beats a visit to your vet. Depending upon what stage of pregnancy your dog is in, there are many ways that your vet can confirm or deny a pregnancy including a simple physical exam, a pregnancy test, an ultrasound, X-ray, or an endocrine test that looks for a hormone called Relaxin, which is generally present at high levels during a dog's pregnancy.
Every dog is different, and their pregnancies will also present differently, just like they do in humans. So visiting your vet is really the only surefire way to find out if your dog is pregnant.
A pregnant dog looks like a normal dog, with a few differences. This varies by dog based on breed and size. However, we believe that if you look for the signs listed in this article, you should be able to tell if a dog is pregnant. It's even easier if they show multiple signs.
If you are still unsure, follow the last tip on our list and visit the vet. They will be able to give you a definitive answer on where your dog is pregnant or not.
You can tell a dog is pregnant within a couple of weeks. They may not show for at least a month, but their behavior will give it away. If they display any of the signs above, such as an increase in appetite or morning sickness, then you can probably assume something is growing inside of them.
Unless there is concern for your dog's safety, or her litter's safety, don't rush to conclusions right away. Allow some time to see if she begins to show before preparing for birth. Once you are positive that she is pregnant, it is recommended to visit your vet to make sure everything is going smoothly.
If your dog is pregnant, congratulations! We wish the best for your girl and her puppies.
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