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How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Pregnant

A female dog can only become pregnant if she mates during her heat cycle. The pregnancy should last roughly 63 days from the date of the breeding, give or take several days.

Early Signs of Dog Pregnancy

  • Decreased appetite - not all females go through this doggie version of morning sickness, but some will eat less during the first few weeks of gestation, usually making up for it later in the pregnancy.
  • Sudden lethargy or exhaustion - just like some women, dogs may also feel exhausted as their hormone levels change to support the pregnancy.
  • Nipple growth - the nipples of an unbred female will usually be small, and the area beneath them will feel flat. Once a pregnancy is in progress, breast material will begin to develop beneath the nipples in preparation for eventual milk production.
  • Behavioral changes – you may notice either an increase in affectionate behavior, or at the other end of the spectrum, an expressed desire to be left alone.

Midterm Signs

  • An increase in appetite - three to four weeks into the pregnancy she’ll likely want extra food; this will be especially noticeable if she had a decreased desire for food after her heat cycle ended.
  • Weight gain - by one month into the pregnancy, her abdomen will thicken, and gentle examination of the belly will reveal a firm, rather than fat feeling to the area.

Late Term Signs
The signs of dog pregnancy will increase dramatically in the last weeks of gestation.

  • An increase in abdomen size - if she’s carrying the average size litter for her breed, the size increase should be unmistakable; if there are only one or two pups the abdomen might be only slightly increased, but still firmer than her pre-pregnancy condition.
  • Puppy movement- you’ll see and feel them during the last weeks of pregnancy, with a definite increase in movement a few days before delivery as the pups get into position for birth.
  • Milk production -colostrum, the first milk, can be gently expressed from the nipples, sometimes leaking a bit on its own as the time for delivery draws near.

Imminent Delivery

  • Nesting behavior - 24-48 hours before delivery, you'll notice a general restlessness, and she will likely start preparing the area she intends to give birth in by wadding up blankets, newspapers and such.

If you haven't provided her with a comfortable delivery area, she’ll choose a spot on her own, possibly your bed or a couch cushion. If this happens, don't be angry with your dog for this perfectly normal behavior; she’s just operating on the instincts Mother Nature gave her. You’d be wise instead to prepare a cozy box filled with soft, scrunchy blankets, and show it to her as her nesting instinct kicks in.

Veterinary Testing
If you don’t trust your own observations, at approximately one month after the end of her heat cycle your vet can easily help you determine if your dog is pregnant.

What is false pregnancy?
A dog can display general signs of pregnancy without actually being pregnant. This will happen as she comes off a heat cycle, and it doesn't seem to matter whether or not there was any breeding activity. It seems to be purely a psychological phenomenon, and the symptoms usually subside within about a month.

She may also decide to "adopt" some babies to fill the void during this time. This could be puppies from someone else’s litter, or she might substitute toys or stuffed animals. Borrowing puppies from another mother can be a potentially dangerous situation, and calls for your intervention. But if she is only playing mom with toys, give her time to come to terms with the situation on her own before removing the items, and try to get her focused on other activities.