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signs and symptoms of canine pregnancy

Is My Dog Pregnant?: The Signs and Symptoms of Canine Pregnancy

There comes a time when many-a-worried dog owner may have to ask, “Is my dog pregnant?”. You might think the answer is a simple yes or no, but unlike humans, it can be difficult to gauge whether a dog is pregnant until the final few days of the pregnancy!

Typically, canine gestation is around 60-63 days long, beginning on the day of conception. Ideally you’ll want to know whether your dog is pregnant a few weeks in advance so you have time to prepare of course, but as we mentioned it can be difficult to spot. What makes matters more difficult is the fact that many females will experience pseudo-pregnancies, which are very similar to actually pregnancy – just without the pups!

If you think your dog is pregnant, but aren’t too sure, you can always confirm the pregnancy at your vet, see, ‘Detecting Canine Pregnancy’ below.

About the Canine Oestrus Cycle: When is Pregnancy Possible?

Like humans and other mammals, female dogs experience a cyclic period of fertility. Human females are typically fertile 12 times a year, experiencing monthly fertility cycles, whereas female dogs cycle only twice a year.

Each cycle of the canine oestrus cycle takes around 6 months, this means that a female dog is only fertile on average twice a year. Each fertile period lasts for around 21 days.

Dogs become sexually mature and able to conceive from between 8-18 months, although this number can vary wildly between breeds (and even within the same breed). Typically males will mature before females.

Try our pregnancy calculator and calendar >>

A single oestrus cycle can be split in to four distinct phases:

  • Proestrus – Marks the start of being ‘in heat’ and lasts for around 9 days. During this phase, the female is not interested in advances by the males. Proestrus is usually accompanied by bloody discharge from the vagina. Copulation during this phase is unlikely to result in pregnancy, however canine sperm can last for up to 11 days in the uterine tract.
  • Oestrus – The fertile phase of heat, marking the release of mature, female eggs. Oestrus lasts for up to 20 days. During this period, the female will stand to be mated and is interesting in the male’s advances. Copulation during this phase is likely to result in pregnancy.
  • Dioestrus – During this phase, the female is subject to multiple hormonal changes – pregnant or not. These hormone changes can result in non-pregnant female dogs experiencing pseudo-pregnancies (also known as phantom pregnancies). Typically this phase will last for around 56-60 days in the pregnant female dog, although in non-pregnant bitches, dioestrus may last for up to 100 days.
  • Anoestrus – This is the phase of the oestrus cycle where the female is non-fertile. This lengthy 4-5 month period makes up the bulk of the canine oestrus cycle.

So, females are fertile just twice a year during the oestrus phase of ‘heat’ (remember, heat consists of both proestrus and oestrus). The length of heat varies but can last from 5 days to 21 days.

The Signs and Symptoms of Canine Pregnancy

So if it’s likely that your female has been mated during her fertile phase, you are going to want to be checking for the signs and symptoms of canine pregnancy. Remember that non-pregnant bitches can undergo the same response to hormone changes, resulting in pregancy-like symptoms such as those listed below.

If your female is experiencing any of the below, you are probably going to want to get the pregnancy confirmed at your vet so you can prepare in advance of the birth.

The signs and symptoms of canine pregnancy include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Enlarged nipples
  • Lethargy and increased tiredness/sleeping
  • Noticeable personality and behavioural changes
  • Firm abdomen
  • ‘Nesting’ and territorial behaviour
  • Clear vaginal discharge and more frequent urination
  • ‘Morning sickness’
Enlarged nipples due to pregnancy
Firm abdomen and enlarged nipples
Anna Fotografia / Via Facebook: anapaulagrillophotographer
Anna Fotografia / Via Facebook: anapaulagrillophotographer

Sign and symptoms of pregnancy when whelping (birthing) is imminent:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Increased nesting behaviour
  • Salivation
  • Panting

Detecting Canine Pregnancy

If you’re almost certain that your dog is pregnant, you will want to confirm that is the case by visiting your vet. They will be able to perform one of the following techniques allowing them to confirm whether or not your dog is truly pregnant:

  • Ultrasound – From around day 20-25 of the pregnancy, a vet will be able to perform ultrasound on your suspected pregnant dog and confirm or dismiss pregnancy. Ultrasound uses non-invasive sound waves to detect the heartbeats and basic shapes of the unborn pups.
  • Palpation – Someone experienced in canine pregnancy, such as your vet, will be able to palpate the abdomen of your bitch at around day 20 of the pregnancy to confirm or dismiss pregnancy. Without experience, it is difficult to differentiate between additional fat tissue (produced as a result of the dioestrus hormone changes) and unborn puppies.
  • X-Ray – After day 45 of the pregnancy, X-rays can be used to detect the developing skeletal systems of the unborn pups. Using X-rays before this date is not recommended as the radiation generated can cause damage to the unborn pups.
  • Hormone Testing – A relatively expensive method of detecting pregnancy typically reserved for breeders. These tests can detect certain hormones (such as relaxin) that confirm pregnancy.

Other Canine Pregnancy Considerations

If you are worried about unplanned pregnancies, you should consider getting your female spayed. This surgical procedure prevents future pregnancies and also has the benefit of reducing hormonally driven diseases such as mammary cancer. The alteration in hormone levels as a result of the operation may result in some behaviour changes in your female however.

If your female has become pregnant unexpectedly, you should try to determine which male is responsible. An overly large male in comparison to the female may negate the possibility of a natural birth. As a result, you might need to seek further veterinary advice.

Finally, the average litter size is around 6 pups, but could be anything upwards of 12! You should be prepared in advance and have a clear idea of how you will deal with the pups. Try to have rehoming options lined up in advance.

Consider purchasing a whelping kit if the pups are due soon >>

About James Watts

BSc Bioveterinary Science. Editor of PetSci. When I'm not writing, learning, discussing, or reading about animals, you know it's the weekend! Currently developing PetSci HealthTrak, the fast and easy way to monitor your pet's weight and calorie intake. HealthTrak offers a simple way to track your pet's progress, helping them achieve a healthy weight and a long, happy life.

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47 comments

  1. Thank you for this clear and concise post. I was planning to breed my lovely little corgi bitch when she came in season. Her sister had produced a litter of 8, and had been bred on day 18, in accordance with the results of her progesteron test. I expected something similar from mine, but we did the first progesteron test on day 9, and it was 12 aready! Yikes. We bred day 10 and 11. She should be 2 1/2 weeks now, so am anxious to get her palpated to see if we missed her early ovulation.

  2. hello i thought my dog was pregnant after she went in heat her boobs got big and her belly n ribs expanded a little but shes not huge, my grandmother thought she may have lost the pups or had a fake pregnancy. she went into heat about beginging of jan, end of dec. yesterday and todays shes been acting weird sleeping all day not playing at all,going to her bed in the dark room, and she usually is always by my side and always full of energy.shes not acting normal at all, could she be pregnant.

  3. my precious lady jewel

    Hi I am concerned about my female cavalier. I have both male and female cavaliers but they were both virgins and didn’t quite mate right. Now my female cavalier has lost weight but her stomach is large. Originally she was a little overweight but not now. I am concern because I am able to see her shoulder and rib cage. Her stomach is getting large. I’ve been increasing her food and now I am giving her puppy food to help her gain back her weight. She is eating good. I was feeding her 3 cups of regular weight maintenance food and now I switched to the the puppy food she ate 2 1/2 cups. Please let me know what you think. Thank you.

    • How soon after mating did you notice the weight loss and increased abdomen size? Pregnancy and the development of puppies takes a lot of energy, so if your female isn’t getting enough calories the body will recycle the nutrients it needs – hence the weight loss.

      If she is in her final stages of pregnancy, I’d continue to provide the increased energy demand you’re offing her.

  4. I am thinking my dog is having a phantom but I am not convinced, I have mated her and had her scanned by the vet, but showed no sign of any puppies, but I have been to,d that sometimes this can happen and the bitch goes on to have a litter, she has not eaten properly for a few days now but will eat tit bits like cheese and bread but turns away for fresh chicken and veg, she seems down and tired and digs her bed in a nesting manor, this would be her second litter but I am finding it hard to read her right now.

    • Sarah, did your dog have puppies in the end? I have exactly the same problem, my dog was mated, had two ties on days 14 and 15 of her season, we had her scanned at 4 weeks and there was no sign of any puppies. She is now at week 8 and her abdomen is firm and slightly larger than normal and her nipples are large but not showing signs of milk yet. Don’t know if it’s a phantom or if she is actually pregnant.

  5. I think my dog Millie is pregnant because she has been doing 7 of the 8 things please someone contact me to tell me more info on dog pregnancy cause this is my first time my dog has been pregnant in my life so please tell me some info

    thanks a lot,

    bye,

    Lauren

  6. Now I know thanks guys

  7. Hi, I am a little unsure of what to think about my lab, she never came into heat until about 6 weeks ago, she is now 4 years old. I was told by the vet that she wouldn’t be able to have puppies due to her never reaching sexual maturity. However now she has been in heat and is experiencing a lot of the pregnancy symptoms. Enlarged nipples, weight increase, personality changes, huge appetite.. She has been around male labs and I think it is possible that she is pregnant. When is the best time to take her to the vets to find out for sure? Any help or advice would be great x

    • Hi Charlie,

      From what you’ve pointed out, it does indeed sound like your dog could be pregnant, which is unusual given your vet said it wouldn’t be possible!

      For peace of mind, you would be able to visit your vet now and they could tell you for definite one way or the other.

      Be sure to let me know if she is pregnant as that would be very interesting!

  8. Hi James Watts, i live on a property cattle/sheep. I have a female kelpie, and my parents recently got a male dog to help with sheep work.
    Now i am curious if she has become pregnant,as she has aged over the years since i had her. I have noticed a few of the symptoms/signs of the above,: ie.. increased appetite, enlarged nipples/enlarged abdomen,
    general tiredness/sleeping during the day(she prefers to dig a little hole in the dirt under my WBute during the day). I am fairly anxious to find out if she is/ or not because she hasn’t ever had pups before to my knowledge and my parents and co worker seem to think she is too old to conceive.?? Would like to know your thoughts plus any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank-you.

    • Hi Jase – it sounds like pregnancy may be a possibility here. Depending on how a litter of pups would affect you i.e. Would you be able to keep/sell them, it’s probably worth taking her to the vets.

      They will be able to confirm whether she is pregnant or not and at least this will give you some time to prepare or put your mind at rest!

  9. My dog tied with a male on the 9th and 13th of November with was the13th and 17th days of her heat cycle what are the chances of her having puppies she hasn’t had much of an appetite but her stomach is hard and nipples are bigger and by the back 2 nipples there’s like hard grape sized lumps

  10. My staff is 6 yrs old she had a litter about 6mntgs ago due to unfortunate circumstances we had to leave her with a family member and she went into season and they have a male dog. We have been in regular contact with her she has put weight on and has had a big appitite and is weeing quite alot but Neva did thy before with her last pregnancy. Do u think she is pregnant again?

  11. Hi I have a staffy bitch I think she might b pregnant she has swallon teats sleepin alot & she aint her self she eats alot more than usual belly gettin hard do u think its possible that can b pregnant ??

  12. Hi, I have a shih Tzu who has been having some of these symptoms. She has had mood changes, she has been eating more, morning sickness, enlarged nipples, and a little bit of nesting and being territorial over her bed and food. Which she normally isn’t. I would really like to know what you think.

    Thanks

  13. I my little yorkie May be 23 days pregnant could u Tell me wat Signes to löök for please x

  14. Brandi Ashkettle

    My 16mo old yorkie has just gone through heat about 3 weeks ago.. Her teets are enlarged (lymph like nodules under her nipples) is this a normal symptom from heat or is this possibly a pregnancy sign. Also, I read that if a larger dog breeds with a smaller dog there may be issues? What type of issues? We had her boarded two weeks ago and the Vet Hospital knows that she is not spayed. No way of us knowing what dog it would be; if she is indeed pregnant. Thanks for any input or answers 🙂

  15. I have a 2.5 year old yellow lab. She has been showing heat for the last ten days or so. She is now showing signs of pregnancy. how soon should I have my vet check her for pregnancy?

  16. I have a jack russel cross dachaund. We went to a friends house who has a male patterdale and he started to try and have a go on her. Shes still techniqually a virgin but he came on her back. From what iv read they can swim from the back into the vagina so im quite confused. It was her first time in season and shes experiencing all of the syptoms. She didnt come heat untill the end of the day she went to the house withthe male dog (mothers day) she could be experiencing a phantom but my mom is convinced she is actually pregnant. She was usually really active but she sleeps all day now. She’ll go and sleep in a different room or come up to you and nuzzle you hand for a fuss. She doesnt eat, weve tried to feed her all of her favourite foods but she never wants any. He belly has grown pretty big aswell. Her teats were inverted and flat but it looks like shes already had a litter by how big and hanging they are. She was sick nearly every day but shes stopped that now. She urinates more frequantly and when shes up shell constantly try to nest thibgs.
    We’re are really confusrd, if you could help us that would be great.
    Thanks x

  17. Hi I just mated my bitch malamute she got son but I diet no how long thy have to be tiue for or even if that wen thy r tied that she cud have fulling preg can u help me on this thanks

  18. Hi my dogs git stock yesterday and about 5 hours later the female started committing and just laying there. All she does is drink water, she refuses to eat. Do dogs get sick like humans?

  19. Hi James
    I have a Chihuahua and she is 2yrs old I notice she was bleeding. I took her to work with me the next day they have a Maltese male and as soon I turn my back he was in top of her and they got tied. Then my boss took him to the vet 3 days after that happened and had him neutered four day after the surgery he seen my Chihuahua again and got on her again I notice he squirt. I its been 2.5 week and she sleeps a lot her nipple are a little large and she has been refusing her food, the only thing she eats is table food. I also notice that the male dog is overprotected with her and if he doesn’t see me with her he begins to bark at me. can she be pregnant or is a fake pregnancy. I don’t know about dogs been pregnant

  20. rahul vairagade

    Sir I mate my dane female before 18 days but she dont show any symptoms sir, please told me about the symptoms of pregnant dane female

  21. hi there,my 2 year old rottie shepherd got out of the house on me in April when she was coming to the last of her heat,she is now sleeping a lot more,licking the hair from her boobs,and just acting off,her eating habits is the same,she loves food,there is a little clear liquid coming out of her boobs when lightly squeezed,she is licking her boobs so much she is making them bleed,she is a pretty big girl around 80 to 85 lbs,i can’t feel any pups, if she is pregnant,when would she be due? help please!!!!

  22. My question is my dog went in heat. We bred her on 10 day.I can tell she’s sleeping alot. She eating but not a lot.we changed her food to see if she would eat more. She pees alot more we’re in day 24. No morning sickness. What do you think?

  23. can a phantom pregnancy occur if the bitch has never been pregnant before i have a 5 year old staff and we suspect she is pregnant she has definitely been tangled with my other dog we caught them a month ago i would just like to rule out phantom pregnancy as it seems strange to me to experience this if she has never been pregnant before

  24. Thank you for this information James.
    I’m not sure if my 8 month female is pregnant or a pseudo pregnancy. If she is pregnant she will be due in the next 2 weeks. Her nipples are small but pronounced and sagging. She’s a mini dachshund. Exhibiting signs but because she’s so young I’m wondering if she is or not. I will take her to the vet. I just wondered if there were other signs to know if she’s going through a pseudo pregnancy.
    Kindly,
    Sam

  25. my bitch mated on 1st oct was last mating but no ties so shes 37 days == 5 weeks,,,,,,,,,,,,,, shes tired .. off her food ,,,clingy bit narky with other dogs
    has put weight on nipples not big pinkish /greyish tummy slip hardness she gets in basket and covers her self u or gets inside a snuggle sack shes a Chihuahua and stud dog is my own Chihuahua ,, ive not had a litter for over 9 yrs . so sort of forgotten some stuff can san her as she gets in a distress states when made to lie flat at surgery
    and it upsets me if shes upset.

  26. mbitch was mated 1st oct this year that was last mating. i own stud dog aswell shes gone off her food this last week can leave her dinner there for two hours she will not eat it .ive tried puppy food she wont touch it. tonigh we was eating gamon she ate some of that she,ll eat cheese , she likes to munch on a crisp bread at bed time,
    she seams sh will eat wat i eat ive bought her dog food with salmon, turkey, chicken no way will she eat it.any cook human meat she will eat at a push shes put weight on nipples pinkish /grey clingy moody aggressive to one or two of my dogs sleeps a lot hides under blankt but shes alway hidden under blankets. my vet checked her today and says she cant feel any pups but im sure i felt a pup the other day didnt have her scanned as vet said not needed

  27. Hello. My dog was in season in September (bleeding had finished by 1st September) I took my bitch around another dog by the 25th September when I thought she was out of season and I didn’t see any mating take place. She has since experienced morning sickness, slight nesting tendancies, nipple enlargement and milk production. Her abdomen isn’t particularly big and I can’t feel any movement or puppies! I took her to the vets and they wasnt that interested and said she is probably having a phantom pregnancy. Any thoughts on whether she is or isn’t?

  28. Hi ,am not sure if my bitch is pregnant
    She came in season on 18th December 2014
    She mated on the 28th and 30th
    We’ve had her scanned twice first time gt told no then second yes then third no
    The vet said she might be but only a small litter.
    She hasn’t gt a huge belly but swollen teats and milk in every teat and clear jelly discharge
    Very tired and sleepy
    Don’t no what to do
    My dog is a dougue de bordeoux

  29. Hi I’ve got a question I think my staffie is pregnant n I haven’t got a clue what Im doin. N also how many pups do they have in their first litter

  30. Hello I have a chihuhua that was in heat she tied with the male chihuahua 4-5 times and afterwards was bleeding a little for 2-3 days just wondering if it’s normal she excepted him she actually would tempt him when he wasn’t paying attention to her for him to mate with her just confused as to why she was bleeding she would now be 20 days pregnant has enlarged nipples and many of the symptoms above

  31. my rottweiler is 21 days pregnant now but still yet no signs…..but she has this milk color discharge comming out of her virginal…. Please i need ur help

  32. Hi .i have a dausand and she is going to have pups i think her belly is large but her nipples are light in color and around the nipple is but the nipple it sefe is little and if she is having puppies she is due the 15 of april does the acually nipple get large or just base of it she show all sign of being pregnant snd she even hinding behind the couch and she never does that
    .

  33. My 1 year old female westie came back into heat just 8 short weeks after her first season, she was with a male dog ( my other westie) for her entire heat cycle, and both was very active during this time, she stood for him on every occasion but he constanly went to the wrong end to mount her, could a pregnancy still be possible?

  34. My springer has now gone 66 days since she was last mated. She is showing signs of pregnancy (milk, weight gain eyc) but we have a feeling that she isn’t. Her abdomen is still soft. How long can the gestatation period be maximum.

  35. Hello my bitch is an am bull dog I took her to the vet to be checked if she is pregnant but my vet told me come back in two weeks for another check up cuz he could not feel anything at thT time 36 days n when he tryed to check her she would tighting her tummy n her last litter he told me she was not n she was was her tits r realy big n leaking milk her tummy is big but not huge her ribs r realy puffy n her vag was big but now bigger she’s clingy like very to me n when she does sleep she realy sleep can’t wake her up she pushes my other dog away from food now so I feed them in different rooms now oh n now she is leaking a clear slimey discharge she would be 47 days today is there any way she could be carrying up in her ribs cuz some time when she’s on her sides u can feel something but not sure

    • i think they can carry in there ribs but towards the end the pups move down like they do on humans so….. hope every thing gose well angel.. 🙂 :-*

      yours,aoifeexccx

  36. i think my dog is pregnant she is displaying 7 out of 8 of the symptoms so…. 🙂

    thanks,

    a.,h

  37. Hi I have a question. Will a dogs vagina swell during if she is pregnant? My baby has a lot of the signs listed in the article but her vagina is swollen. I know it swells during the time they are in heat and their belly can become bloated and they are moody so its kinda hard to tell the difference.

  38. HI my JRT is pregnant she tied on the 21st of jan and again on the 22nd shes now in week 7 going on 8, i have increased her food at the times i was guided to, but now since week 7 started she started refusing everything gagging at all smells and point black turning food down i contacted a vet who said she will be preserving her energy ect and not to worry if shes still drinking her fluids, but if it continued for another 72hours to take her in asap…..yesterday/today ive managed get more food in her by hand feeding and sitting with her on the floor whilst she eats, so im not concerned on her food anymore but shes dropped alot of weight in space of a week on her neck and chest (she is only little) but tends to hold more weight on her chest and neck like the above post, its kinda the same place im in. i can see her ribs but her bellys big ive felt puppies kick & seen them moving about!
    I was wondering if anyone could just tell me a good food/diet to help her gain weight back and help her whilst feeding the pups after whelping?
    Thanks for reading

  39. Hi, if we are far away from a vet and we need to check the dog on our own, how can we tell the differences between a closed pyometra and false pregnancy? Both almost have the same symptoms.

  40. I found a dog New Years Eve. She was emaciated, matted hair.
    No idea what breed. She is much healthier now. We thought originally she was older and weren’t concern over having a stud shizu.
    Poor little girls other owner must have only given her people food and not healthy food. Her teeth have so much tarter build up her breath is EPIC!!.

    Poor thing had no idea what dog food was. I was wasting more than she would eat. I finally started boiling chicken and at least she eats it.

    This dog after gaining weight is about 2.5 pounds.. Tiny! A shizu is about 8 pounds, my male is about 9 times larger than this dog.

    Two days ago my son noticed her making a really disturbing sound. As I suspected ,i checked her and she is in estrus.

    Keeping my male away from her is getting more difficult and even though they could make some pretty amazing pups, I fear she is way too small to deliver the big heads attached to a shitzu.

    I don’t believe she is pregnant, i do think Bob has managed to mount her. I do believe the horrible sound my son heard was her fighting off Bob’s advancement.
    Since she is obviously only in first stage of estus I’m hoping what ever Bob possibly deposited will not take.

    Is it better to take this Tiny little thing in to be spayed now or wait till after estrus? I realize it becomes higher risk of pregnancy the further her cycle goes, but for health reasons is it better to have her spayed now or later?

    PS. I cannot deal with possible puppys, can’t afford a C-section delivery and we live over an hour to nearest vet.

    Getting Temperance, spayed is what has to happen, I really want to know is now better for her or later? I want to make sure she is okay . this tiny little thing I believe already went through hell by the time we found her in freezing weather, how ever and whatever her owner did to her nutricianally that was disgusting human behavior., She seemed very much like she had been abused. We just want her to be happy and healthy and not need to be concern my little brut Bob the stud ever try raping tiny Tempie again.

    I do understand the further she gets into her heat she will want those advancements of Bob’s , my house currently needs to be a no puppy zone. I’m a,full time student and live alone. In physically disabled in case some people read this and assume im,just some mean person not letting Temperance be a mother.

    2 to 2.5 pounds.. The size of a squirrel. Bob is the size compared to squirrel, a large Beaver.

    For those who still can’t picture it, 5ft 100lb women giving birth to a 12lb baby with no medical help.. Anything could go wrong being over an hour and no ambulances for dogs..and I cannot drive….

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