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Is My Dog Pregnant?: The 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.

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

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.

 

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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!

33 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?

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