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.

Read more about canine 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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  1. Same here! My girl had all of the above symptoms, and yep…she is pregnant!

  2. Mine pants a lot and pees a lot still ears and drinks not sure when she would had gotten got by my male. I have been out of town for about a month. Her belly is firm nipples don’t seem big to me

    • Mine pants a lot and pees a lot, not eating but will drink if held up for her, not sure how or when she would of gotten pregnant. I have been out of Her belly is firm but nipples don’t seem big to me, she is very lethargic though just lying down, I am worried she is a big girl and I can’t get her to a vet on my own and a vet call out is over £100, I am so worried

  3. I just had my girl xrayed at 45 days from mating. He saw no puppies although all the symptoms of pregnancy are there. Weight gain, enlarged nipples and belly. Less energy. Blood work was good and no fever so uterine infection was ruled out. Only thing left is false pregnancy. OR could she have ovulated late and we did the xrayed too soon? She’s a Gsd and the male bred my other shepherd no problem.

  4. Is it possible for dogs to show these signs after being pregnant? I adopted a beagle about 5 months ago. The shelter said she was spayed- I’m not sure if they spayed her or the previous owner did. I thought she had puppies before her owners gave her up but she has a large apitite, she has large nipples, and has a firm belly. She gets really intense about wanting me to rub her belly all the time too. I have taken her to the vet because she had red and yellow poo and they didn’t ask about her being pregnant . The vet at the shelter didn’t say anything either. I know 5 months is too long to show these symptoms of being pregnant. Can she still have large nipples and a firm abdomen after giving birth?

  5. Our 3 year old border collie mated and tied twice over two days with our male Baxter. She is in her 8th week but doesn’t seem to have.put on much weight. She has all the.symptoms of being pregnant and is now in the 57th day very quiet and not wanting to eat although she enjoyed her walk. We haven’t had her scanned and the vet said to take it as she is pregnant. She is on panacur since day 42 as instructed by vet. Any help with the weight query and also I haven’t seen movement from puppies although I think I have.felt flutterings.. Thank u

  6. Hello we have a 1 1.5 yr old chauhuia/Papp ion female and a 1 year old male chauhuia. She was in heat the beginning of sept. Our male constantly mating with her. There was only a couple times that she yelped and he jumped off. Not sure if he got her or not. Although she has alot of the symptoms that i see listed. What are the possibility of her being pregnant??? Thank you for any help.

  7. I think my girl is 20 days pregnant She has had a few changes and we know she was with the dog twice Today I have noticed her tail is away from her body sort of lifted Is this to be expected at this stage ?

  8. Hi my boxers mates, she was happy to stand for him and tied for 20 mins on days 8,9,12(twice on day 12). Had her scanned on 28 days post day 12. Scan saw nothing but does have some subtle nipple changes. Could the scan have missed pregnancy

  9. Can a dog get pregnant when not in a cycle

  10. My dog was in heat and outside with male dogs about 3-4 weeks ago, and feeling her belly these last few days I’ve noticed it’s very firm. Can she be showing signs like that this early? She mainly hung out with a corgi, she is a big dog, could he have gotten her pregnant despite their massive height difference?

  11. Mated my bitch 10 days ago and my other bitch wont leave her alone ..flirting ..licking hercand trying to mount her us this a sign shes pregnant ?? Please help also my bitch which was mated isnt eating as normal

  12. Hello,
    I allowed My Female Husky to breed, with another Husky. She’s been through a Heat before. I didn’t allow them to breed. (Who If she is, I Already have homes for the pups)..
    Anyways, She is talking to me, alot more. Then she did before. She is sticking to me, like Glue. She wants to Eat more.
    I have checked her, she’s in Her Early Stages if she is. And I have seen her Hind boobs, Just a bit bigger. A bit, right now..
    She got Bred throughout her Standing Heat. Anyways, She has been sleeping alot more as well..
    And She has a Clear Dischage a bit. Sometimes Its a veey, very Light Brown. No smell. But mostly it is Clear.

    This one will be her First litter. Of she is.

    What do you think?

    Please let me know.

    And don’t get on me, about allowing My Animals to breed. As IT is a NATURAL thing to happen.. As I said, of she is. Her Puppies will have homes. When they are old enough. Which will be at 9 weeks.

  13. Hello sir my pet is mated by other breed dog since last 3 day and she is pregnant but I have not get her puppy so how to abort to she became a impregnate please give me suggestion

  14. My female 7 year old dachund was gotten by a 7 month old chihuahua mix. They did hook up. Now her back nipples are showing raised lines and her tummy is harder. She’s always slept a lot but she is. Her appetite has increased. She was a breeder and the owner said she wasn’t producing eggs anymore. Is it possible she is pregnant. They hooked up 9/24/17. So due date approx 11/26/17.

  15. Mikale Iona Anne marie parish

    My dog is pregnant and only has a few days left to go, but she is being sick. So does that mean that she might have them early.

  16. is it compulsory for a dog belle to be swollen if she’s pregnant when is her first time an she has nipples out

  17. I can’t figure out if my dog is pregnant or not. She has the firm hard low belly and she is producing milk, but her milk has been in over a week and still no puppies. I have no idea when she got pregnant sometime in July is all I know. I feel like she should have already had her puppies.

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