After a mating between two dogs, breeders want to know if the pregnancy is positive, and do so as soon as possible. There are several methods to check if a dog is pregnant: ultrasound, palpation, relaxin hormone testing, and x-rays.
The first weeks can be misleading as there are three possible outcomes to mating between two dogs:
- the bitch is pregnant (use our whelping chart to guess the due date)
- the bitch is not pregnant
- the bitch is having a false pregnancy, called pseudopregnancy
We are guiding you through all these possibilities and ways to confirm the pregnancy in the article below, taken directly from The Dog Breeder’s Handbook. If you are worried your bitch isn’t having regular cycles, check out our new article on abnormal heat cycles in dogs.
So without any further ado, enjoy the read :)
Dog Gestation Period: How Long are Dogs Pregnant?
After mating, the two dogs will act as if nothing happened or may roll themselves on the floor and walk around. One mating can be enough but you may want to have the stud mate her twice with two days in between.
Normally, the dog gestation period lasts for 57 to 65 days. But if you’re planning to breed your dog, make sure to record the date of mating. If there are two matings, record the date again and expect your dog’s pregnancy to last for 63 to 65 days.
Dog Pregnancy Timeline
If you think that your female dog is pregnant, you have a very short period before you won’t have to guess anymore. A full pregnancy for canines is of only 9 weeks, as opposed to the 9 months humans have. In other words, your dog may start to show that she is pregnant before you will really need to test her out.
Within this timeline, your dog may experience weight gain, morning sickness, behavior changes, swelling, and darkening of mammary glands. Also, you must visit the vet to make sure that they use methods or run tests for dog pregnancy confirmation.
How Long After Can You Tell if a Dog Is Pregnant?
If you want to find out whether this breeding tie has resulted in a pregnancy or not. You may need to wait it out for a few days as the canine sperm can last for up to 5 to 7 days in the uterine tract to then actually fertilize the female’s eggs.
On average, a dog’s pregnancy can last for 63 days. Your vet can confirm your dog’s pregnancy by touch on its 28th to 35th day after fertilization, they can feel slight abdominal palpation by pressing on your dog’s abdomen with their finger.
Dog Pregnancy Confirmation: What are the Symptoms?
There are a number of visible signs you can expect to see from a pregnant Dam. Note that these signs of pregnancy in dogs may only appear three or four weeks in the pregnancy so your first weeks can sometimes be frustrating as if pregnancy is not happening, you will have to wait for her next cycle in a few months to try to breed her again.
Early Signs of Dog’s Pregnancy
If you think that your dog is pregnant and you’re looking for indications of dog pregnancy confirmation, here are early symptoms that can be seen in their first week of pregnancy. Some of the early pregnancy signs that your dog may experience include the following:
- Slight weight gain
- Morning sickness
- Increased (or diminished) appetite
Later Signs of Dog’s Pregnancy
As time goes by, confirming your dog’s pregnancy will be a lot easier because of these later signs that you may notice, these are physical and behavioral changes of your pregnant dog towards you. Some of these symptoms include the following.
- Mood changes
- More weight gain
- Enlarged nipples
- Firmer abdomen
- Lethargy and overall tiredness
- Clear mucus discharges
- Frequent urination
- Nesting behavior
However, a condition called pseudopregnancy results in the bitch showing signs of pregnancy without actually being pregnant. It is quite common in dogs since their heat cycle is longer than their actual gestational period.
Pseudopregnancy, or False Pregnancy
After her estrus cycle, your bitch can show symptoms of pregnancy although she has not mated whatsoever. False pregnancy, or pseudopregnancy, are the terms used to designate this condition.
The causes are not fully understood but hormonal imbalances, of progesterone and prolactin, play an important role in a false pregnancy development.
Most of the time, there is no need to worry as the canine pseudopregnancy is not necessarily paired with reproductive organ disorders, and depending on its severity, it can last more or less than three weeks.
Signs of a Dog's False Pregnancy or Pseudopregnancy
Just like a pregnant female dog, dogs with false pregnancy or pseudopregnancy experience mammary gland enlargement even with or without the production of milk. It’s also possible for them to have periodic vomiting, lethargy, and fluid retention.
These symptoms of dog false pregnancy can start between 4 to 9 weeks after their previous heat period and can last 2 to 3 weeks or even longer.
How is Dog False Pregnancy Treated?
Unfortunately, there’s no treatment to administer to your female dog. You just need to be patient and stay attentive in case there is an aggravation of the situation. Make sure to immediately bring her to the vet to be checked up and only then a symptomatic treatment could be prescribed.
In some cases, dogs with pseudopregnancy are treated by using tranquilization to reduce their anxiety and diuretics to reduce milk production.
Veterinary Methods to Confirm a Dog's Pregnancy
Two or three weeks after the mating happened, you should bring your dog to the veterinary practice for a check-up and receive valuable advice on what to expect for the next weeks.
Your vet will inform you of the diet your dog should follow from now on and she will be cleared and treated for any parasites.
Even for an experienced veterinarian, it will be difficult to tell if your dog is pregnant on the third week but you will be given details on the different pregnancy testing methods available.
Pregnancy Test for Dogs
If you really want to confirm your dog’s pregnancy, the most certain way is to run pregnancy tests. Veterinarians usually use four kinds of tests: ultrasound, hormone testing, palpation, and x-ray. These tests are safe and will give you accurate results regarding your dog’s pregnancy.
The best technique to detect the pregnancy from around three weeks in, the ultrasound examination is totally safe for dogs. It uses sound waves to create pictures of your dog’s womb.
Dog ultrasound for pregnancy won’t tell you how many puppies are in her womb as it is extremely difficult to count them with what is resulting from that type of scanning imagery.
Hormone Testing & Canine Pregnancy Testing Kits
Once your vet knows the pregnancy is here, there usually is a blood test used to check the hormone levels and reconfirm that your dog is definitely having puppies within her.
Relaxin is the hormone that rises in your dog’s blood during pregnancy, and there are now dog pregnancy test kits that you can buy and use yourself but they require a blood sample from the bitch, so you may just let the vet do this for you. Just giving you the heads-up, these canine pregnancy kits tend to often be unavailable (Amazon and other resellers.)
Between the 28th and 35th days only, your vet can feel your pregnant Dog’s belly and also confirm that lovely puppies are on their way.
It is very risky to do this yourself as you do not want to injure, perhaps lethally, the puppies while feeling the belly. Leave this for someone confident and experienced, ideally your vet, to avoid miscarriage and trauma for your dog.
From the third tier of the pregnancy, from day 55, you are recommended to visit your vet for an X-ray examination serving two purposes:
- Count how many puppies are in your bitch’s womb,
- and check their bone structure.
X-ray is the most effective way to know if your dog is pregnant but it should take place during the 7th week of your dog’s pregnancy to have an accurate result of the numbers of puppies in the womb. A typical X-ray for a pregnant dog can cost around $150 to $250
During the last 10-15 days, your vet may want to see her one last time to perform the last checks and give you important recommendations on what to expect when she will give birth (called whelping.)
Caring for a Pregnant Dog
Once your dog’s pregnancy is confirmed, you must now become more familiar with their needs. This will help your dog become healthier throughout her pregnancy and to avoid unwanted incidents that can harm her or her puppies.
Normal exercise for your pregnant dog is totally fine until their belly is enlarged. But take note that during your dog’s last trimester, you should lessen the walks and make them shorter. Remember, your pregnant dog needs to save her energy to carry her puppies.
This means your pregnant dog can have a calm and non-strenuous exercise. They can still go on a short walk for about 10 to 15 minutes that can be once or twice a day. This can tone their muscles and give benefits to their pregnancy and birthing process. Also, light playtime won’t hurt anybody.
Of course, pregnant dogs should receive the proper nutrition. Make sure to give them quality dog food and vitamin supplements that are vet recommended. Also, keep an eye on their weight and their diet, you can slowly increase the amount of food but don’t feed them too much since it can cause discomfort.
The American Kennel Club has specific dietary recommendations for pregnant dogs. This diet should have plenty of calories, at least 29% of protein, 17% of fats, carbohydrates, and calcium. Take note that excessive amounts of vitamins and supplements can harm your dog’s puppy. For instance, too much vitamin D or calcium can cause calcification of the soft tissues of the fetus, as well as other birth defects.
If you’re planning to breed your dog, it’s recommended to go to the vet for a prenatal checkup. This includes vaccinations (if their vaccinations are not up to date), fecal exam (to check if there are intestinal parasites), and de-worming.
It’s important to make an appointment with your vet before breeding or if you think that your dog is pregnant so you can easily confirm a dog’s pregnancy. Since pregnancy can be crucial it’s important to seek expert advice and assistance for a healthier pregnancy for your dogs.
Methods to Confirm a Dog’s Pregnancy: FAQ
We gathered the top frequently asked questions about dog pregnancy and pseudopregnancy, below are the best answers to your inquiries.
Your Veterinarian can simply confirm your dog’s pregnancy by running a hormone level test. In this test, your dog’s hormones are called relaxin that’s produced by the developing placenta following the implantation of the embryo. Vets can perform the hormone level test from 21 to 25 days of your dog’s term.
They can also use ultrasound from day 20 to 22 of your dog’s pregnancy and perform a physical examination on the 30th day onward to know how many puppies are inside.
The dog gestation period can last up to 58 to 68 days or 9 weeks. And within these weeks, your dog will experience behavioral and physical changes. Keep in mind that you must bring your dog to the vet for their daily checkups and give them proper nutrition for them to stay healthy during their whelping.
Some dogs don’t show any pregnancy symptoms during their first weeks but the most common sign is the changes in your dog’s appetite and energy levels. But these can’t exactly confirm that your dog is pregnant so you need to wait at least four weeks to go to the vet.
Yes, since dog pregnancy is not the same, some pregnant dogs’ bellies don’t look too big compared to others. Sometimes it can be mistaken for just gaining some weight, but even if they don’t experience physical changes, you must visit your vet once you notice that they have the other symptoms of dog pregnancy.
Yes, during their 6th weeks, puppies inside your dog are almost completely developed. It means that your pregnant dog’s abdomen near the uterus becomes larger and rigid. Your dog might feel distressed at this stage especially if there are plenty of puppies inside her.
This still depends on your dog’s behavior. Some pregnant dogs usually isolate themselves especially when they’re about to whelp but others stay close to their owners. They can be clingy but always be cautious and know their boundaries.
Since not all veterinarians are trained in ultrasound, its price can be quite expensive. An abdominal dog ultrasound for pregnancy may cost around $300 to $350 with a general practice veterinarian and $400 to $500 with a specialist.
This article is brought to you by The Dog Breeder’s Handbook, the definitive guide to breeding dogs the right way. Feel free to check it out and see the other pages and sections, it is packed with over 200 pages of real up-to-date canine information!
Featured image credits to University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences.