Methods To Confirm a Dog’s Pregnancy & Pseudopregnancy

Best Methods To Confirm Canine Pregnancy

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 a 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 or normal cycles, check out our new article on abnormal heat cycles in dogs.

So without any further do, enjoy the read :)

Right After The Mating

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 to mate her twice with two days in between.

You then need 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 5-7 days in the uterine tract to then actually fertilise the female’s eggs.

Dog pregnancy stages timeline chart
Timeline of the dog pregnancy stages. Click here for a full dog whelping timeline, from heat season to delivery.

When you believe your bitch is pregnant, you have a very short timespan before you won’t have to guess any more. 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.

Symptoms Of Pregnancy

There are a number of visible signs you can expect to see from a pregnant Dam. Note that these signs 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 few months to try to breed her again.

  • Increased (or diminished) appetite
  • Behavioural and mood changes
  • Weight gain
  • Enlarged nipples
  • Firmer abdomen
  • Lethargy and overall tiredness
  • Clear mucus discharges
  • Frequent urination
Rhodesian Ridgeback pregnant
An exhausted pregnant Rhodesian Ridgeback dog.

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. So let’s discuss that right below.

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 pairing with reproductive organ disorders and depending on its severity, it can last more or less than three weeks.

There is no treatment to administrate to your bitch, just being patient and staying attentive in case there is an aggravation of the situation, so you can immediately bring her to the vet to be checked up and only then a symptomatic treatment could be prescribed.

pseudopregnancy in dogs
Pseudopregnancy in dogs: it looks like a pregnancy, but it is not.

Veterinary Methods To Confirm A Dog's Pregnancy

Two or three weeks after the mating happened, you should bring your bitch to the veterinary practice for a check up and receive valuable advices on what to expect for the next weeks.

Your vet will inform you on 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 bitch is pregnant on the third week but you will be given details on the different pregnancy testing methods available.

Ultrasound

The best technique to detect the pregnancy from around three weeks in, the ultrasound is safe and uses sound waves to create pictures of your bitch’s womb.

Ultrasound 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 the bitch 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.)

Palpation

Between the 28th and 35th days only, your vet can feel your pregnant Dam’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 a stupid miscarriage and a trauma for the bitch.

X-Ray

From the third tiers of the pregnancy, from day 45, you are recommended to visit your vet for an X-Ray examination serving two purposes:

  1. count how many puppies are in your bitch’s womb,
  2. and check their bone structure.

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.)

Quote Dog Pregnancy Puppies
The thing that’s nice about dog pregnancy is that in the end, you have puppies.

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!

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