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How to tell if your dog is pregnant - what are the signs?

Whether your dog’s pregnancy has been planned, or there’s a chance she has accidentally become pregnant, knowing which signs to look out for and what to expect when she’s expecting is very helpful.

First things first – what are the earliest signs?

Hopefully, your dog breeding was planned, but accidents do happen. If you suspect your dog is pregnant here are the signs to look out for:

The first trimester

At first, you may not notice many changes and your dog should be behaving in her normal manner. She may start to gain a little weight. Some dogs will have a little morning sickness, which, as in humans, is caused by hormone changes. This should only last for a few days and will be around the 3rd or 4th week. She may seem tired with less appetite and could even be a little sick. Don’t worry, just offer her smaller meals until this period passes.

So, how long is a dog gestation period?

Your dog’s pregnancy or gestation period is 63 days. This is measured from ovulation, when the egg is released, to the day the litter of puppies are born. Just like humans, dogs have three pregnancy trimesters and each one is approximately 21 days long.  

The first trimester continued…

Around the 2-3-week mark, you should visit your vet. They will take a blood test to see what level of the hormone relaxin is present which will indicate whether your dog is pregnant or not. This hormone is higher during pregnancy.

You may wish to have an ultrasound, which can be done from 3 weeks onwards. This is perfectly safe during pregnancy and uses soundwaves to create an image of the womb and any puppies within it. Your vet can also answer any questions, and advise you on matters such as the best dog food for your pregnant bitch.

At 4 weeks your puppies will be the size of walnuts, and it is at this time your vet will be able to feel for puppies within the womb. This must only be done by a qualified person as it can injure your puppies or cause miscarriage if not done correctly.

Second and third trimester

At this point, your dog will be gaining weight and her belly will be bigger. Around day 40 you may notice her nipples start to darken and become larger. As you get nearer to birth the breasts will be fuller and could start leaking a little milky fluid.

Your vet may suggest an x-ray of your dog’s belly at the start of the third trimester (45 days), to see how many puppies are growing in her womb. They can also check there are no abnormalities of their bone structure.

In the last two weeks of the pregnancy, you will notice your dog’s belly is much larger now and she may have a wobble when she walks. She is nearly at the end of her dog gestation period and you can often see and feel the puppies. Your vet may want to take one final x-ray to double-check how many puppies are going to be born and conduct an examination to make sure the puppies are not too big to pass down the birth canal. If this is the case, they may want to book a caesarean section for your dog.

Now all you need to do is sit back and wait for the whelping (when a dog gives birth) to begin. Exciting times are ahead!

If you think dog breeding is still something you would like to do, book a health check for your dog to make sure she is fit and healthy enough to breed from.

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