How to Tell If Your Dog is Pregnant: Make Sure You’re Ready to Receive the Pups

A pregnant female dog lying in bed
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Dogs are a wonderful addition to any home. They provide you with companionship, late night cuddles, and extra exercise—which we all could use. How can we say this in any other way…dogs are great! So, the more the merrier, right? Not really. A litter of pups is great. However, no one wants to be surprised with a litter of newborns like a bolt from the blue one sunny Saturday morning. Knowing how to tell if your dog is pregnant can help ease you into the situation.

You’d think that it’s easy to tell whether a dog is pregnant or not—because their belly would swell, wouldn’t it?—but it’s actually really easy to miss the signs if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Don’t worry, though, because this article will cover everything you need to know about the early and late signs of canine pregnancy.

If you know that puppies are coming well before they actually arrive, you’ll be able to arrange for many things ahead of time—such as a warm place for them to sleep in, their healthcare plan, and perhaps you can even start looking for people who would be interested in adopting them once they are ready to be weaned.

Labrador female dog lying on the floor while is feeding her puppies

Pregnancy is beautiful, but it’s always nice to know ahead of time. Too bad our dogs couldn’t just tell us! Well, don’t worry about that. In this article, we’re going to show you the most common signs of pregnancy; that way, you can take the necessary steps to ensure that your dog has a safe and healthy delivery. That way, you’ll be able to spot the signs ahead of time and go through the pregnancy with a clear mind.

Basic Information about Dog Pregnancy

You may be wondering how your dog even became pregnant. Of course, you know how they became pregnant, but you can’t pinpoint when that would have happened. This is usually the case for many owners. Well, for female dogs, they’re not able to become pregnant all-year round. Instead, they’re only able to become pregnant when they go through the mating season, which happens approximately once every eight months.

A female dog feeding her puppies

This period of fertility is usually known as “being in heat,” and lasts for up to three weeks. During this time, there’s a high chance of your dog becoming pregnant if she mates with a male dog. The pregnancy will last between 61 and 65 days, but you’ll notice the change in your dog before then. Of course, there’s no at-home dog pregnancy test that she’ll be able to take, so you’re going to have to look at the signs yourself and take her to a vet for a proper examination and the final opinion.

At the vet, they’ll be able to confirm pregnancy via hormone tests. If the pregnancy is past four weeks, an ultrasound will give you the precise number of pups as well—so you’re not blindsided throughout the experience as veterinary technology has come quite far in helping you and your dog throughout the pregnancy.

Two puppies drinking milk from her mother

Now, we’ve got a quick question for you: Are you ready for puppies? This question may sound silly, but it’s a serious one. Yes, your dog is the one who will give birth to the puppies, but you’re also going to be involved with caring for them and her, as well as finding them proper homes. This can become a very emotional, costly, and time-consuming event which you need to be prepared for.

If you want to avoid pregnancy, it’s best that you consider getting your dog spayed. That way, even if altercations occur, she’s at no risk of becoming pregnant. If you don’t want to get your dog spayed, but you’re still avoiding pregnancy, when she’s in heat, to ensure she doesn’t get pregnant, walk her on a leash and avoid any altercations with male dogs. A good indicator of your dog being in heat is her interaction with male dogs. During this period, male dogs become more aggressive towards females and will try to mate with them.

6 Signs That Your Dog is Pregnant

Now that you know when the mating period is and how long it lasts, it’s time you learn how to read the signs that your dog is pregnant. Sure, you’ll be able to know for sure simply by taking her to the vet, but remember, the pregnancy lasts only for approximately 61 days, so you don’t have a lot of time to notice it.

By conducting a simple test at home first, you’ll be able to tell whether taking her to the vet is necessary or not. Here are the signs you should look out for if you think your dog may be pregnant.

Sign #1: The Nipples and the Breasts Change

This is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy. If your dog is pregnant, her nipples will change color—something also known as “pinking up.” The nipples with change into a rosier pink and will become slightly swollen and prominent. Usually, this sign will show up 2-3 weeks after conception. If you notice this sign, then it’s a good idea for you to consult the vet.

Labrador female dog lying down and feeding her puppies

By extension, if you notice any breast development, it’s a good sign that your dog’s body is going through changes due to pregnancy. The milk glands start to develop underneath the nipple—which enlarges the area to prepare for milk production and nursing. You’ll notice small breast development around two weeks after conception.

Sign #2: Behavioral Changes

If your dog is usually running around filled with energy but has now become lethargic, there are two reasons for this: she’s pregnant or ill. Unfortunately, each dog reacts individually. Some dogs will become quieter and tired, but others will become even more energetic than usual. So, it’s a little tricky. Either way, you should take her to the vet for an examination just to make sure everything’s okay.

Dog nesting with pups

The decrease in physical activity level could be due to the changes in their hormone levels. The hormone levels change in order to support a growing embryo. You’ll notice the decrease in physical activity level around two weeks into the pregnancy. Her energy levels will balance out a few weeks later as her body adjusts to the pregnancy. But during the third part of her pregnancy, it’ll be difficult for her to move. Thus, she’ll want to sleep more.

Sign #3: Vomiting

Most females will experience “morning sickness.” Although, if your dog is vomiting, this could also be a sign that she’s ill. In this case, it’s always best to consult your vet, just to be sure.

If she’s throwing up, do not force her to eat. Do start her off with cooked rice and boiled ground beef, mixed into her dry food. But, if she doesn’t want to eat, don’t worry. She simply needs time to rest her upset stomach.

Black and brown dog feeding her little dogs

Throughout the pregnancy, your dog will slowly decrease her appetite. Specifically, during the last stretch of her pregnancy, expect your dog to eat fewer meals and opt for small snacks throughout the day. This is due to the lack of space in her belly. Thus, she won’t physically be able to handle large meals. A day or two without food will not affect her. However, if she stops eating and she’s refusing to eat for three days in a row, then it’s time to take her to the vet.

Sign #4: Vaginal Discharge

During pregnancy, your dog may show signs of vaginal discharge. Though, this usually doesn’t show until the fourth week of pregnancy. If your dog is having discharge that doesn’t look normal (smelly, the color is weird, etc.), it’s a sign of infection and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Sign #5: Swelling Belly

Now, you won’t notice your dog’s body physically changing until the second-half of the pregnancy. This is usually 4 to 5 weeks after conception. You’ll notice her waist becoming thicker, and her tummy will start to fill out.

A female dog looking at her owner

She will start to gain weight around the 35th day of pregnancy. The pregnancy will add 50% more weight to her—which is completely normal.

Sign #6: Nesting

During the last period, before she’s about to deliver her pups, you may notice that she’ll start to nest. By nesting, this means she’ll collect her toys, blankets, and clothing to prepare a warm and safe environment for her pups. Nesting usually occurs 2-3 weeks to 2-3 days prior to her giving birth.

When to Take Your Dog to the Vet

If you’re noticing some of the signs and feel that your dog may be pregnant, it’s a good idea to take her to the vet. They can conduct a prenatal checkup for you. If you have a rough idea of when she became pregnant, you should tell the vet as that could be valuable information.

If it is confirmed that your dog is pregnant, your vet will be able to tell you the type of food she has to eat and what changes you should expect to see in your dog. In addition, if your dog needs any tests, such as hormone tests, they’ll be able to perform them.

A woman with her female pregnant dog at the vet

If your dog is four weeks pregnant, they’ll be able to use ultrasound and see how many puppies she’s carrying and the safety of the pregnancy. Also, by feeling along your dog’s belly, they can check the puppies’ position. This must be done by someone who’s properly trained as touching the wrong areas or using the wrong pressure can cause harm to the puppies or even a miscarriage.

What You Can Do For Her during the Pregnancy

Your dog should be able to handle the pregnancy and labor herself. However, you should be there as a support to her. Pet her gently, talk calmly to her, and be there if she needs help in an unexpected situation.

Of course, you will have to provide her with high-quality food—making sure she has all her nutrients and vitamins. However, other than that, there’s not much for you to do. Taking her to vet checkups and ensuring that the pregnancy is going smoothly is the best support you can give.

Two Labrador Dogs playing

She’ll give you hint that she’s going into labor—especially if she starts to nest. This will give you some time to prepare yourself for the delivery of her pups. In a majority of births, they go very smoothly, and you don’t need to interfere. However, if you notice any signs of unusual discharge or if she’s having difficulty pushing out the pups, it’s a sign of complications. In these situations, don’t move her. First, call the vet, and they’ll instruct you on what you need to do.

Wrap Up

Most of us, when having a dog, only expect to have them and not a surprise litter of puppies. However, there’s always an opportunity for your dog to become pregnant unless they’re previously spayed. Now, no one wants to be surprised one day with a litter of puppies—caught completely blindsided without any idea of what they should do.

Having puppies is a huge responsibility. However, if you know the signs and are able to determine she’s pregnant early, you have time to prepare yourself. Make sure you pay attention to the signs as some of them can be indicators of other issues.

A female dog with her puppies in a studio

Regardless, you should consult the vet if you feel that something is off—just to make sure that your dog is healthy, as vomiting and loss of appetite do not necessarily mean she’s pregnant. However, with an ultrasound and blood tests, you’ll be able to know straight away whether she’s pregnant or not.

Do you have experience with your dog becoming pregnant? What were the signs that you noticed? What hints did she give you to show you that she was going into labor? How did the pregnancy go for her? Let us know in the comment section below so that expecting owners know what to look out for!

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.