HOW TO Tell If Your Dog is Pregnant

nesting dog with blanket and toyAt Find A Vet, we strongly advocate spaying or neutering your pets, but we understand that from time to time accidental pregnancies do occur. For that reason, we wanted to make the necessary information available to all pet parents. With the proper information, pet parents can avoid any unnecessary complications that could harm both the mother and offspring, and help deliver a healthy litter of puppies.

Spring is in the air, the flowers are blooming, the temperature is rising and soon enough you’ll hear the pitter-patter of little pawed feet – wait, what?

You were so busy getting ready to celebrate spring that you didn’t notice your dog had gained some weight. You thought her loss of appetite and vomiting was due to something she ate. But now that you’ve started to notice you can’t help but wonder, is my dog pregnant?

What are the Signs My Dog is Pregnant?

The female dog goes into heat twice a year. This heat cycle lasts for three weeks. says, “The heat period is easily recognized by the obvious enlargement of the external female organs and the persistent discharge of a variable amount of blood. Meticulous animals constantly clean themselves during this period, so that often no blood is apparent. But the owner will rarely overlook the enlargement of the female organs. During this period dogs also show a certain amount of restlessness and increase in appetite.”

If your dog gets pregnant during her heat cycle, she will be in gestation, the period from conception to birth, for roughly 60 days.

According to, “During the first few weeks of gestation there are few signs of pregnancy, except for a slight gain in weight. Occasionally a dog may experience morning sickness. This usually happens during the third to fourth week of pregnancy, and is caused by the effects of progesterone, combined with the stretching and distention of the uterus. You may notice that your dog appears apathetic, lacks appetite and may vomit from time to time. Morning sickness lasts only a few days. Unless you are particularly attentive, you may not notice it at all. If vomiting occurs, feed several small meals spaced throughout the day.”

After the first five weeks, your dog will really begin to show her pregnancy. Her belly will swell and her mammary glands will enlarge and could start producing milk as soon as seven to nine days before she gives birth. However, most dogs do not produce milk until one to two days before delivery.

Your dog will demonstrate the following, notes

i Love Dogs Nesting – Taking blankets, pillows, toys, even newspapers, and making a nest.

i Love Dogs Mothering – Strange but true, your shoes could become your dog’s new “puppies.” In this stage, she is mothering everything from shoes to toys.

i Love Dogs Appetite – Depending on how she’s feeling, your dog’s appetite will fluctuate during this period. She may even lose some weight, but don’t worry, as her pregnancy develops she’ll regain her appetite and weight.

i Love Dogs Agitation – She’s pregnant, she’s grumpy – you get the picture. Give her some space as things will work themselves out.

i Love Dogs Overly Affectionate – As with all pregnancies, your female dog will experience one extreme emotion to the other. First she’ll want nothing to do with you and then she’ll become your shadow, constantly wanting to be petted. Be patient and loving. Toward the end of her pregnancy, she’s going to hide in that nest she’s been secretly building at the back of the closet and go back to wanting nothing to do with you.

i Love Dogs Lack of Activity – She needs her rest and will not be up for a rousing game of fetch or a 4-mile run. Easy walks should do it for now. Your vet will let you know when it is safe to resume her normal activity.

i Love Dogs Swollen nipples and belly – You will notice her nipples right away as they change the most during pregnancy. In the first few weeks, they will be rosy and then become larger and swollen, even producing milk.

Will My Dog Need to See the Vet?

Yes. Your dog will first be given a pregnancy test, followed by a full physical exam. These are routine. According to, your vet will also perform the following tests:
boston terrier nursing puppies

i Love Dogs A full evaluation of your dog’s heat cycle to rule out any potential breeding problems

i Love Dogs Abdominal palpation – This hands-on exam allows the vet to examine your dog’s organs and other body parts by touching them and feeling for puppies. However, it should be noted that your dog’s puppies will not be felt until between 26 and 35 days of the gestation period.

i Love Dogs Abdominal X-rays – After 45 days, your vet will be able to clearly see the skeleton of the puppies. He will also be able to detect any abnormalities or issues such as enlarged organs or abnormal fluid accumulation.

i Love Dogs Abdominal ultrasound – This test not only diagnoses pregnancy, it also gives your vet a good idea of the health of the puppies and an estimation of the litter size.

He may also recommend that your dog have blood work done to evaluate the liver and kidney functions, a urinalysis and heartworm check.

What If My Dog is Showing These Signs, But is Not Pregnant?

Your dog is most likely experiencing what is called a false pregnancy. says, “False pregnancy symptoms are normal in dogs that have an estrus and do not get bred, due to the way in which they cycle. It is not usually necessary to treat for symptoms of false pregnancy but they can be so close to those of a real pregnancy that the two can be very confusing.”

The symptoms also mirror that of a pregnant dog: nesting; increase in nipple size and sensitivity; and a swollen belly. writes, “It is a normal reaction that usually disappears within 10 days to three weeks. It is a minor difficulty that ordinarily needs no special attention, but since it occasionally causes distress, the veterinarian is called upon to administer alleviatory and curative measures to assist the processes of nature.”

The best way to treat false pregnancy is to spay your dog.

Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.

PHOTO: jtyler, crisserbug

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Sonya Simpkins

Sonya Simpkins is a contributing writer for i Love Dogs, Inc. In her spare time, she loves to take her dogs for long hikes and treks to the beach, out to eat and on long road trips across the county. She then turns those adventures into useful advice for other dog parents who also love to take their dogs with them wherever they go.

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  1. [...] of progesterone when they go into heat. This means that with each heat a dog is hormonally pregnant, regardless of whether she is actually pregnant; in other words, her body will feel to her as if [...]

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