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Vet Minute: How to Know if Your Dog is Pregnant
August 13, 2020
In this Vet Minute, Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Marty Greer, talks about some common answers to the question of how to tell if a dog is pregnant. Signs your dog is pregnant can vary between each animal, so it’s always best to consult with your veterinarian if you suspect your dog may be pregnant.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Pregnant
How can I tell if my female dog is pregnant? Dr. Greer shares dog pregnancy signs to look for, both physical and behavioral:
- The best way to diagnosis a dog pregnancy is always with abdominal ultrasound which typically involves a visit to your veterinarian. There are some blood tests on the market, but I’m not a fan of those. The reason I like ultrasound the best is I can get an estimation of not only the size of the litter, but how strong the puppies look and if it looks like there are any abnormal puppies in the litter. But people want to try this at home, so some people will palpate or feel the dog’s abdomen. And if you choose to do that, you want to palpate or feel it very carefully because rough or too aggressive palpation can actually interfere with the placental attachments. We don’t want to in anyway jeopardize the pregnancy by manipulating the female too much.
- The one thing that everybody tends to overlook is the fact that all female dogs whether pregnant or not pregnant have a high progesterone. Every dog either goes through a pregnancy or a false pregnancy after she ovulates. So sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference because progesterone is one of the hormones that dictates the changes in the behaviors we see. So every female as soon as she ovulates, her progesterone rises and continues to rise and will stay high for 60 to 63 days, to the point that I’ve even seen some dogs go into false labor. It’s not common, but they’re so convinced they are pregnant that it can happen. So the important things to note are progesterone is always high, regardless of ovulation or not and every dog has a false pregnancy or a real pregnancy.
- A lot of people count on the color of the dog’s nipples. Some female dogs will have a change in their nipple color. They will become a little big more prominent and more pink than they would be when she’s not pregnant. Sometimes they will even have sort of a candy corn stripe to them so you can notice the changes. I don’t typically see color changes in the vulva or skin around the vagina, but some people do describe that.
- A lot of female dogs experience, and in fact it’s considered the most reliable change is a decrease in appetite between the third and fifth week of canine pregnancy. It’s really common, but not every dog does. I’ll have people come in frequently for ultrasound and I’ll say, so what do you think? And they’ll say “oh, she’s been eating like a champ!” And I’ll say, “ooh, that may not be good,” because I typically expect to see the appetite drop off maybe it’s just for one meal if it’s a Labrador, maybe if it’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel she’ll miss three or four meals before she starts to feel well enough to eat. And it may not always be in the morning. It might be morning, it might be evening, so we can’t always quite call it morning sickness.
- The other really reliable indicator of dog pregnancy is a clear vaginal discharge at the time that they’re more than three weeks pregnant. And we can see that up until the time they deliver. So a clear vaginal discharge is fine, if you see color to the vaginal discharge, red, green, brown, any kind of color that doesn’t look like it’s clear then that’s reason for concern and reason for veterinary intervention. So at that point, it’s important to go into the veterinary clinic, get a progesterone, get an ultrasound and see if the pregnancy is going appropriately or not.
What Do I Do When My Dog is Pregnant
The typical dog pregnancy lasts 63 days, plus or minus 48 hours. That means she will be whelping before you know it! We recommend using Revival’s Whelping Kit to help you feel confident that you have all the whelping supplies you will need when the time comes for her to deliver her litter.
If you have any questions or need help with your dog’s pregnancy, call us at 800.786.4751.
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Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.