10 Ways To Tell If Your Dog Is Pregnant

Pets are a wonderful addition to any family. Along with the unconditional love, happiness, and fun, pet ownership also comes with responsibility. This means caring for your pup in both sickness and health. This can also include doggy pregnancy.

When it comes to suspected pregnancy in your canine, the symptoms often resemble those of human pregnancy with a few slight variations. One of the more significant ways it differs is that dogs have a much shorter gestation period.

People are typically pregnant for about 9 months, whereas your canine will be full-term within 61 to 65 days. Since there are no canine pregnancy tests at your local drug store, how can you tell if there are fluffy, cuddly, adorable little puppies in your future?

Well, a pregnant mom is a pregnant mom, and your pooch will be exhibiting many of the same indications as an expectant human mother. It is, of course, always recommended that you bring your dog to a veterinary professional, but there are some clues you can look for from the comfort of your own home.

Dog Pregnancy Signs

1. Vomiting

Much like their human counterparts, one of the earliest signs of pregnancy in your dog will likely be nausea and/or vomiting. The vomiting should be mild and can be accompanied by a decrease in appetite. If it persists for more than a week or two, or if your dog cannot keep anything down including fluids, call your veterinarian.

If you have increased the amount being fed, the vomiting could be caused by that. Intermittent vomiting is usually one of the very first signs of conception.

While the mum will need more food as the pregnancy progresses, and after the pups are born, overfeeding at an early stage can contribute to the vomiting or regurgitation.

2. Change in Appetite

Another sign of pregnancy is an increase or decrease in the dogs’ appetite. While of course, as the pregnancy progresses, you will notice an appetite increase, however, in the beginning, you may notice your pooch not being as hungry as she normally is. This can be one of the earlier signs of pregnancy along with vomiting.

While your pregnant dog does need more nutrients and calories during the gestation period, you may want to consider gradually switching to dog food specifically formulated for all life stages as these generally have a higher calorie count as opposed to feeding a bigger amount of low-quality food.

3. A Decrease in Physical Activity

While energy levels can, and will, fluctuate, it is an almost guarantee that your pooch will not be as active as she normally is, during the length of her pregnancy. This is usually more prominent/noticeable in the very beginning and at the end, immediately prior to giving birth.

Some exercise is important throughout the gestation to keep mom and babies healthy (obesity while pregnant brings a whole new set of risks), although you do not want to push her or overdo it. A short walk once or twice daily should suffice.

4. Vaginal Discharge

Around one month after a successful mating session, your pregnant pup may produce a mucous discharge. So long as it is not overly bloody, nor green in color, this is a completely normal occurrence.

It means that the plug is forming to protect the cervix, therefore the puppies, from invading bacteria. While pregnancy will always result in a mucous plug, it is not always visible.

This is also about the time for your pup’s first veterinary visit. The doctor can do an ultrasound to check on the growth and overall health of the puppies, usually at the 3-week mark.

A mucous discharge will also happen shortly prior to giving birth and it is normal for this secretion to have a slightly bloody appearance, or appear stringy and white.

5. Behavioral Changes

Like most expecting mothers, your pregnant dog will likely be uncomfortable, not to mention hormonal, and she may exhibit some changes in her behavior.

Earlier in the pregnancy, she may be more tired, not as hungry, and might be a bit standoffish, especially with the general malaise (overall not feeling well) and lethargy that is typically present in the first few weeks.

This can also cause her to be moody as there will be major hormonal changes occurring, and can result in some aggression.

Try to find a peaceful, quiet place for the expectant mother to relax, preferably alone. Small children should be kept separated from the dog or be supervised at all times when in contact.

She might also become more affectionate and choose to stay by your side, and this can cause some protective behaviors as well.

6. Sleeping More/Less

Fatigue is an absolutely normal part of any pregnancy. However, there may be times that your pregnant pooch will not sleep as much as she normally does. This typically happens closer to the end of the pregnancy and can be caused by the restlessness that usually precedes impending labor.

She will likely start nesting at that point as well. The initial tiredness is generally one of the earliest signs of pregnancy, especially when accompanied by vomiting. If you notice abnormal fatigue it may be a warning sign of becoming a puppy grandparent.

7. Expert Equipment

One of the sure-fire ways to determine if your dog is with puppies is having an ultrasound or x-ray performed. Your veterinarian can also do a physical exam and if it is between the 28th and the 35th day of pregnancy, he or she will be able to feel the puppies within the uterus.

This will not hurt the mother, but should only be done by a professional as the babies can sustain injuries if not examined properly.

At about 45 days into gestation, the x-rays will be able to make out the tiny puppy skeletons which can not only help the veterinarian confirm litter size but also determine if there are any skeletal abnormalities. Plus, umm, hello? So cute.

8. Lactation

Throughout the pregnancy your dogs’ teats (doggy nipples) will show changes, becoming darker, bigger, and can start to leak within the first few months.

The breast will eventually become enlarged and engorged with milk when nearing the end of gestation. She will also start expressing a milky, instead of the initial clear, fluid.

This is completely normal and is in preparation for feeding a hungry litter of puppies. If the fluid is bloody or has an off-putting odor, it could be a sign of an infection and you should contact your veterinarian.

This does not necessarily happen with all pregnancies, so not to worry if the milk does not come in until after the birth.

9. Swollen Abdomen

Around day 40, the abdomen is typically showing clear signs of the pregnancy. It will likely be formed, and relatively firm to the touch.

Now, swelling of the abdomen can be a symptom of pyometra, so by this stage, the possibly pregnant pup should have had a veterinary visit, especially if she is producing foul-smelling, and bloody vaginal discharge.

Some dogs do not show early and some do. A softly rounded belly can be one of the earlier signs.

Pyometra is an infection of the uterus and can be fatal if left untreated. Regular prenatal care can help your precious pooch have a successful, safe, and healthy pregnancy.

Bloat is another concern that can mimic the look of pregnancy, this is also a serious, possibly fatal illness.

10. Nesting

Nearing the end of the gestation your dog will likely start ‘nesting’. You will notice her searching for a quiet, comfortable, safe place to give birth. The nesting phase is typically accompanied by heavy, labored {no pun intended!), panting.

She should be provided with some old blankets and/or towels. Place these items inside of a decent-sized cardboard box where mom will be able to easily leave if need be, but the puppies cannot climb out of. She will be spending a large amount of time here both pre- and post-birth.

Pregnant dog signs

Let nature take its course, mom dog will know what to do

It’s pretty much a given that this is going to be a nerve-wracking experience, not only for the momma-to-be but for you as well. The one thing to keep in mind is that, during labor, her natural instincts will kick in. She will know exactly what to do at exactly the right time.

You are there for support and to step in should anything go wrong. You should be prepared as you may need to help to break a sack or to clear an airway.

Keep calm and only interfere if needed. Be sure to have warmed up towels, or some placed over a heating pad, for the puppies to keep warm while mom is still in labor.

When to call the veterinarian:

As already stated, this is one of the most natural things in the world and your dog will instinctively know what to do and when to do it. However, as with anything, things can go unexpectedly sideways.

Thankfully, with today’s medical knowledge and technology, it rarely amounts to anything other than a (sometimes expensive) veterinary visit.

Knowing when to make the call or trip, is imperative and you should always have an emergency veterinary contact handy, in case of complications or if the need for a surprise c-section arises.

The following are the times when you should be seeking consultation from a veterinarian:

When the puppies are first conceived:

If your pet has stopped eating or drinking altogether, you should seek the opinion of a veterinarian. While a decrease in appetite is normal, if it persists for more than a week, and she is refusing fluid intake, it is time for medical intervention.

Any sign of pain. If your pup’s abdomen is extremely tender to the touch, it can be a symptom of a serious underlying condition.

During gestation:

Behavioral changes are absolutely normal, although if your pup shows sudden changes, including excessive lethargy or super aggression, it may be time to make an appointment.

Bleeding. If your dog starts bleeding or spotting your veterinarian will likely recommend an ultrasound. It can be normal, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Post whelping:

Hemorrhage: There is bound to be some blood, she did just give birth, after all, but if it is excessive you need to call the vet or get to a veterinary hospital as soon as possible.

Vomiting/Diarrhea: The new mom may get sick after giving birth, this is normal. If she continues vomiting, refuses to eat or drink, or cannot keep anything down, it’s vet time.

The new born pups are here, now what?

Here is where pregnancy between the human species and dogs can sometimes differ. Now that the puppies are here, the work is far from over.

Instinct will still be guiding our new mom, but she and the babies should be supervised, especially for the first few days. Some new doggy moms can have difficulty transitioning into her new role. This is where you come in.

If the mother is avoiding the litter, you need to reinforce feeding and bonding time. Keeping them in a closed-off room can help, although due to possible aggressive behavior, be sure to keep a close watch at all times.

There have been instances of a recently birthed pup being attacked by the mother, and there have also been unintentional injuries or deaths, ie: accidental smothering while nursing.

If the mother refuses to nurse or starts to become aggressive to her newly born litter, they may need to be separated and the puppies hand-reared.

Spaying/Neutering Your Pooch

This can be an exciting time, no doubt about it and while the majority of the time, the animals’ gestation period goes perfectly fine, there is a chance of complications. These can include:

Pyometra: This only affects an unspayed female. This is a serious infection and is characterized by the uterus filling with pus. It requires surgery and if left untreated, or if it is treated too late, it can be, and usually is fatal.

Cancer: In both the male and female, if not neutered/spayed, it increases the risk of developing cancer such as uterine and testicular cancers.

For this reason, as well as overpopulation (remember, there are many homeless pets in your local shelters!), it is recommended that you spay or neuter your pet.


Being a pet parent is full of both ups, and downs, not unlike raising children of the human variety. Actually knowing your pooch is the best way to semi-confirm your pregnancy suspicions.

If your pet has recently been through her heat cycle, has had an opportunity to mate, and is just not acting quite right, there is a very good chance she could be about to become a mother.

Congratulations are in order! Good luck, you are in for a heck of a ride!


  1. https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/abstract/1976/11000/production_of_experimental_toxemia_in_the_pregnant.6.aspx
  2. https://www.jci.org/articles/view/104890/files/pdf

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