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Dog Pregnancy: Everything You Need To Know About An Expecting Dog

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Boston Terrier Family posing for a photo

Human pregnancy and dog pregnancy are quite different. Here is everything you need to know about signs, cycles, and how to care for your expecting dog.

Heat cycle

Your pup’s reproductive cycle, otherwise known as “canine estrous”, has 4 stages; proestrus, estrus, diestrus, and anestrus.  Here are some descriptions of each stage and what to look for with your pet:


Pregnant Chihuahua laying on its side

Most people know this stage as being in heat or having her period. Typically lasting for about 9 days, estrogen levels rise and the female bleeds. She may seem unreceptive to male advances during this part of her cycle.


Otherwise known as ovulation, this is when fertility occurs. This also lasts for about 9 days normally. Not as common but it is possible to last from 4 to 24 days. Blood is decreased, progesterone levels increase while estrogen lowers.


Levels of estrogen are low and after hitting its peak 3 to 4 weeks after beginning diestrus, progesterone drops to its normal amount. This in-between stage lasts for about 2 months.


This is the final step and can go on for about 4 months depending on the breed. During this phase, her body prepares to renew the cycle again to get ready for the next possible pregnancy. This is her normal state.

If you are choosing to breed your dog, using this cycle information is key to success. While your dog is in heat, it is especially important to look at physical changes to be able to determine which cycle she may be at.

Early Symptoms

Litter of puppies sleeping together on a bed

Suspect that your dog might be pregnant? Although there are very few signs, here are some early symptoms you may notice in your dog suggesting they are getting ready to be pup parents:

  • Weight gain
  • Morning sickness
  • Lethargy
  • Eating less
  • Vomiting

Although these signs may often be early symptoms, these are often seen in any female dog who is just past their heat cycle. Along with physical symptoms, your dog can also show behavioral signs of pregnancy including sleeping more, and change in affection.  

How can you tell if your dog is pregnant?

Golden retriever mom surrounded by her puppies in the yard

It’s a common misconception that human pregnancy tests work for dogs as well. However, according to breeding business.com, your dog does not produce Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HGC). This is a hormone that is only meant to be tested for human pregnancy. Dogs may be tested via ultrasound, x-rays, abdominal palpation, radiograph, and relaxin testing.

Ultrasound is known to be most accurate as early as 30 days after conception. The only downside to choosing ultrasound as the only method of testing pregnancy in your dog is that you may not be able to determine how many puppies to expect.

In order to get a more accurate count, radiography is best. This is, however, typically as long as 42 to 50 days after they mate at least. It is suggested to wait for more accuracy.

Typically one of the first steps in determining whether your pup has pups is to feel the abdomen. Sometime’s with tense and nervous dogs, the uterus may not be felt. This is usually most likely to be felt about 30 days after ovulation.

Finally, there is a test called “Relaxin”. According to Eastcentralvet.com, Relaxin can be used to spot pregnancy as early as 21 to 28 days after conception. This result is due to testing a specific hormone in the canine placenta. False negatives are known to occur and should be retested with time.

How long are dogs pregnant?

Litter of puppies sitting on a towel

The typical gestation period is 58 - 68 days. Compared to normal human pregnancy at 9 months, 2 months seems pretty quick. The amount of time it takes depends on the breed, however, usually 2 months is what’s best to expect.

My dog’s pregnant, now what?

Although many dogs don’t experience any symptoms during the first three weeks of their pregnancy, some things you may see in the first month are Increased appetite, enlarged nipples, loving behavior, morning sickness, and lethargic nature.

Noticeably increased appetite, weight gain, and firm abdomen are all things you may see in the second month of your dog’s pregnancy.

The third month is go time. Labor is near, and she may begin to nest to prepare for her new pups.

What can you do?

Group of french bulldogs

Keeping your dog comfortable during this process is a must for happy, healthy puppies. Sometimes this means changing their bed to a cooler, softer one for the pregnancy.




Make sure to maintain your pup's activity level and on a healthy diet. Your dog may have nausea or morning sickness during this time and it is important to keep their intake consistent. They’re eating for more than themselves now.

Most importantly, if you notice anything strange like discoloration or if your dog is acting differently, contact your veterinarian.

What should you expect during your dog’s labor?

Two chocolate lab puppies licking each other in a blue crib

If you do suspect your dog may be pregnant, it is important to take your dog to the vet for confirmation and health evaluation.

According to a veterinarian of forty years, Dr. Mike Paul, checking your dog’s rectal temperature towards the end of their pregnancy can help determine when labor is near.

If you notice your dog is restless and wants to be left alone, don’t worry, Dr. Paul says, that means they are nesting and labor is beginning.

Just like human labor, your dog will experience contractions that will become more frequent as the labor goes on.

Next, as the contractions worsen, you may be able to visually see the muscles moving in an attempt to get the puppies out of her belly. She may move positions frequently to make it easier to push or stay lying down for comfort.

A typical puppy delivery should be about 10 to 60 minutes with contractions.

The final stage involves the placenta being expelled. There will be equal placenta to the number of puppies she births.

If you notice absolutely anything that may seem she is in distress, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Puppies are a wonderful new adventure, however, given the huge amounts of homeless dogs waiting to find their forever home, please consider adoption when deciding your new fluffy companion.

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Dog Pregnancy By Chelsea Clark

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