When you think your dog might be pregnant, but aren’t quite sure, it helps to know what to look for. Spotting the early signs of pregnancy can help you be ready for the puppies and make sure you know to give your dog the extra care she needs while pregnant.
Just like people, dogs often develop a bit of morning sickness during early pregnancy. She may not do much vomiting, but a female dog is likely to lose her appetite and eat very little when she is three to four weeks pregnant. You can expect her to turn her nose up at even the tastiest of treats, so hang onto the good stuff for the day when her appetite returns. Once she gets over the nausea, her appetite will increase steadily until the puppies are born and eventually weaned.
Almost from the beginning, your dog’s nipples will begin to change in size and color. Typically they’ll get larger, and they may also look noticeably darker. At the same time, the hair around the nipples starts to thin out, in preparation for nursing puppies, so when you give your dog a belly rub the changes may be very obvious. As her pregnancy progresses you may see milk drip out of the nipples, though this typically happens closer to delivery time.
You can expect your dog to show a bit of moodiness and want little or nothing to do with you during the first half of her pregnancy. This is common as her body adjusts to all the changes, and it will pass as her pregnancy progresses. On the other hand, some dogs do the complete opposite, so you may find that she’s glued herself to your side and has to be near you all the time. Either way, a sudden change in behavior that’s out of character for her can be an early indicator of pregnancy.
It is possible for your dog to show all the signs and symptoms of pregnancy, right down to getting milk and having a swollen belly, yet not be pregnant. When this happens it’s known as a false pregnancy, and it’s been known to fool even very experienced breeders into thinking a litter of pups is on the way. If you aren’t sure, take your dog into the vet about halfway through her 63-day pregnancy, and have the vet check her over. He can give her a blood test to verify the pregnancy, and many vets can also feel the puppies if they’re there.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.