Waiting to find out if breeding your female Saint Bernard resulted in a pregnancy is almost unbearable. Gestation is about 63 days, but if you pay close attention, you can notice other signs indicating the pitter-patter of little Saint paws is on its way to your house.
Early Behavioral Signs
Some breeders swear they know when their Saint Bernards are pregnant just by observing changes in their behavior. Notice if your female Saint’s temperament changes slightly in the first three weeks after breeding, which might indicate a pregnancy. She might be more loving and want you to pet or cuddle her or she might seem more relaxed and slightly lazy.
Saint Bernards can have large litters of around 10 puppies, but a litter of only one or two isn’t uncommon. Over her nine-week pregnancy, your Saint’s belly size won’t increase appreciably until the last three weeks. The larger the litter, the bigger the belly, but Saint Bernards have large chests and rib cages that tend to obscure belly size. In subsequent pregnancies, a Saint’s enlarged belly is more noticeable at six weeks gestation than it is in a first-time pregnancy.
Other Early Physical Signs
At about three weeks into a Saint Bernard’s pregnancy, her nipples might seem slightly larger, or harder and more defined. The skin surrounding the nipple seems a little puffy as breast development begins. If you look “down there,” you’ll notice that her vulva has not returned to its pre-pregnancy size. Of course, if you didn’t notice her vulva size before, you won’t have anything to compare it to now. Look anyway so you have a frame of reference for later.
Signs Later in a Pregnancy
By the seventh week of gestation, your Saint Bernard’s teats will be swollen and you might notice some clear discharge from her enlarged and protruding vulva. Around the eighth week, you can squeeze a nipple gently and notice if a drop of colostrum appears. By now, your big girl is probably uncomfortable. She might want to eat more often, but when offered food she might eat smaller amounts. She will urinate more frequently and she might exhibit “nesting” behavior, which includes rearranging her bedding or looking for a secluded place to rest.
Before the Big Event
During the last week of gestation, signs of impending birth, or whelping, are evident. Your soon-to-be-mommy will be restless and unable to lie in one spot for more than a few minutes. When she lies on her side, you can notice her swollen belly, even if she’s going to have a small litter. In the last week, take her temperature rectally every day. When her temperature drops below 100, whelping should begin within 24 hours. Your Saint will quit eating solid food now, but continue to offer her fresh cool water and prepare for puppies.
Although 63 days is the average gestation in all breeds, giant breeds, including Saints, can go three to five days longer before whelping.
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.
- A New Owner’s Guide to Saint Bernards: Betty-Anne Stenmark
Glenda Taylor is a contractor and a full-time writer specializing in construction writing. She also enjoys writing business and finance, food and drink and pet-related articles. Her education includes marketing and a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.