How Do You Know If Your Dog Is Pregnant?

Posted by Dr. Roth on

pregnant dog nursing puppy after delivery

Welcoming a litter of puppies can be an exciting time for pet parents. The thing is, knowing their dog is pregnant isn’t always easy. There are some subtle signs early on, but the same dog pregnancy signs could also be interpreted as an illness. Whether pet parents are planning for puppies or they suspect their dog may be pregnant, knowing the signs of pregnancy to look out for can help them prepare. 


Looking for Signs of Pregnancy

Below are some of the signs pet parents may notice that could indicate that a dog may be pregnant:

Changes in Appetite

Pet parents may notice changes in their dog’s appetite. Early in pregnancy, she may not eat as much as she usually does. Pregnant dogs may also experience something similar to human morning sickness and vomit occasionally. Some dogs may become hungrier and look or beg for more food even after finishing a normal meal portion. 

Enlarged Nipples

A dog’s nipples are typically small in size. Pregnancy causes them to grow. They may also darken as a result of increased blood flow. Later in pregnancy, the nipples may start leaking milk, too. If a pet parent notices a dog's nipples are starting to get larger they should visit a veterinarian for an ultrasound, X-ray, or physical exam.

Increased Affection

It’s not uncommon for a pregnant dog to seek out their pet parents more than usual early on. She might even attach herself to her pet parent’s side and look for extra attention, be extra emotional upon being left home alone, or cuddle more aggressively.

Irritability and Nesting

It’s not uncommon for a dog to “nest” late in their pregnancy. As their body and joints become more sensitive, they’ll dig in or shred bedding and other materials to create a comfortable place to give birth. They may also become more irritable during this time. If a pet parent notices their dog collecting blankets or creating a small, warm corner they may be very close to birthing their pups.


A pregnant dog may get tired more easily when she plays or she may require more sleep or naps than usual. Pet parents that have a normally active dog are much more likely to notice changes in energy than those with dogs that regularly sleep or lounge a lot. 

Weight Gain

As the puppies grow inside them, the mother will gain weight and her stomach will start to get bigger. Weight gain generally becomes apparent later in dog pregnancy and is localized to the stomach areas. Some dog breeds, depending on the number of puppies, may get wider while some may have a larger, lower hanging belly. If a female dog has long or unmanaged fur it may be difficult to notice weight gain until the latter stages of pregnancy.

Confirming the Pregnancy

If a pet parent notices any of the above symptoms, they should schedule an appointment with their primary vet to seek dog health advice and dog pregnancy care and delivery steps. The vet can examine the dog and perform various tests to confirm it, such as:

  • A witness relaxin test, which detects the presence of a hormone present in pregnancy
  • Abdominal palpitations 
  • Ultrasound scans
  • X-rays, which are the most reliable way to determine pregnancy

The latter test will also let pet parents know how many puppies the mother is carrying.

Preparing for Puppies

Near the end of their pregnancy, a dog may start to look for a place to give birth. Pet parents can create a comfortable nest in a warm, secluded area of the home. When she’s ready, she’ll have a designated safe space to deliver.

Want more guidance about dog pregnancy and newborn puppy care tips after delivery? Become a Fuzzy member today and access 24/7 Live Vet Chat. Through online vet help, pet parents can learn in real-time the answers to dog health questions and also receive dog advice from licensed vets and pet health specialists.
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