Whether or not your dog's pregnancy has been planned, it can still be difficult even for experienced breeders to know for certain that their furry friend is expecting. In the same way as any pregnancy, it's best to know and understand the signs so that you can be fully prepared to make this time as stress-free for your dog (and yourself!) as possible. Whilst it's important to point out that you should always get your pooch checked over by a professional vet if you suspect that she may be expecting, there are some telltale signs to watch out for that can help you identify your dog's pregnancy yourself. Many of these, however, may not become evident until your pet is well into her term, so if the pregnancy is intentional then looks out for any of these signs as early on as possible. If you suspect an unintentional pregnancy, the sooner you're able to identify these signs and get her to the vet, the better, as there are a number of things that you will need to understand prior to, during and after delivery of your new pups.
Is My Dog Pregnant?
Whilst many signs of animal pregnancy are difficult to spot due to us know being familiar with them, some symptoms are similar to human pregnancy, such as the canine version of morning sickness. In this instance, you will notice your pet becoming nauseous, vomiting or, most commonly, having little to no appetite. Although this is perfectly normal, you will need to pay attention to it as she will not be getting the essential nutrients that both she and the puppies need. If you notice your pet being off her food or becoming sickly, get her to the vet asap as there are nutritional alternatives to supplement her diet and ensure she's not missing anything or becoming malnourished.
Discharge & Teats
Around a month after mating, you may start to see a slight discharge from the vaginal area, and also from the teats. Vaginal discharge will be mucus like in appearance, whereas fluid coming from the teats will be a bit more difficult to spot as, in most cases, it's almost clear. The teats will also become more prominent at this point, as well as changing colour, which can be either slight or a more dramatic darkening.
Again, similar to humans, dogs will experience weight gain as the puppies grow throughout the pregnancy. This will begin at around day 35 of pregnancy, and will become increasingly prominent until delivery. The most weight will be gained in the final weeks leading up to birth, which will likely be uncomfortable for your pet so be considerate with her day to day activities. She may no longer be able to join you on the couch without being assisted, and walks will likely become difficult for her so exercise will need to be kept to a minimum later on in her term.
Although her appetite may go in the early stages, the second phase of her pregnancy is likely to be quite different. Your dog's appetite is likely to dramatically increase during this time to accommodate the growing puppies. Although unproven, some breeders believe that their dogs experience similar phenomena to human 'cravings' whereby they show a particular tendency towards a single food item or type of food. If your dog displays this behaviour then feel free to indulge her slightly providing that the food isn't unsuitable for dogs and not in huge quantities.
Leading Up To Birth
When the time is approaching for your dog to deliver her pups, she will become slightly withdrawn and quieter than usual, possibly a little bit sluggish and may sleep more than usual. She may also begin seeking out a suitable place to give birth that is safe, warm and comfortable. The vast majority of dogs will be able to deliver unassisted, but preparing them is where you come in. Make sure she has somewhere suitable to go to when the time is right, where she feels secure and comfortable. There are whelping boxes available that you can purchase online and at pet shops, which are designed specifically for this purpose, including a lid and something inside, such as a bar, to prevent mum from rolling onto or suffocating her new babies. This should be lined with comfortable material that is easily washable, or newspaper/soft shredded paper. It's a good idea to introduce this designated place to mum a few weeks prior to delivery so that she has time to familiarise herself and become used to the space and understand it's purpose.
Expecting and delivering puppies can be an incredibly rewarding experience for you and your dog, but knowing the signs and identifying pregnancy early can be the difference between an enjoyable, or a traumatic experience for all involved. Whether you're a breeder or pet owner, if you own a female dog and have chosen not to have her spayed then you should ensure you know what to look for in case of pregnancy. Female dogs come into season around every 8 months, depending on breed, and it's easy to get caught out as males will be drawn to her during this time.