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7 Vet-Approved Dog Pregnancy Signs: How to Tell If Your Dog Is Expecting

Kristin Hitchcock

By Kristin Hitchcock

Pregnant Terrier Mix

Vet approved

Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Paola Cuevas

MVZ (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Whether you want your dog to be pregnant or not, the unknowns of your dog’s early pregnancy can be stressful. In the early days, it can be impossible to tell if your dog is pregnant. Until the eggs have settled and hormones have started being produced, there is no actual difference between a pregnant dog and a not-pregnant dog.

However, under the influence of pregnancy hormones, the canine will start showing pregnancy symptoms. These will be incredibly minor at first, so you probably won’t notice them. As the pregnancy continues, though, the symptoms will become more apparent. It may be weeks before you can absolutely say that your dog is 100% pregnant — unless you visit the vet, that is.

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The 7 Signs Your Dog Is Pregnant

1. Decreased Activity

Many dogs will begin to experience fatigue in the early months. This is mostly due to hormonal reasons. The production of the new pregnancy hormones can make them feel worn and tired. It isn’t necessarily because they’re using so much energy to grow puppies. Often, the fatigue starts before the growth of the puppies really begins to take off.

Your dog may spend more time napping and may tire more quickly during exercise. She may not want to move around quite as much and may not be as energetic as she used to be. She may feel worn down after walks for a longer period or may even refuse to walk as far as she used to.

This change usually shows up a few weeks after the dog gets pregnant. It is one of the first signs, but it doesn’t take place directly after fertilization. Some dogs will experience more fatigue than others. Just because your dog doesn’t seem to be more fatigued doesn’t mean she isn’t pregnant. She may just be good at covering up this symptom or may not have this symptom at all.

Portrait of tired a papijack_collins photography uk_shutterstock
Image Credit: collins photography uk, Shutterstock

2. Unusual Behavior

A pregnant dog’s hormones can change her behavior in all sorts of ways. Each dog reacts to the change in hormones differently. Some become more lovable, but others become a bit more aggressive. Pregnant dogs often look for more attention, but this isn’t always the case. Some would rather be left alone and may isolate themselves, especially if they are feeling more tired than normal.

These behaviors may never occur, or they may start as soon as your dog’s hormones begin to change. Since there isn’t a definite measure of what counts as unusual behavior, it can be hard to diagnose your dog’s pregnancy based on this symptom alone. For this reason, we recommend checking for other symptoms as well.

Sometimes, if you really want your dog to be pregnant, you may begin seeing unusual behaviors that aren’t actually there. Try to be objective regarding this symptom, and consider asking someone else who knows your dog for their opinion.

3. Appetite Changes

Appetite changes can occur throughout your dog’s pregnancy. Some dogs may start eating more as soon as the hormonal changes hit their system. However, others may not experience any changes until months in, when the puppies start growing particularly big. Alternatively, some dogs eat less when they first become pregnant, only to increase their food intake later. Some dogs go through multiple appetite ups and downs.

A change in appetite can be a sign that your female is pregnant. Of course, appetite changes can also point toward a variety of health problems, so you need to keep an extra-close eye on any dog that starts eating differently.

dog food
Image Credit: Pixabay

4. Weight Gain

Most dogs won’t start gaining weight until later in their pregnancy. However, this is one of the most telling signs. If your dog’s abdomen begins to enlarge and they begin to gain extra weight, that’s an obvious sign that they are pregnant, unless your dog has an underlying health condition. At this point, your dog should also be showing other signs of pregnancy.

The amount of weight that your dog will gain depends largely on their breed. Smaller dogs will obviously gain less than larger dogs. The number of puppies that your dog is carrying also plays somewhat of a role, though you usually can’t use your dog’s weight to accurately guess how many puppies she will have. There are just too many factors that go into it. Many dogs will gain quite a bit of fat in preparation for feeding the puppies, so the weight isn’t only a representation of the puppies that she is carrying.

5. Enlarged Nipples

A dog’s nipples should grow in size during the early stages of pregnancy. This is because she is preparing to feed the puppies. These changes are driven by the dog’s hormones, not the growing puppies in her belly. Therefore, this change should occur before the puppies reach a substantial size.

If you believe that your dog is pregnant, you should likely keep an eye on her nipples. Of course, you probably didn’t pay much attention to your dog’s nipples before she became pregnant, which can make it hard to determine if they actually got bigger. The slow change may also be difficult to notice since you’ll get used to their new size.

However, this is one of the more apparent signs that occurs early in pregnancy, making it a good marker for determining whether your dog is pregnant.

pregnant Dogue de Bordeaux
Image Credit: Jan-Dix, Shutterstock

6. Nesting Behaviors

As dogs approach their due date, they will begin to nest. Sometimes, this happens right before she goes into labor. Other times, it may happen off and on for about a week or so. Usually, you will know that your female is pregnant by the time she starts nesting. However, some start a bit earlier than usual.

You can use the occurrence of this symptom to guess when the dog is getting close to her delivery date, especially if you don’t know when she conceived. However, it isn’t exactly accurate, as dogs can nest for varying amounts of time.

7. Morning Sickness

Some dogs are affected by morning sickness during early pregnancy. However, this typically only affects dogs for a few days in their 3rd or 4th week. Often, it can be so sudden and minor that you may not even notice. This symptom is caused by hormonal changes, so it often happens around the same time as many other early pregnancy symptoms.

Many dogs may experience morning sickness but never actually vomit. The dog can’t exactly tell you that they aren’t feeling well, but they may begin to eat less. If this is the case, then you may notice a difference in appetite. Often, small meals throughout the day can prevent nausea for your dog. However, the sickness is usually short-lived, so it shouldn’t be much of a problem.

Sick Beagle
Image By: CC0 Public Domain, Pxfuel

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Featured Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

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