How to Tell if a Dog is Pregnant Without a Vet

Having a pregnant dog in your home is exciting, and your whole home will be filled with anticipation waiting for puppies to arrive. If you're not sure whether or not your dog is pregnant, you can look for some signs and symptoms to give you a better idea of whether your dog is having puppies. While only a vet can give your dog an official pregnancy diagnosis, you may notice some symptoms that give you a good idea of whether you should be ready to greet new puppies in a few months.

Veterinarian examining dog in clinic
Only a vet can give your dog an official pregnancy diagnosis.
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Behavioral changes in pregnant dogs

If your dog is pregnant, you may notice that her behavior changes. She may spend more time with you and may seek out your attention more actively than she normally does. Some pregnant dogs display the opposite reaction, though, and if your dog is suddenly a bit antisocial and is keeping to herself, this could also indicate that she's pregnant.

Your normally active, energetic dog may also seem to lack energy when pregnant. She may get tired more quickly during walks and may cut her playtime sessions short. Be sure to observe this lower energy level and let your dog get the rest that she needs.

Toward the end of her pregnancy, your dog may exhibit nesting behaviors as she gets ready to have her puppies. Your dog may shred materials to create a nest and may withdraw from the family. If you've maintained a dog pregnancy calendar to track your dog's gestation period, this nesting behavior typically begins toward the end of the 56- to 70-day gestational period.

Physical changes in pregnant dogs

Your pregnant dog will also undergo some physical changes. Her appetite may fluctuate, and at times she may eat more or less. Even with this fluctuating appetite, you'll notice that her abdomen grows and she may suddenly gain weight. Your dog's abdomen enlarges late during her pregnancy.

During the early stages of pregnancy, your dog's nipples will grow and become somewhat hardened. They may also become a darker color than normal. As your dog's pregnancy progresses, she may occasionally leak milk from her nipples.

Performing a dog pregnancy test

While the above signs may lead you to believe that your dog is pregnant, the only way to confirm your dog's pregnancy is by taking her to the vet. From days 21 to 25 of pregnancy, your vet can perform a dog pregnancy test to confirm whether or not your dog is, actually, pregnant. From around day 20 your vet can perform an ultrasound to visualize the puppies.

Once your dog has been pregnant for 30 days, your vet can perform a physical exam to determine how many puppies she's expecting. This isn't always accurate, but it can give you an idea of how far along your dog's pregnancy is and roughly how many puppies you should prepare for. The most accurate way to visualize how many puppies a dog is having is to perform an X-ray so that you can see the puppies' skeletal systems. This can only be performed after day 45 of pregnancy, and it's best to wait until day 55 for the most accurate count.

The more that you know about your dog's pregnancy, the better you can prepare and ensure she gets the care she needs at every pregnancy stage. Monitoring your dog's pregnancy symptoms week-by-week can help you anticipate when she'll give birth so that you're ready for the big event.