What to Know If You Plan On Breeding Your Dog Or You Suspect Your Dog is Pregnant
Welcoming a litter of puppies into the world is an incredible and rewarding experience. However, it’s vital to make sure your dog is properly cared for while pregnant. If you think your dog might be pregnant, we highly recommend consulting with your veterinarian. We understand, though, that you may be trying to learn more before breeding your dog or seeking information before your pet’s scheduled appointment.
Here at GeniusVets, we believe information about dog pregnancy and all petcare information should come directly from licensed veterinary professionals — not Dr. Google. That’s why we sent some common dog pregnancy questions to veterinarians and compiled their replies to give you the accurate information you can trust. The information below comes directly from vets, but we still encourage you to seek the advice of your own veterinarian if you plan on breeding your dog or suspect she might already be pregnant. If you don’t already have a vet, you can find a trusted vet near you using the GeniusVets Directory.
The most crucial step is ensuring that your dog is in good overall health. If you plan on breeding your dog, have her examined beforehand to ensure she is healthy enough to withstand the rigors of pregnancy. Also, have her tested for infectious diseases, such as Brucellosis, and treat any problems before breeding.
Veterinarians also recommend having your dog tested for intestinal parasites before breeding. Intestinal parasites can be passed to puppies in utero or after birth, so it’s best to treat the mother beforehand. After breeding, ensure that your pregnant dog eats enough calories and nutrients. Schedule an appointment with their veterinarian to learn more about your dog’s individual needs.
The gestation period for dogs is around 63 days. When broken down into trimesters, this comes out to 21 days per trimester. Expect your dog to be pregnant for almost exactly two months before delivering a litter of puppies.
Knowing when you take your dog to see a veterinarian after breeding can be tricky. Sometimes, dogs experience a false pregnancy when coming out of heat. The hormonal changes cause symptoms that mimic an actual pregnancy, and even veterinarians cannot distinguish between false and genuine pregnancies within the first few weeks.
If you think your dog is pregnant, it’s best to wait three to four weeks to bring her in for an appointment. Of course, if there are problems, you should contact your vet right away.
Around 30 days after breeding, your vet can perform blood tests to confirm pregnancy. Before that, there is no way of definitively confirming pregnancy in dogs.
Because of the possibility of false pregnancy, detecting pregnancy in the first trimester is tricky. As your dog enters the second trimester, though, you will notice changes in her mammary glands. They will become enlarged and possibly engorged due to milk production. Her external genitalia may also appear swollen.
Abdominal swelling becomes apparent around days 30 to 40. In overweight females and larger breeds, this may not be noticeable until later stages.
Additional signs of pregnancy in dogs include:
- Increased appetite
- Nesting behavior
- Increased affection
- Decreased energy
Veterinarians may rely on various diagnostic tests to determine if your dog is pregnant. The relaxin pregnancy test is one of the most common methods of confirming pregnancy. This simple blood test detects the hormone relaxin, which is only present in pregnant dogs.
Your veterinarian may also take x-rays or ultrasounds of your dog’s abdomen to look for puppies. Diagnostic images allow vets to count how many puppies are present. And with ultrasound, they can even check heart rates to make sure the puppies are healthy and viable.
Like humans, dogs can experience complications during pregnancy. Milk production is always a primary concern. When a pregnant female begins producing a lot of milk, the calcium is usually pulled from her bones. The best way to supplement this is by feeding your dog high-quality, well-balanced puppy food during pregnancy.
Other complications your dog may experience during pregnancy and delivery include:
- Gestational diabetes
- Retained placenta
Uterine infections are a severe complication that some dogs experience after giving birth. They cause dark, putrid vaginal discharge and can be fatal when not treated right away. If your dog has a brownish or yellowish discharge that resembles pus after birth, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Set up a whelping box where your dog can get away from the noise, chaos, and confusion and be by herself to give birth. This area should be soft, well-padded, and located in a warm, dark space. Most dogs do not want an audience while giving birth, so ensure their whelping area provides some privacy.
You can use household items to make a whelping box, including:
- Kiddie pool
- Large cardboard box
- Old towels and blankets
When your dog goes into labor, keep warm water and towels handy, so you can clean the puppies (and Mom) if needed.
Unless a problem warrants veterinary attention, not interfering is the best way to help your dog recover after giving birth. Dogs know how to deliver and care for puppies. Unless your dog or her puppies are in distress, there is no need to “help.” In fact, you could do more harm than good. Give Mom some privacy to clean up her pups and take care of the placenta and umbilical cords. She knows what she’s doing.
Keep the whelping area warm and clean. And, of course, keep an eye on your dog and her pups to make sure everyone is doing well. If you have any concerns, reach out to your veterinarian for advice.
If you have further questions about dog pregnancy, contact your veterinarian. If you don’t have one, we are here to help you find a local veterinarian you can trust.