Part of the responsibility that comes with keeping a dog as a pet is looking after them if they get pregnant. There’s a lot of information to digest. That starts with understanding all about your dog’s breed and any health recommendations that come with it.
There are plenty of questions to find answers to. Read on for everything you’ll need to know to find out if your dog is pregnant and what to do if they are.
How Long Are Dog Pregnancies?
Most dogs are pregnant for around 63 days or 2 months. The length of a pregnancy can vary depending on the breed and litter size. Fetal growth is fast during the first few weeks of pregnancy. After 4 weeks, your vet should be able to detect fetal heartbeats.
During the second month, development speeds up. The number of recognizable puppies begins to form making it possible to tell the size of the litter. By the beginning of the third month, your dog should be ready to give birth.
You can use our dog pregnancy calculator to find your dog’s due date.
How Do I Know if My Dog Is Pregnant?
You can’t call in at the local pharmacy and pick up a “doggie pregnancy test kit.” They don’t exist. If you suspect your dog may be pregnant, the only way to be sure is to go and see your vet.
When breeding a dog, you might know the mating date. If so, you can ask the vet to carry out an abdominal palpation starting at the 4-week mark. At this point, the puppies will feel like grapes or small balls depending on how big your dog is.
You could also ask the vet to carry out an ultrasound test at the 25 to 35-day mark. They will be able to distinguish the heartbeats of the puppies which tend to be 2-3 times faster than their mum’s.
Alternatively, your vet could carry out a hormone test at around 25-30 days. These are relatively accurate. Finally, the vet could take an X-ray at 55 days by which time the puppies’ skeletal systems will show up.
What Are the Signs That My Dog Might Be Pregnant?
Diagnostic testing is the most accurate way to confirm a pregnancy but there are lots of signs to watch for in your dog too. These include:
- An increase in appetite and weight
- Increased nipple size and a swollen belly
- Your dog becoming more tired than usual
- Your dog displaying nesting behavior and being more affectionate
- An increase in irritability
It is quite normal for some dogs to vomit or lose their appetite for a couple of days in the first few weeks of pregnancy. This is because of changes in their hormones. Sometimes they might be experiencing a false pregnancy. If in doubt, consult your vet.
What Should I Feed My Pregnant Dog?
As with all expectant mothers, it’s vital to ensure your pregnant dog gets all the nutrition they need. You might already feed your dog great quality food and your dog might also be a healthy weight.
If so, you do not need to make any dietary changes for the first 6 weeks of their pregnancy unless your vet advises otherwise. Increasing your dog’s food intake could be potentially harmful.
As she gets larger in the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, most vets recommend increasing her food intake slowly. Do this until she’s eating about a third to a half more than usual. Small, regular meals are best as larger meals could cause her discomfort.
If you’re trying to breed your dog, some vets advise limiting strenuous exercise during the first two weeks of gestation. This, they say, will improve the implantation of the embryos.
After that, normal exercise is fine until your dog’s belly enlarges. You should then consider taking your dog on shorter and possibly more frequent walks.
How Often Should I Visit the Vet?
If you are breeding your dog, you should take her to the vet for a prenatal checkup. Your vet will be able to make sure she is up-to-date with her vaccinations. They might also recommend a fecal exam to check for intestinal parasites and a deworming course.
Make sure you ask your vet what to do if there’s an emergency near the time of expected labor. Always have a plan with your family and pet sitter on hand.
You might also want to discuss planning for a normal or cesarean birth. If your dog gets pregnant by accident, this might also be a good time to talk about taking precautions in the future. This could include spaying in order to prevent any more unexpected litters.
Preparing for the New Family
Planning in advance for the possibility that your dog might get pregnant is always a good idea. Keep in regular contact with your vet. They are best placed to inform you about what measures to put in place that are most appropriate for the breed and age of your dog.
If you need a little more reassurance about your dog’s pregnancy, contact us now for immediate online access to a fully qualified vet. For even more peace of mind, we are also able to offer straightforward, hassle-free, pet insurance for your dog.