When it comes to mating, dogs can be very discrete – and rather indiscriminate – so you may not know puppies are on the way. There are a number of signs you can look out for, but most are not apparent until your bitch is well into her pregnancy (that on average lasts between 61 and 65 days).
Several methods are available to determine pregnancy. A clear mucoid vaginal discharge may be seen. It is a sensibly reliable sign of pregnancy and is noticed about 4-5 weeks into pregnancy and continues until parturition. Ultrasound or USG is able to pick up fetal heartbeats at about 28 days into gestation. This will not be able to determine the number of puppies but can give an estimate and can confirm a pregnancy. At about the same time, a veterinarian may be able to palpate the uterus and feel the fetuses. This may not be possible on a large dog or one that has the puppies under the rib cage.
A blood test to check for pregnancy is available. It checks for the hormone, relaxin, which is produced when the fertilized egg implants. The test can be done about 28-30 days into the pregnancy. Small litter sizes (less than 3 puppies) may result in a false negative result. X-rays can be taken around the 60th day of pregnancy to confirm a pregnancy, count the number of fetuses, and determine size-wise if the puppies will fit through the birth canal.
Early Signs of Dog Pregnancy
Dog pregnancy # 1 – Decreased appetite is usually one of the earliest signs that your bitch might be pregnant. Not all females go through this doggie version of “morning sickness”, but a small percentage will eat less during the first few weeks of gestation, usually making up for it later in the pregnancy.
Dog pregnancy # 2 – A sudden decrease in activity can indicate that your bitch is pregnant. Just like some women, canines may also experience feelings of exhaustion as their hormone levels change to support embryo production.
Dog pregnancy # 3 – Nipple growth is a good indicator that your bitch’s body is going through pregnancy changes. The nipples of an un-bred female are usually quite small, and the area immediately beneath them will feel flat. However, once a pregnancy is in progress, breast material will develop beneath the nipples, which will also increase slightly in preparation for eventual milk production.
Dog pregnancy # 4 – Behavioral changes may also be noticed, with either an increase in affectionate behavior or an expressed desire to be left alone.
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