When talking about canine pregnancy there is an awful lot of material to consider and so I will be splitting the topic between three hubs. This hub is going to talk about how to tell if your dog is pregnant and what veterinary procedures can be undertaken to be certain that a dog is carrying a litter.
Whilst it is advisable for a dog to be neutered, not all owners will want to put their dog through this process and may actually want their bitch to have a litter of puppies. In some cases a female dog may escape and mate before she has been altered. No matter how a dog has come to be pregnant it is up to the owner to ensure that they look after their dog, helping to nurse them through the pregnancy.
A pregnancy usually lasts for between 60 to 65 days and there are quite a few signs that can indicate that a female dog is pregnant. However, most of them do not become apparent until well into the pregnancy. The first thing that may be noticeable is the discharge of mucus from the vulvar; this usually happens around a month after the dog has mated and so if spotted by an owner can be a good indication of when a bitch was impregnated. Between 25 to 30 days after the mating has taken place a dog’s teat will become pinker, erect and easier to see as the blood supply to the nipples will have become increased. A weight change is of course inevitable and a pregnant dog will start to get heavier from around the 35-day-mark onwards; some dogs can increase to up to 50% over their normal weight.
There a few changes that will occur from around day 40 of the pregnancy. One such change is the enlargement of the abdomen which whilst thought to be a common sign, is not always shown with a bitch that is pregnant/carrying a litter for the first time; a dog carrying a second or third litter will ‘show’ a lot more. Another sign that occurs around the 40-day-mark is the enlargement of the bitch’s mammary glands, with some female dogs’ glands leaking quite heavily around this time.
Behavioural changes may also start to take place with some female dogs becoming lethargic, depressed or losing their appetite. Whilst this can be due to the pregnancy it can also be an indication of a problem with the pregnancy and so a vet should be contacted immediately. If there are no complications then a dog’s appetite will actually increase towards the second half of the pregnancy. As the delivery date gets closer the pregnant dog will start to show her nesting instincts by scratching at the floor, particularly in her bed, and displaying restlessness behaviour.
On average it will take about a month for an owner to realise that their dog is pregnant. As well as looking out for the signs of pregnancy by themselves, the owner should take their dog to the vets where confirmation of the pregnancy can be obtained. A common procedure to detect puppies in the womb is an ultrasound that detects foetal heartbeats; this can be used after a bitch has been pregnant for 20 days or more. Another way a vet may want to check will be by feeling the abdomen after around 30 days. This can be quite uncomfortable for a pregnant dog and so ultrasounds are usually a less invasive way to check for puppies. After a dog has been pregnant for 25 days, a vet will be able to run an endocrine test to detect relaxin, a hormone that is only produced by pregnant dogs.
The next hub I will be writing will take a look at what to do when your dog goes into labour and actually gives birth. This can be a worrying time for any pet owner but there a few things that can be done to help the process which I will highlight and take a look into. In addition to writing on HubPages I also write for Animal Friends Insurance, an ethical company that offers cheap dog insurance.