Number one, don't bother trying human pregnancy kits.
They do not work because they are based on a different hormone compared to human pregnancy kits. You can buy canine pregnancy kits, but they can give negative results up to 35 days gestation, of which by then you can use other, more accurate ways of testing. Plus this isn't a product that vets regularly have in stock in their practices, and generally you have to order by the batch, so they're probably going to work out very expensive. Also they aren't based on urine, you’ll require a blood sample, so you will have to incur the cost at the vets too.
Number two, the gums going pale at around 21 days.
It's something to do with the blood rushing to the uterus, so it takes it away from the rest of the body. I don't believe there's any medical evidence to say that this is an accurate way of confirming pregnancy, and even if it was it's not gonna give you an idea of the number of pups to expect, or the possible gestational date if mated over a large period. Even if you take a picture, how do you know it's in the same light, and the same angle with the same exercise and food digestion (speeding up metabolism and temperature)?
Number three, nip pics.
You'll see this plastered all over social media with comments like "Does my dog look pregnant?" Who knows? Because who knows what they looked like beforehand, to what they look like the picture. Old school methodology is that the teats become more pronounced and rosy pink. This will be more difficult to ascertain on a female that's already had a litter (not maiden). But likewise you can still have females who go through these changes of characteristics, but they are actually indeed having a phantom pregnancy. The signs can be very convincing, a phantom can go all the way up to them producing milk, mothering toys and teddies. Again, it most certainly is a sign of pregnancy. Is it an accurate sign of pregnancy? No.
I’m going to group palpation here too, it’s generally only advised that a trained person practice it, which means a vet. By feeling around the abdomen I personally feel there is little accuracy, even if they are fairly confident that she is, still the numbers are a guesstimate.
Number four, using a human Foetal Doppler.
This equipment basically amplifies the sound of a potential heart beat for you to ascertain whether she's in pup or not. The problem with this is the quality of the equipment being used along with the quality of gel, the conductive gel which impacts the sound waves and therefore sound plus the skill of the person using it. What you'll find is that it's quite hard not to pick up the mother's heart beat through various arteries running through her body. So you can hear a lot of swishing and white noise which can be misread as puppy heartbeats.
I've had somebody use this equipment quite late on in the stages, once pregnancy had already been confirmed by other methods, that they were then panicking because they couldn't find any puppy heartbeats and they were concerned they may have died. On further investigation they were all fine. Foetal heart beat monitors are in the same bag as the Draminski pregnancy detectors because I believe they run on the same kind of principle.
So in summary, what I’m saying is don't bother wasting your wonga (or your time) on human pregnancy products such as test kits, or even dog ones. Don't bother with the gum change stuff unless you've got nothing else to do with your time. Don’t post nip pics or waste your hard earned dollar on foetal heart monitors, or pregnancy detectors.
So what do I recommend to spend your money on?
That would be ultrasound scanning because you can ultrasound from as early as 28 days from the last mating. If the person conducting the scan is qualified and skilled they'll be able to give you an actual update with progress of the puppy development. Are they a good size? Do they have the correct development points? Are they picking up heartbeats? Later gestational scans can define organs, observe movement of limbs, skull and body diameter can be measured for size and additional due dates information.
Again, not only will they confirm the gestational status of the puppies, but also the expected numbers. The more skilled the technician the more confident they will be in providing numbers. Nothing is 100% in life, well apart from death and taxes, but it's gonna give you damn good idea of what's going on. You can also pick up things that are not necessarily problematic but untypical such as empty gestational sacs or absorption of puppies.
For dogs that are ‘giving the sign of being in pup’ but they're not, may have other underlying health issues. For instance you can pick up bladder crystals, usual artefacts (tumours or masses) or pelvic kidneys. Closed pyometra (uterine infection) does actually give very similar signs to being pregnant because they gain weight, they become lethargic and change body shape, it’s a very serious condition and veterinary assistance must be sought.
So not only does the ultrasound more accurately determine what to expect and what's coming, but also it give you overall ideas the health of your dog and rules out any other possible issues that may not have been apparent for some time.
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I'm Sara otherwise known as 'Canine Family Planner' who founded HomeScan Breeder Services a premium pet-care business in 2014. I am an experienced and educated breeder, who specialises in domestic animal reproduction. I bred my first litter 20 years ago whilst in my teens and tend to breed annually. Breeding is pretty much in my DNA – a way of my life if you will! I've started this blog to share some of my knowledge and if possible help out a few like minded animal owners!