As a pet pregnancy ultrasound scanner, I get asked a lot about the signs of pregnancy and whether I can foresee or guess that a girl is pregnant before I actually scan her.
My answer is always no.
Until I put that ultrasound probe on and I see puppies, I never even contemplate trying to guess whether a female is pregnant. I myself have fallen into many traps thinking they are or they aren't and in fact it’s been the opposite.
In this article I'll go through some of the typical signs of pregnancy and why they suggest they are pregnant but also may be why they aren't.
Loss of appetite and sickness. So typically some females will display morning sickness once they've been mated and some also lose their appetite, I believe this is generally because of their hormones whizzing around their body making significant changes to prepare for the pregnancy. The hormone Progesterone which is required in pregnancy has also been associated with diarrhea regardless of confirmed pregnancy or not. However, what you need to bear in mind is that conditions are also the same symptoms of a dog being ill. If the symptoms are prolonged or in excess, you must decide if you need additional veterinary advice to identify any underlying problems.
Another common observation is that the female becomes very attentive and clingy. She always wants to be around people or her preferred owner. She may want her belly to be rubbed, other females actually prefer people not to touch their belly. So again, you won't always know whether this is due to pregnancy or is she showing additional signs of because she maybe in pain. Again, this behaviour difference is definitely is a sign of pregnancy, but it can also be a sign of other undiagnosed conditions.
She may become more lethargic, not wanting to go out of her bed or on her usual walks, or not for so long. Again, this can be a sign of pregnancy because the hormones are speeding up her metabolism these chemical reactions that are going on in her body require energy to develop the puppies zapping her ‘normal’ energy levels. This could also be a sign of illness in a dog. A dog sleeping a lot, looking unwell, not wanting to do their usual routine can also be a sign of illness. So again, something to bear in mind.
Change of body shape. Generally, maiden females (not previously had a litter) will show very little physical signs of body pregnancy before 35 days gestation. You may have heard about teats becoming bigger and rosy or maybe that the fact that they change shape and they sag more. You can still get these changes with phantom pregnancy. This is where a female displays all signs of being pregnant, even up to the point that they produce milk, but they're not pregnant. I must say that from my experience phantom pregnancies are more prone from females that have had a litter before, Maidens are less likely to phantom but they do still display some of these symptoms if they are generally have quite high hormonal levels and naturally want to be motherly.
It's been known for Estrogen to aid water retention which can visually change the shape of your dog, in particular around her undercarriage, these changes are due to hormones not due to pregnancy.
A change in body shape and weight gain, could also mean that they could possibly have a uterus infection such as closed Pyometra. This is a build-up of infection/puss in the uterus which mean that she gains weight and that she changes body shape. Again, she is not pregnant. Some other signs of Pyometra again would be her being lethargic, raised body temperature, panting to cool down, loss of appetite and increase in drinking water as she’s trying to flush her own system of the poisons.
You may see discharge after mating, this can be a natural sign of pregnancy. If foul smelling or murky in colour, then this could be open Pyometra. Again, a uterus infection where it's open so the puss can be signing trying to drain from the body. Discharge is typical in pregnancy but it may also be a sign other things are going on.
I must stress, if you suspect that your female may have Pyometra then seek veterinary advice immediately, this is a time sensitive condition of which your female will only deteriorate over time. Generally this is more prevalent in older females, but I have witnessed it in younger dog including on their first season (not mated), though this is rare.
Personally, I feel ultrasound pregnancy scanning 28 days from the last mating will give you a pretty clear idea as to whether your female is expecting without all of the guess work. It will also rule out any other conditions or illnesses that I've mentioned along with bladder crystals and untypical artefacts such as tissue masses providing peace of mind, knowing that your dog is fit and healthy, rather than assuming that she is pregnant when in fact she is suffering other conditions that will probably need veterinary advice.
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!