What are the Symptoms of a Pregnant Dog?

J. Beam

Unlike humans, detecting pregnancy in a dog is not as practical as urinating on a stick or confirming a blood test. A veterinarian may be able to diagnose a pregnant dog within a month or so of conception by a physical examination or by x-ray or ultrasound around six weeks gestation, but since the gestation period of a dog is about nine weeks, this offers little to the anxious breeder.

Pregnant dogs might nest before delivering their litter.
Pregnant dogs might nest before delivering their litter.

There are some outward symptoms a pregnant dog may exhibit, but they generally do not surface until about four or five weeks. The most obvious symptom is weight gain, although a dog may not gain any significant weight until a week or two before birth if there are only one or two puppies. Another obvious sign is enlarged mammary glands, which most pregnant dogs will display between five and seven weeks.

A pregnant dog may experience an increase in thirst.
A pregnant dog may experience an increase in thirst.

Other signs a dog may be pregnant are behavioral symptoms. Initially, you may notice a decrease in appetite. Dogs may become restless and interact less with their people and may prefer seclusion. They often make natural attempts at “nesting,” evidence by the shredding of paper or digging at blankets and bedding in the last week or so of the pregnancy. The dog can also become irritable, with minor personality changes in the last two to three weeks.

A veterinarian should be able to tell if a dog is pregnant after the first month or so.
A veterinarian should be able to tell if a dog is pregnant after the first month or so.

A pregnant dog requires good nutrition to develop healthy puppies. Veterinarians may recommend protein supplements or other additions to the dog’s diet and owners should be aware that a the dog may have an increased appetite. Fluid intake is also important and thirst may increase, so owners should be sure to provide fresh water at all times.

Dogs who have given birth can be spayed after the puppies are weaned and the mother's milk supply has dried up.
Dogs who have given birth can be spayed after the puppies are weaned and the mother's milk supply has dried up.

Some dogs also display signs of false pregnancy after coming off their heat cycle. The physical symptoms, such as enlarged abdomen and mammary glands do not surface, but psychological signs may be present. Some dogs adopt “babies” by carrying around and nesting with stuffed animals. Owners should not allow a dog who displays signs of a false pregnancy to try stealing puppies from another litter.

People who are attempting to breed their dog should be aware of the signs she exhibits after breeding. They should provide her with the proper care and attention, but remember that nature mostly takes its course on its own. The owner needs to provide a suitable whelping box for delivery and monitor the dog’s ability to care for her pups. All puppies should see a veterinarian for routine de-worming by three weeks of age and should be weaned between three and four weeks.

Owners who have a pregnant dog but are unfamiliar with delivery and aftercare should consult their veterinarian for information. If the dog is pregnant but the owner had no intentions of breeding her, he or she should be responsible in her care and that of the puppies and then have the dog spayed as soon as possible.

A pregnant dog requires adequate exercise and good nutrition.
A pregnant dog requires adequate exercise and good nutrition.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


My shitzu should be about 43 days pregnant. But her stomach doesn't seem to be as big as my yorkie was at this same time period. Is it possible that she may be carrying pups higher in the chest area due to their broader chest span? She seems to have other symptoms such as eating more, clinging to me more, and her nipplles are a bit bigger. Or is that just a guess?


I think my dog is pregnant. It's only three weeks and she's a Shih Tzu, so it's kind of hard to tell. But, I think she is because she mated with our male Shih Tzu twice. I just really don't know how to tell the major signs. I mean she's only showed signs of weight, but that could be from the fact that she is now always hungry. Other than that, that's the only sign I've seen.


@alisha-- Some vets actually do an ultrasound at one month and can confirm a pregnancy. You should ask around for a vet who can do that.

Most of the symptoms have been mentioned here. Another symptom that comes to mind is nipple size. The nipples of a pregnant dog will be visibly larger.

My dog would also drink lots of water when she was pregnant. In fact, first I was afraid that she was suffering from diabetes, she was drinking excessively. It turned out she was pregnant.

If you're familiar with anatomy, you may also be able to feel changes taking place in your dog's belly by touching it. But it might be hard to detect if you're not familiar with how her belly usually feels.


I'm so excited about my dog being pregnant that I don't have the patience to wait at least two months for confirmation by the vet. I'm not seeing too many of the pregnancy symptoms mentioned here. Are there any other symptoms I can look out for?


@Charlie89-- I think the behavioral changes are the main signs that will let owners know of a pregnancy.

My dog never had pups but she experienced false pregnancy several times. Each time, she started sleeping and lying down all day and eating more than usual. This would last for about a week and then afterward she would go back to her normal self.


@seag47 – I knew my neighbor's dog was pregnant, because they had her chained to a tree out front, and I had seen every male dog in the neighborhood over there mating with her. I hate the fact that they had her chained, but this was one way to know when she went into heat.

I was glad that they at least gave her a garbage can turned on its side to have the puppies in. They must have been through this several times before, because they seemed to know exactly when to put it out there.

I think that money is the reason they don't have her spayed. I wish they would take advantage of these organizations that offer cheap spay and neuter surgeries from time to time.


After my dog got pregnant, she started disappearing for long periods of time. She was seeking out a place to have her puppies, even though it wasn't quite time yet.

She found a spot in the barn out back. She had found an old blanket in there and had fluffed it up into a corner.

I found the puppies by the sound of their cries on the night she had them. She looked a little surprised that I had found her, but she wasn't upset about it. She had too much on her mind for that!


@musicshaman – Some vets will perform an abortion on puppies, but some will not. My vet refuses to do this.


A stray dog had been hanging around my house and stealing dogfood from the bin at night. I had caught her a couple of times, but she always ran away.

My husband and I had not attempted to make a pet out of her, but once I figured out that she was pregnant, I insisted that we feed her.

I had seen her mating with a male dog, so that is how I knew. She had gotten bold enough to steal dogfood, because she was eating for more than one.

Within a few weeks, she had gained a lot of weight. She started acting sluggish, probably because she was uncomfortable from all the weight gain.

Two months later, she looked totally ready to give birth. She was huge, and her mammary glands had enlarged a lot.

She had ten puppies, and only one died. I was glad we decided to feed her, because all the other pups were healthy, and so was she, so she could nourish them properly.


I had heard that you can actually spay a pregnant dog -- how does that work?


I have a three year old Golden Retriever and I'm kind of wondering if she's pregnant. She isn't showing a lot of weight gain, but her personality just seems off.

I don't think she's sick, and she's getting really clingy with her toys, so I'm wondering if that counts as pregnant dog behavior.

Is there anywhere that I can find more pregnant dog information, or are there other pregnant dog signs that I can look for?

Also, how long are dogs pregnant for when they're at this age -- is it still the nine weeks?


Wow, it seems like its kind of hard to get any real idea of when dog gets pregnant. How can breeders tell, then, if the vet can't even really tell until the dog gets into the last stages of the pregnant dog cycle.

I guess you might be able to tell a little better if you are really close with the dog, or know it very well. Maybe the personality changes are significant enough to where you would know, especially if that dog has had a litter before.

Is this true?

Post your comments
Forgot password?