How to Know if Your Dog is Pregnant: 6 Signs to Look For

If you’ve noticed your dog is acting a tad out of character (lazier than usual, a smaller appetite, and so on), there is a chance she is expecting a litter of mini-mes!

There are several signs that your dog may be pregnant, and once you’ve ruled out any potential health issues, there is a strong likelihood that she’s getting ready to be a mom!

6 Signs Your Dog is Pregnant

  1. Lack of Energy

In the early stages of a dog’s pregnancy – before she begins to show – one of the tell-tale signs that your dog is pregnant is she will have decreased energy and will appear more lethargic than usual.

Depending on the type of dog you own, lack of energy may be common or it may not be. If her newfound laziness is out of character, this could be a sign of pregnancy, or she may be unwell. Either way, a trip to the vet is in order.

If she is indeed pregnant, you may observe a lack of enthusiasm for walks, and during the walk, she may tire quicker.

  1. Decreased Appetite

Chances are, your dog LOVES her food, so a lack of appetite may be out of character and may indicate that you have a pregnant dog on your hands.

As with the above sign, a poor appetite can also be an indicator of illness, so it is advised you seek advice from your vet to rule out anything else. A pregnant dog’s appetite is known to fluctuate, so try not to be alarmed if she varies from acting like she’s famished one minute and like food is overrated the next – this is all completely normal for the change in hormones in a pregnant dog.

Oh, and you may have to clear up the occasional puke pile, as pregnant dogs have their own version of morning sickness!

  1. She’s Acting Out of Character…

Dog pregnancy can cause your pup to act a little strange, owing to the changes in hormones and what’s happening inside her body. Strange behaviors can range from your dog being more needy and seeking more attention from you, to acting rather aloof, reclusive, and just in need of her own space.

Whatever oddities occur in her behavior, do your best to accommodate her.

  1. Her Nipples Are Looking… Different

One of the sure-fire ways of telling if a dog is pregnant is if her nips are enlarged or discolored. This will begin to happen early on in the pregnancy.

A dog’s nipples are usually small, pale, and nondescript, so when a dog has noticeably large nipples, you can guarantee she’s expecting a litter.

When a dog is pregnant, her nipples and areolas will swell and the pigment in them will change to a darker red. During later stages of pregnancy, you may notice she begins to secrete drops of milk too.

  1. Weight Gain

Like all mammals, weight gain is a common occurrence during pregnancy. If there is no reason why your dog should gain weight, i.e.: you’ve not increased her dog food/she’s not being fed elsewhere, or she’s still having regular walks and exercise, unexplained weight gain may mean newborn puppies are on the horizon!

Naturally, you will notice this additional weight around her stomach area. If you’re noticing she’s gaining weight and there is zero chance of dog pregnancy, take her to the vet to look into why her weight is increasing.

She is Exhibiting Nesting Behaviours

During the last stages of a dog’s pregnancy, you may witness her creating a nest for herself. This may look like bed/fabric shredding that is then collected and deposited in a dark, quiet place. She may also be collecting other soft materials for the nest, so if you’re experiencing a mysterious shortage of socks or small towels, chances are mama dog has swiped them for her baby den!

She may also become withdrawn and less tolerant of company, so it is best to give her some space and keep children and other pets away from her during this time.

How to Tell If Your Dog is Pregnant

If your female dog is exhibiting at least one of the above pregnancy signs and there is a chance she may have gotten frisky with a male dog, here’s how to be certain you have a canine pregnancy in your midst:


Your vet will be able to perform an ultrasound between the 25 and 35 days of the dog gestation period. Even if the imagery isn’t clear, an ultrasound will detect any heartbeats coming from the womb area and give you a good indication of how many puppies you can expect.

Hormone Test

At about 25-to-30 days of gestation, your vet can perform a sort of dog pregnancy test by measuring her hormone levels. This is done by way of blood tests.

X Rays

An x-ray will provide clear imagery of skeletal inhabitants inside your dog’s womb. For this method to be most effective, it is best to wait until around the 55-day mark of suspected gestation before taking her for an x-ray. This can be important for finding out how many puppies are expected so that when your dog gives birth, you know when it’s over.


According to the American Kennel Club, if you know the exact day when your dog was bred, your vet can perform abdominal palpation (a type of physical examination) starting at approximately the 28-30-day mark. It is really important that this is performed by a qualified veterinarian, so as to prevent any damage being done to the puppies.

Dog Pregnancy: What to Do

Dog gestation periods tend to last around 56-70 days, which doesn’t give you much time to prepare – especially if the pregnancy isn’t recognised until later down the line. Here’s how to care for your dog during her pregnancy.

Proper Nutrition

Dogs need a good diet all the time, but it is especially important that your dog receives a nutrient-dense diet when she is pregnant. Make sure she is eating good-quality dog food and that she is at a healthy weight. 

It is important to keep her food quantity as normal for the first two-thirds of her pregnancy. Resist the urge to increase her food, as this can actually be harmful. In the last few weeks of her pregnancy, you can gradually increase her food.


Keeping your dog healthy is crucial to ensure both her and her puppies are well during the pregnancy and birth. During the first few weeks of gestation, avoid encouraging strenuous exercise. Once this time frame has passed, normal exercise is fine until you notice her belly getting bigger. At this point, limited heavy exercise is important.

Regular Vet Trips

If you’re planning on breeding your dog, a prenatal vet trip is strongly encouraged to make sure your dog is safe and well to carry offspring.

If the pregnancy was accidental, making sure you visit the vet will help keep tabs on the pregnancy, your dog’s health, and will help you better prepare for the birth.

Dog Pregnancy: FAQs

How Do I Prepare For Puppies?

Puppy birthing is known as whelping, and good preparation is vital for a smooth and safe labor. You can purchase (or make) whelping boxes for your dog to nest and eventually give birth in. She’ll need to be introduced to the whelping box so she can acclimate to it and decide if she’s happy with it. A good whelping box will be easy for the mother to get in and out of – but not the puppies. Lining it with newspapers before the bedding is placed will help make the post-birth clean-up easier.

If this is your dog’s first pregnancy, it is important to seek advice from your vet to ensure you’re a great birthing buddy for your dog.

What Do I Need For When My Dog Gives Birth?

It is wise to have the following products on-hand for the whelping experience:

  • Dry, clean towels to clean the puppies
  • Non-skid bath mats for bedding after the birth
  • Paper towels
  • Thermometer to check your dog’s temperature before she gives birth
  • Heat lamp rigged above the box on one corner to allow the puppies to crawl to a cooler spot in a box, or hot water bottle to keep them warm (make sure it isn’t too hot).
  • Clean, sterilized scissors to cut the umbilical cords
  • Unwaxed dental floss (or something similar) to tie off the umbilical cords
  • Iodine to clean the puppies’ abdomens after the cord is cut and to clean the end of the cut umbilical cord
  • Bulb syringe to clean the puppies’ noses and mouths after Mom has cleaned them
  • Your vet’s number/out-of-hours emergency animal care at hand in case of any complications.

Is It Okay to Pick Up a Pregnant Dog?

This should be avoided unless absolutely necessary, as this can cause damage/death to the puppies and can cause your dog pain or discomfort. If you have to pick her up for some important reason, avoid putting too much pressure on her belly.

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