Are you nervous, excited, anxious—all the feels, really—about the prospect of your sweet little girl bringing pups into the world? Here are a few signs and symptoms so you know how to tell if a dog is pregnant.

By Lacey Howard
August 24, 2020
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Becoming grandpaw (pun intended) to a litter of puppies is not a job to be taken lightly. As a responsible pet parent, there’s a lot to do to take the best possible care of your expectant dog and to prepare for the big event. And because dogs are only pregnant for about two months, time is of the essence. That’s why you’ll want to know how to tell if a dog is pregnant so you can be on the lookout for the subtle, early signs of pregnancy.  

1. Changes in appetite

During the early days of her pregnancy, you may notice your dog isn’t eating as much as normal. About halfway through gestation, her appetite (and weight) will increase. “Always have Mom on puppy food during her gestation and while she’s nursing,” says Lonna J. Nielsen, DVM, of Winterset Veterinary Center in Winterset, Iowa. This ensures your dog is getting adequate nutrition. “And have plenty of food available to her during those high-demand times. It is crucial that Mom eats well.” 

2. Changes in energy levels 

The mother-to-be might not exhibit her usual get-up-and-go during the first weeks of her pregnancy. You may notice a decrease in her usual physical activity, but Nielsen says you shouldn’t restrict your dog’s activities at all.

3. Morning sickness

As in humans, the canine hormone changes that come along with pregnancy can cause your dog to vomit in the early stages of pregnancy. If the vomiting persists for several days or seems excessive, contact your vet. 

4. Body changes

A pregnant dog’s nipples will change shape and color, becoming more prominent and darker. They may also leak a cloudy fluid. Your pregnant dog will also gain weight and you’ll notice her enlarged tummy beginning around days 35–40 of gestation.

5. Nesting activities

Dogs usually whelp (give birth) about 62–65 days after conception. As she nears her delivery date, your dog will look for a quiet, warm space to build a nest. Many a litter has been delivered on a closet floor! Help your dog create a place where she’ll be comfortable and feel safe. Nielsen suggests lining a kiddie pool or similar enclosure with newspapers and old towels or a blanket and placing it out of the way of household traffic and prying eyes. “This will help Mom stay calm,” she says.  

While there are ways for your veterinarian to confirm your dog’s pregnancy—a blood test for relaxin (a hormone produced by the placenta) or an ultrasound to see the pups’ heartbeats—these tests can give false negatives if done before week four of the pregnancy. Keeping a close eye on your dog in the weeks after breeding is the quickest way to know if you have grandpups on the way. Visit your veterinarian four weeks after breeding to confirm your suspicions.