First Signs of Dog Pregnancy

Bulldog in the early stages of pregnancy; Copyright Willeecole at

Although most owners are very careful to keep their pets confined when they are in heat, sometimes a breeding does take place – perhaps without the owner even realizing it. In other instances, a breeding may be planned to produce a litter. No matter what the circumstances, knowing the earliest signs of pregnancy can help you determine if conception has taken place.

The First Signs of Dog Pregnancy

According to Doctors Foster and Smith, it may be difficult to tell if your dog is pregnant during the first few weeks of gestation, but there are a few changes to watch for. Observe your dog closely to see if she displays one or more of the following signs.

Decreased Appetite

A lack of appetite is usually one of the earliest signs that your dog might be pregnant. Not all females go through this doggie version of “morning sickness,” but a small percentage of dogs will eat less during the first few weeks of gestation and will usually make up for it later in the pregnancy.

If your dog does lose her appetite during the early weeks of pregnancy, don’t try to force her to eat. You can tempt her with a little boiled ground beef and rice mixed with her kibble, but try not to worry too much if she still refuses to eat. Most dogs won’t skip more than a day or two without eating at least a little. If your dog refuse to eat three days in a row, it will then be time to call your vet for a little advice.

Increased Appetite

Some dogs experience a marked increase in their appetite almost immediately on becoming pregnant. If this is the case, the dog will probably gobble down her food quickly and then remain by her bowl as though asking for more.

It’s fine to allow her to eat more, but take care not to overload her tummy. Rather than offer a single daily feeding, it’s best to offer two or three feedings daily, so she always has something in her stomach. This will help keep her satisfied and provide the extra nutrition she’ll need for her developing pups.

Sudden Decrease in Activity

If your female is normally energetic, a sudden decrease in activity might be another indication that your bitch is pregnant. Just like some women, dogs may also experience feelings of exhaustion as their hormone levels change to support a growing embryo.

Nipple Growth

Nipple development is a very good indicator that your dog’s body is going through pregnancy changes. The nipples of an unbred female are usually quite small, and the area immediately beneath them will feel flat. Once a pregnancy is in progress, breast material will develop beneath the nipples, which will also increase slightly in preparation for eventual milk production. You can usually see some growth in the nipples, and you should be able to feel some breast development about two weeks after a breeding has taken place.

Change in Nipple Color

In addition to nipple development, the coloring of the nipples will change slightly, especially the last four to six nipples that are closest to the dog’s hind legs. The nipples are usually very light pink to slightly gray. Once pregnancy changes set in, the nipples become more pink and will look a little flushed due to the increased blood flow to the area.

Behavioral Changes

Nearly all newly pregnant dogs display some type of behavior change. Some females become quite affectionate, and some may even become quite clingy with their owners as they become unsure about all the changes they’re feeling. Other dogs will become a little grumpy and prefer to remain by themselves unless they actively seek their owner’s company.

If you planned the breeding, you’re probably only looking for confirmation that the breeding was a success. If you didn’t witness a breeding and only suspect your dog might be pregnant, you’ll want to have your vet check give her a pregnancy check.

If your dog is pregnant, she’ll handle most of the pregnancy on her own. Your primary job will be to:

  • Take her to the vet for an initial pregnancy exam to make sure her symptoms are related to an illness.
  • Provide her with the best nutrition you can.
  • Make sure she gets moderate exercise – nothing too strenuous or tiring. You just want to help your dog stay toned and not become overweight.
  • Make sure she has a comfortable place to rest, especially as her belly begins to grow larger.
  • Try to keep household stress to a minimum.
  • Prepare a box that she’ll use when she whelps her litter.

This Is the Beginning

It takes a keen eye to spot pregnancy in the earliest stages, but the signs become more obvious as the weeks wear on. Try to learn everything you can about canine gestation and other pregnancy symptoms, so you can understand what’s happening inside your dog’s body.