What Week Will I Notice My Dog Is Pregnant?

Determining when your dog is pregnant is an important part of being a responsible pet owner. Confirming pregnancy early allows you to plan and prepare for the arrival of puppies. Knowing the timeline of gestation helps you ensure the health and wellbeing of both mother and babies. While there are many signs of pregnancy in dogs, some are more subtle in early stages. Monitoring changes week by week helps paint a fuller picture. This guide covers common symptoms, methods of confirmation, what to expect week-by-week, and how to get ready before the big day.

Early Signs

Some of the earliest signs of pregnancy in dogs happen around 3-4 weeks after conception. These initial changes are subtle, but attentive owners may notice them. According to veterinarians, early signs of pregnancy include increased appetite, lethargy, and nesting behaviors as the dog prepares for motherhood (Source).

In the first few weeks, a pregnant dog’s appetite often increases due to the developing puppies requiring additional nutrition. Owners may notice their dog seems constantly hungry and eagerly consumes their entire meal (Source). Pregnant dogs may also act more tired and sleep more often as their body works hard to support the pregnancy.

Nesting behaviors like gathering blankets, pillows or toys in one spot also signal early pregnancy. The expectant mother dog is preparing a whelping area for the arrival of her puppies. Her natural mothering instincts are kicking in.

Morning Sickness

Around week 3-4 of pregnancy, some dogs may experience symptoms like nausea and vomiting, similar to ‘morning sickness’ in pregnant women. This is caused by hormonal changes and is considered normal. According to WebMD, morning sickness affects some dogs, but only for a few days during the 3rd or 4th week.

The nausea and vomiting experienced by some pregnant dogs is temporary and subsides as the dog’s body adjusts to the hormonal changes. Shelley Drive Animal Clinic notes that the decreased appetite accompanying morning sickness may persist for a few more weeks. However, this is not a cause for concern unless the dog is experiencing excessive vomiting or is refusing food and water.

As long as the dog is keeping down some food and water, the morning sickness is not dangerous. Make sure to provide bland, low-fat foods during this time. Small, frequent meals may be better tolerated. Contact your veterinarian if vomiting persists more than a few days or if the dog appears lethargic or dehydrated.

Teat Development

Around week 4-5, teats will swell and redden. One of the most obvious visual signs a dog is pregnant is that the nipples will become larger and stick out more than usual starting at around 4 weeks from conception. According to Rexpets, the nipples start to look slightly bigger, pinker, and deeper in shade than normal during early pregnancy. This change happens because the dog’s body is preparing to produce milk for the coming puppies. The swollen and reddened nipples indicate rising levels of progesterone and estrogen. As the pregnancy progresses, the nipples and mammary glands will continue to enlarge.

Abdominal Enlargement

Around week 5-6 of pregnancy, your dog’s abdomen will start to visibly expand as the puppies grow inside her womb. According to the experts at VCA Hospitals, “It is normal for pregnant female dogs to show abdominal enlargement by mid- to late pregnancy.” (Source)

The shape and size of your dog’s distended abdomen can vary depending on the number of puppies she is carrying. As noted by WagWalking, “Other common causes of abdominal distension in dogs include pregnancy, which is distinguishable from other conditions due to the presence of swollen mammary glands.” (Source) With smaller litters of 1-3 puppies, your dog’s belly may resemble a basketball shape. Larger litters of 4+ puppies often cause more of a pear or barrel shaped abdomen.

It’s important to note that abdominal swelling in dogs can also be caused by conditions like internal bleeding, infections, organ enlargement, cancer or bloat. If your dog’s belly seems unusually or excessively distended, lethargic, or painful, contact your vet to rule out any underlying medical issues.

Behavioral Changes

Around weeks 5-6 of pregnancy, many dogs begin to exhibit behavioral changes. As her belly grows, your dog may become more affectionate and desirous of attention from you. She is likely feeling vulnerable and may seek extra comfort and reassurance. Increased affection is a common sign at this stage.

Some dogs also become more protective of their surroundings or restless in anticipation of giving birth. Her nesting instincts are kicking in as she looks for safe places to deliver her puppies. Watch for your dog trying to seclude herself or acting more alert around the house. She may pace around or constantly reposition herself trying to get comfortable. According to sources, protectiveness and restlessness around weeks 5-6 are normal behavioral changes in a pregnant dog.

Overall, you can expect your dog’s personality and energy levels to shift as her motherly instincts take over. Be patient and understanding during this time. Offer her plenty of love and care as she prepares to give birth. Consult your veterinarian if any behavioral changes concern you. For more information, see: https://www.chipmanroadanimalclinic.com/what-you-need-to-know-when-your-dog-is-pregnant

Ultrasound

Ultrasound is an imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to visualize the internal organs and structures of dogs. It is considered the “gold standard” for confirming pregnancy and estimating litter size in dogs (Source).

Ultrasound allows veterinarians to detect fluid-filled sacs and fetuses as early as 3-4 weeks into the pregnancy. However, the best time to perform an ultrasound for pregnancy confirmation and litter size estimation is generally around 5-6 weeks of gestation.

At this stage, the fetal skeletons are mineralizing, making them more visible on ultrasound. The fetal heartbeats are also detectable with Doppler ultrasound by 5-6 weeks. By counting the number of fetuses and heartbeats, veterinarians can provide an estimate of litter size.

Ultrasound is a non-invasive and safe way to monitor pregnancy progression and fetal health. It provides key information to allow breeders and veterinarians to prepare for whelping and potential complications.

Fetal Movement

Around weeks 6-7 of pregnancy, fetal movement may become visible or palpable in your dog. This is an exciting milestone, as it indicates the puppies are developing normally. You may see small bulges or ripples along your dog’s abdomen as the fetuses move around. Gently feeling your dog’s belly, you may be able to feel small bumps or kicks if you apply light pressure. The movements will be subtle at first. Focus your attention on the lower abdomen, just in front of the rear legs, as this is where the fetuses will be clustered together. Try sitting with your dog in a quiet room and resting your hands on her belly for 10-15 minutes, waiting patiently to detect motion. The fetuses still have a lot of room to move around in the uterus at this stage, so you may have to be patient. Don’t worry if you can’t feel or see anything yet – every pregnancy is different. But if you do, it’s a positive sign the puppies are progressing normally.

Preparing

Around weeks 7-9 of your dog’s pregnancy, you’ll want to start preparing for the big day. This involves getting your whelping area ready, adjusting your dog’s nutrition, and taking your dog to the vet for checkups.

To prepare a safe and comfortable whelping area, set up a whelping box or designated room where your dog can give birth. The area should be warm, draft-free, and easily cleaned. Line it with newspaper, puppy pads, or washable bedding. Your dog may start scoping out the area herself as her instincts kick in. Make sure she has plenty of room to move around and give birth comfortably. [1]

As your dog enters the final trimester, her nutrition needs will increase to support her growing puppies. Feed her a high-quality puppy formula dog food and increase her portions by 10-25%. Make sure she has constant access to fresh, clean water. Consult your vet if you have any questions about optimal nutrition.

Take your dog to the vet around weeks 7-9 for an ultrasound and general checkup. The ultrasound will confirm pregnancy and check for any potential issues. Your vet will monitor your dog’s weight and vitamins to ensure the puppies are developing properly. Discuss your whelping plans with your vet as well.

Conclusion

As we saw, there are a number of signs during pregnancy that can help you estimate when your dog will give birth. Early signs like morning sickness and nipple development start around 3-4 weeks into pregnancy. Abdominal swelling becomes noticeable around 4-5 weeks. Most dogs will undergo an ultrasound around 4-5 weeks to confirm pregnancy and estimate size and number of puppies. You may notice fetal movement by palpitating the abdomen starting around 6-7 weeks. While the signs provide clues to timing, the best way to estimate delivery date is by tracking the changes and noting when your dog’s abdomen reaches its fullest size, which is typically around 63 days from the start of pregnancy. With careful observation and tracking, you’ll be able to make an educated prediction of when your dog will give birth to her puppies.

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