The fact of the matter is that no dog naturally becomes pregnant without going through a heat cycle. During this period, she will display swelling of the vulva, bloody discharge and behavioural changes best described as ‘flirting’.
During the fertile stage of the heat cycle, usually during the second week, the ovaries release a number of eggs for fertilization. Breeding that takes place during this stage is likely to produce a pregnancy, although there is no guarantee that fertilization will actually take place. An infertile female can experience heat cycles without releasing any eggs or by having uterine conditions that do not permit implantation. Likewise, a male dog’s sperm may be too imperfect or have too low of a count to complete the fertilization process once delivered.
As you can see, a heat cycle and a proper breeding aren’t enough to ensure a canine pregnancy, but they are absolutely necessary for one to result.
Dog pregnancy symptoms
The following list begins with the earliest signs of dog pregnancy and progresses through late term signs. Please note that not every dog will experience each and every symptom. It is usually the presence of a group of symptoms that gives pet parents a decent idea of whether their dog is truly pregnant.
Behavioural changes: Anything that deviates from your dog’s normal behaviour might be an early indication of pregnancy. For example, a standoffish dog may suddenly become clingy, while a normally affectionate dog may seek to be left alone.
Changes in appetite: Many dogs will experience a drop in their appetite during the first few weeks of pregnancy, becoming reluctant to eat anything. Eventually, their appetite returns with gusto and they will require nearly twice their normal amount of food to support the pups.
Sickness: Some, but not all, dogs will vomit intermittently during the first few weeks of pregnancy. This can range from clear mucous to actual food.
Breast development: Many females will show some level of breast development after a heat cycle. However, continued breast growth is a good indicator that a pregnancy is underway.
Change in sleeping patterns: Many dogs will spend a good deal of their resting time, if not fully sleeping. This is mainly noticed during the early and final stages with the dog rebounding a bit during mid-pregnancy.
Clear vaginal discharge: This is natural and should only be caused for alarm if the discharge develops a foul odour or a brownish colour.
Enlarged abdomen: As the pregnancy progresses, the growing pups will naturally cause the dog’s abdomen to grow in size. This growth usually isn’t noticeable until mid-pregnancy.
Moving puppies: Once the puppies reach decent size, they can be felt by gently laying your hand on your dog’s abdomen. You won’t feel movement if the pups are asleep, so the best time to check is after your dog has had some mild exercise, such as, right after a walk.
Your veterinarian can confirm or rule out a pregnancy by the following methods.
Palpation: At 28 days gestation, it is possible for an experienced vet to gently feel the pea-sized embryos implanted along the uterine horns. Sometimes the vet is actually able to count how many puppies there might be, but it’s difficult to be completely accurate.
Blood test: By two to three weeks after the heat cycle has ended, your vet can perform a blood test to check for the presence of the hormone relaxin. This hormone is released once the embryos implant in the uterus.
Ultrasound: The procedure will detect embryos/pups and give a fairly accurate count on the number in the developing litter.
X-ray: By the last week of pregnancy, the puppies’ bones are formed well enough to show up on an X-ray. This is usually the best way to confirm the number of pups to expect.
If your vet confirms the pregnancy, congratulations, you will soon have many more bundles of joy at your home.
(Sanjay Jaiswal is AGM at Petcare)