How Can I Tell If My Puppy Is Pregnant?

One of the great joys in life is adopting a puppy, caring for it, and helping it become a well-adjusted and happy adult dog. (And keeping that happy dog around as long as possible.)

If you’re of a mind to breed your dog, another great joy in life is to let them get pregnant and give birth. Some bitches get pregnant on their own if they aren’t spayed, but the resultant puppies are always a joy to see, hold and caress. 

Occasionally, though, a puppy you’ve adopted will accidentally get pregnant. The fact is, depending on the breed, some puppies become sexually mature and can have their own puppies as early as 5 months of age. (Some smaller dog breeds can go into “heat” as early as 4 months!)

The other day, I was thinking about this when my neighbor told me his puppy had inexplicably become pregnant. (After questioning him, I found out he let her in their backyard alone, where his fence was a weak deterrent against stray dogs.)

Poor judgment aside, my neighbor asked me a question I don’t often hear: how can I tell if my puppy is pregnant?

The answer is that there are several telltale signs that a puppy or dog is pregnant. One of the first is a lack of hunger, which is highly unusual for puppies. During the first two weeks of pregnancy, puppies will have less affinity for food.

Other signs include a loss of energy and decreased activity, development of their breasts as they prepare to deliver milk, and various behavioral changes, including being clingy, grumpy, and irritable.

Now that you know how to tell if your puppy is pregnant, you might have more questions about this often surprising state of affairs. How soon can you tell if your puppy is pregnant, for example, and what does a pregnant dog’s belly feel like.

If so, read on. I’ve got the answers to those questions and several more below to help you deal with your puppy’s pregnancy predicament. It’s useful and interesting information, to be sure, although most pet parents (hopefully) won’t need it. 

What Does a Pregnant Dog’s Belly Feel Like?

Although the most accurate method of determining if your puppy is pregnant is with a diagnostic test, you can also tell by palpating their belly. (Palpate = touch) 

When you do, you will feel like small, round entities about the size of golf balls. Also, your puppy’s belly will feel relatively hard compared to how it usually feels as the puppies in her belly get larger, and her skin stretches.

It’s important to note that if you plan to check if your puppy is pregnant through palpation, you should do it with the help of a veterinarian. Pressing too hard could cause problems for the unborn puppies.

How Soon Can you Tell if a Puppy is Pregnant?

Typically, a puppy will not show signs of pregnancy until the second trimester, approximately 4 to 6 weeks after they become pregnant.

Normally, puppies and dogs do not have “morning sickness”  like human females. However, many puppies will experience nausea and vomiting because their hormones are changing rapidly. This sign usually occurs around the 4th, 5th, and 6th week.

Keep In mind that veterinarians recommend getting your puppy tested for pregnancy at 22 days. Of course, that’s if you notice the signs of pregnancy. If not, it might be difficult to determine exactly when your puppy got pregnant. 

Can a Human Pregnancy Test Work on a Dog?

No, a human pregnancy test will not work on a dog or puppy. The reason it won’t work is simple; human chorionic gonadotropin or HCG. HCG is a specific hormone that only human females have, not dogs.

A human pregnancy test detects HCG in a woman’s urine, which is why it can provide results so quickly and, in most cases, accurately. 

There are pregnancy tests for dogs and puppies, but not in the same sense as a human pregnancy test. These “tests”  consists of palpation, which I mentioned earlier, and ultrasound testing. A blood test can also determine if your puppy is pregnant.

Can you Feel Puppies at 4 Weeks?

At 4 weeks, the tiny dog fetuses in a pregnant puppy will be around 14 to 15 mm in length, which is tiny. For that reason, it’s highly unlikely you would be able to feel the puppies in your puppy’s belly.

However, at around 5 weeks, a good veterinarian will be able to feel puppies in your puppy’s belly. At that point, as I mentioned earlier, they are about as big as a golf ball. Depending on the breed, however, some might be as small as a grape.

What Do a Dog’s Nipples Look Like when Pregnant?

Typically, the nipples on a female dog are extremely small and, unless you feel for them, unnoticeable. When a puppy or dog is pregnant, however, their nipples grow substantially in size.

The areolas around your puppy’s nipples will also become rounded instead of flat and, in some cases, will become a slightly darker red color than they normally would be. This darker color indicates a blood flow increase which is absolutely normal.

Later, as your puppy gets closer to her due date, her nipples might occasionally leak milk. This change is nothing to worry about, although it can be a bit messy.

The 6 Major Signs that a Dog is Pregnant

There are six major signs that a dog is pregnant, and all six are usually easy to notice, although they don’t appear all at once. These same 6 signs will also occur with a puppy also. (They are, after all, sexually mature.) They include:

  1. A significant drop in activity level. Most pregnant dogs and puppies will become exhausted a lot faster and nap a lot more often. You might not notice the difference, though, if your puppy snoozes a lot already.
  2. One of the biggest indications that a puppy is pregnant is its appetite changes. They typically eat less and may become unhappy with their regular kibble, even if they usually like it.
  3. Different behavior patterns often occur when a dog or puppy is pregnant. For example, they may seek extra attention or stick closer to your side than usual. Some, however, might not want to be bothered and look for an isolated spot in your home where they can be alone.
  4. As mentioned earlier, your puppy’s nipples will change when she becomes pregnant.
  5. When your puppy is pregnant, their abdomen will get larger, which is obvious, and they will gain weight, which is also obvious. One thing to note, though, is that you won’t notice an enlarged abdomen until late in your puppy’s pregnancy. Once you do, it’s time to take her to the vet and get her checked out.
  6. Nesting behavior starts a few weeks before your puppy gives birth. You’ll notice that she begins to take materials from around the house and create a “nest.”  If you see your puppy start shredding things when they normally aren’t a shredder, it’s a telltale sign their due date is imminent.

Final Thoughts

As we’ve seen today, there are several different ways to tell if your puppy is pregnant. Changes in their behavior and appetite are two of the most common, as well as weight gain, discolored nipples, and a significant decrease in activity.

Did you enjoy today’s blog? I truly hope you did and that it answered all the questions you had when you arrived. I urge you to look at my other blogs if you have more. 

I do my best to fill all of my blogs with actionable information about how to care for and raise your precious puppy. Doing so and educating yourself will ensure your precious pup becomes a healthy, happy, and well-adjusted adult dog.