If your dog has not been spayed, then even if you are not intending to breed her, sometimes breeding can take place without you realising, so it is important that you know the various dog pregnancy symptoms.
Female dogs, known as bitches, can only become pregnant when they are going through their heat cycle, which normally last about 60 days so you should take extra care to keep her confined during this time, and separate her from any male dogs you also own. However it is impossible to watch over dogs in heat every moment of the day so keep an eye out for some of the following signs, which can indicate if conception has taken place.
- Decreased appetite and activity – these are early signs that your bitch may be pregnant, as the pregnancy hormones initially suppress appetite and energy levels.
- Nipple growth – any changes in your bitches nipples, (which should normally feel fairly flat), are another early sign of conception, and as the pregnancy develops the breasts will increase slightly in preparation for suckling.
- Behavioural changes – pregnant bitches can often display different behavioural patterns, either becoming more affectionate or else withdrawing from attention and spending more time alone.
- Weight gain – as the pregnancy progresses appetitive will increase and you will see some noticeable weight gain, especially around the abdomen. This will become very obvious in the later stages of the pregnancy if your bitch is carrying an average sized litter (especially in the smaller breeds), but if she is only carrying one or two pups then it might not be so noticeable.
- Puppy movement – also in the later stages of the pregnancy you will be able to see and feel the puppies moving around as they get into a birthing position.
- Milk production – this will begin in the later stages and often leak a little from the nipples as the delivery date gets nearer.
If your bitch is pregnant then she may also display some obvious signs that the birth is imminent, such as nesting where she will prepare the area she has chosen to delivery by tearing or scrunching up paper and blankets, and also a general restlessness. A more scientific method is that her temperature will drop down from 101-102 degrees Fahrenheit to around 97-99 degrees. You should start taking your bitches temperature after the 58th day of gestation, to ensure you have an accurate idea of her normal temperature so that you can judge when this has dropped for the birth.