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Whether you’re a new breeder or worried that your unspayed pup had an accidental encounter, confirming a dog pregnancy as soon as it’s possible to detect is important for her and her puppies’ health. Does detecting a pregnancy need to be done at a vet’s office, or is there a pregnancy test for dogs that you can do at home that’s reliable? We explore everything you need to know about signs of pregnancy in dogs, when and how to test, and more.
At A Glance: Home Dog Pregnancy Tests
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How Soon Can You Tell If A Dog Is Pregnant?
During the first few weeks of pregnancy, it can be hard to tell if a dog is “with child,” particularly for inexperienced breeders or new owners. Early signs of dog pregnancy can be subtle, and not all dogs exhibit early symptoms.
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting, i.e., morning sickness
- Decreased energy
- Swelling nipples
- Clear vaginal discharge
- More affectionate behavior
Several weeks after conception, pregnancy symptoms in dogs include an increased appetite, weight gain, and behavior changes, such as irritability or nesting behavior. Her nipples will continue to swell, may become darker, and produce a semi-clear discharge. As the pregnancy progresses, you’ll notice an enlarged abdomen and may be able to see puppy movement.
Confirming A Dog Pregnancy At Your Vet’s Office
As soon as you suspect that your dog may be pregnant, call your veterinarian. Vets use a few methods to confirm pregnancy, which we explain below. We’ve also included pricing estimates to help you plan your finances. But keep in mind each vet visit will run you an average of $50-$60 on top of testing costs.
Relaxin Dog Pregnancy Test
Your vet can confirm a pregnancy using a relaxin dog pregnancy test as early as 22 days after conception. This blood test measures levels of a hormone called relaxin, which the developing placenta produces throughout gestation. If the relaxin test is performed too early, you may receive a false negative because the placenta hasn’t started producing the hormone.
If this occurs, vets usually recommend testing again a week later to confirm the negative results. Multiple testing is particularly important if you don’t know the date of conception. Each blood test costs around $200-$300.
Many veterinarians prefer to use ultrasonography vs a relaxin test. An abdominal ultrasound is the most reliable method and can confirm pregnancy as early as the relaxin test. It also provides important information about the viability of the fetuses and litter size. Ultrasound is now considered the gold standard of pregnancy confirmation in veterinary practice. An ultrasound performed by a vet averages $300-$350.
The old-school method used to detect pregnancy is abdominal palpation. By pressing their fingers on a dog’s abdomen, vets may be able to feel the swellings of developing puppies in the uterus. However, there are some downsides to this technique. First, fetuses may not be detectable until 30 days into a pregnancy. Also, it’s often difficult to feel the uterus in large breeds or nervous dogs because they tense their abdomen. Palpation also isn’t reliable for determining the viability or number of fetuses.
Radiography (x-rays) can also be used to confirm pregnancy and give an accurate picture of the litter count. However, it’s best to wait until late in the gestation period, around 55 days after conception. That’s because there are some risks in exposing younger fetuses to radiation. It can also be difficult to restrain some dogs enough to get a clear image. An x-ray to determine pregnancy can run anywhere from $150-$250.
A Vet’s Advice About Dog Pregnancy Tests
According to Hannah Godfrey, BVetMed, MRCVS, a small animal veterinarian at Bridges Veterinary Surgery in Cardiff, Wales, “the most commonly used method of diagnosing pregnancy in dogs is an ultrasound scan because it can usually be performed without any sedation or anesthetic, doesn’t pose a risk to the mother or puppies, and allows real-time visualization of the fetuses.”
Godfrey adds, “The benefit of seeing the puppies in the uterus on an ultrasound scan is that you can check for heartbeats and assess whether their development is in line with the dates of mating or ovulation given by the owner. Ultrasound scans can also give valuable information about whether a dog is expecting an unusually large litter or just a single puppy.”
However, Godfrey says ultrasound and x-rays aren’t entirely reliable in predicting a puppy headcount or potential problems with delivery. “I have had situations where I have been surprised. I once saw a pregnant Springer Spaniel who was in labor but had an obstruction. Before the cesarean section, I performed an ultrasound scan and saw lots of puppies, some with slow heart rates, meaning we had to proceed to surgery quickly. We delivered twelve healthy puppies, which was wonderful!”
Home Dog Pregnancy Tests
The best dog pregnancy test for inexperienced owners is one that your veterinarian will perform. But experienced breeders may find a home pregnancy test for dogs a more cost-effective option.
GOYOJO Ultrasound Scanner
A fantastic investment for dog breeders, this GOYOJO portable veterinary ultrasound scanner can confirm a pregnancy as early as 20 days after mating. This scanner can save you costly repeat vet visits not only to confirm pregnancy but also to check on the viability of fetuses throughout gestation and to determine how many puppies your dog is expecting. It does take a learning curve to use it accurately, but experienced breeders say it’s an excellent tool that saves them a lot of expensive vet costs.
Whelply Canine Pregnancy Test
If an ultrasound scanner is out of your price range, some breeders find this Wheply home dog pregnancy blood test an excellent alternative. Although it requires a centrifuge to separate the blood sample you take into serum, the cost is still more manageable than ultrasound equipment or multiple vet visits to confirm pregnancies when you’re breeding dogs. It also doesn’t come with a needle/syringe. You can perform this test as early as 25 days after mating.
- Starts at: (2-pack)
Bellylabs Pregnancy Test For Dogs
This innovative rapid dog pregnancy test measures for the presence of relaxin without the need to draw blood from your pup’s veins or the use of a centrifuge. It only requires a drop of blood you can obtain from a small lancet prick inside your dog’s upper lip.
The kit includes everything you need to test your blood sample at home, and results are available within 10 minutes. Bellylabs recommends testing no earlier than 28 days post-ovulation for reliable results and says its test is 96% accurate. This test is the easiest one to use for first-timers, but it’s not the most cost-effective option for breeders who need to perform multiple tests over time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the questions pup parents ask about dog pregnancy in case you’d like more information.
How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?
The gestation period for puppies averages about 63 days but can last anywhere from 56 to 70 days. That’s why it’s important to find out if your furry female is pregnant as soon as it’s possible to detect it. You’ll need to have your soon-to-be mommy checked out by your veterinarian to ensure that she’s healthy.
Can You Use A Human Pregnancy Test On A Dog?
No, human pregnancy tests don’t work with canines. Human tests detect the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone, which dogs don’t produce.
What Is A Pseudopregnancy In Dogs?
Some unspayed females exhibit a pseudopregnancy (false pregnancy), which occurs for about two months following their heat cycle due to hormonal changes. These changes cause female dogs to look and behave as if they’re pregnant. Nipples may swell and even produce a bit of milk, and the abdomen may become slightly enlarged. Since their bodies aren’t producing relaxin, a blood test can confirm that it’s a false pregnancy.
Does Pet Insurance Cover Dog Pregnancy?
Most pet insurance policies exclude pregnancy and conditions related to breeding. However, some insurers cover complications during birth and C-sections as long as the pregnancy takes place after the waiting period for the pet insurance policy. Each situation is handled individually, so you may be surprised by what pet insurance covers for pregnant dogs.
When It’s Time To Give Birth (Video)
If your furry friend is a soon-to-be mom and you’re nervous about the birthing (whelping) process, this vet expert video has some fantastic tips about delivering puppies.
What To Expect When Your Dog’s Expecting
If you’ve confirmed that your doggy is indeed pregnant and you’re a first-time puppy grandparent, we’re sure you have a ton of questions. See our ultimate guide on dog pregnancy, including a month-by-month timeline, signs of labor, and much more. You may also want to learn more about dealing with dogs in heat. And if you don’t plan on breeding your furry friend, see the benefits of spaying and neutering your pet.Tagged With: Comparison