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Pregnancy Symptoms

The Heat Cycle Must Come First


Many owners begin to suspect their bitch is pregnant any time she gains significant weight, especially around her abdomen. While weight gain is a later stage sign of pregnancy, it doesn't necessarily mean your dog is pregnant just because she has packed on a few pounds.


The fact of the matter is that no dog naturally becomes pregnant without going through a heat cycle. During this period, a bitch 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. Breedings that take place during this stage are 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. Now that these facts have been established, it's time to move on to discussing how to determine if a bitch is pregnant using dog pregnancy symptoms as a guide.


A List of 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 bitch will experience each and every symptom. It is usually the presence of a group of symptoms that gives owners a decent idea of whether their dog is truly pregnant.


•Behavioural changes: Anything that deviates from your bitch's normal behaviour might be an early indication of pregnancy. For example, a stand-offish bitch may suddenly become clingy, while a normally affectionate bitch may seek to be left alone.


•Changes in appetite: Many bitches 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.


•Morning sickness: Some, but not all, bitches will vomit intermittently during the first few weeks of pregnancy. This can range from clear mucous to actual food. The use of the word "morning" can be a bit misleading since the vomiting can occur at any time of day.


•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 under way.


•Change in sleeping patterns: Many bitches will spend a good deal of their time resting, if not fully sleeping. This is mainly noticed during the early and final stages with the bitch

rebounding a bit during mid-pregnancy.


•Clear vaginal discharge: This is natural and should only be cause for alarm if the discharge develops a foul odor or a brownish color. Green discharge, especially late in the pregnancy is usually a sign that a pup has defecated in utero.


•Enlarged abdomen: As the pregnancy progresses, the growing pups will naturally cause the bitch's abdomen to grow in size. This growth usually isn't noticeable until mid-pregnancy.


•Milk production: The continued breast development noted in early and mid-pregnancy typically leads to milk production during the last stage of gestation. However, some females won't produce milk until the puppies actually begin to nurse, so a lack of milk is nothing to worry about at this point.


•Moving puppies: Once the puppies reach decent size, they can be felt by gently laying your hand on your bitch's abdomen. You won't feel movement if the pups are asleep, so the best time to check is after your bitch has had some mild exercise, such as right after a walk.


Veterinary Confirmation


Although time will certainly tell the tale, some owners wish to know for sure if the dog pregnancy symptoms they have noted truly mean their dog is carrying a litter, or if the signs are indicative of a false pregnancy. 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. It's important to allow you vet to do this for you so you don't accidentally damage any of the embryos by pushing too hard. 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: This is the same procedure women go through to provide a black and white view of the uterine contents. 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.

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