I think my american bulldog is pregnant, her nipples are quite huge and swollen, how can you tell?
The canine reproductive system works somewhat differently from the human one! There are individual differences from female to female, but most dog breeds are similar in their overall signs and behaviors. The usual age of first heat can be expected by age 10 months, although the most reliable breeders wait until at least the second cycle, or even until two years of age to give the dog enough time to physically and socially mature, as well as to be sure there are no genetic illnesses to pass on.
When a female dog first starts showing outward signs of 'heat', or readiness to reproduce (swelling of the vulva, visible discharge of blood--this is an "overflow" from the uterine lining preparing to implant fertilized eggs), she is usually still an average of nine days away from ovulation! You will see 'play' reproductive behaviors--the female mounting other dogs, teasing, etc.--but these do not end up in mating. Until the female's body is ready to conceive, she will either passively avoid breeding by sitting, lying down, running away, or actively chase off a male suitor by growling, snapping, or wrestling.
The first day a female will allow breeding does vary, but she will usually plant her feet firmly in front of the male of her choice (or of your's if no multiple partners are present!), "flag" or press her tail to one side and let the male mount. A coupled pair will be 'tied' together by the male's swollen anatomy for an average of 30 minutes, but this time may vary widely.
A female in true estrus (mating condition) will accept mating for any number of days...the usual is 7-10. Pregnancy can occur at any time during estrus as eggs travel from the ovaries down the long path to the uterus. The total number of days from first signs until "last acceptance" of mating does vary...I have a female lhasa who's total cycle was typical, but I also have a shih tzu who showed estrus signs and behaviors for over 1 month! Anything longer than this may be considered abnormal and should be discussed with a qualified veterinarian.
If puppies are NOT wanted, you must keep your female protected from contact with males for the duration of her physical and social signs...one instance of mating can produce a full litter of puppies if it happens on the right day.
The average time from mating day(s) until delivery of puppies is 62 days. This actual length of time varies because a female dog may accept mating several days before ovulation occurs, or continue mating until several days after ovulation occurs. Breeders who want to know when to expect the Blessed Event keep a record of the signs of 'heat' in their female and the days and times that she accepted breeding. When using artificial means to cause pregnancy, progesterone testing is performed (at the kennel or veterinary office) to determine the days that ovulation should occur!
This is also the best way to deal with breeds that need planned c-section assistance (ex: bulldogs).
Your dog's due dates should be calculated to be 62 days from each breeding date (the average canine pregnancy can be said to last 9 weeks). If she was bred every-other-day for 3 matings total, then your due dates will be 9 weeks from the breeding week.
***It would be helpful for you to take her to your veterinarian to be manually palpated to confirm pregnancy at days 28-30...the doctor will check her uterus for puppy 'bumps' by feeling through the sides of her abdomen with the finger tips. This is done very gently, but can be very helpful in letting you know that you are at the 28-day interval since pups are difficult to feel at any other time during a pregnancy!! Others signs of pregnancy include a CLEAR discharge from the vulva that continues until delivery, and a vulva that remains somewhat swollen and soft after the estrus days are finished. The mammary tissues do show development after any ovulation (even with no pregnancy), but will continue to develop in pregnant dogs. Sometimes milk may be present in the nipples as soon as 1 week before delivery. Some veterinarians offer a blood test that can indicate pregnancy.***
24 hours before the puppies begin to be delivered, your dog's temperature will drop from a usual 101 degrees to about 99F! Begin taking her temperature 2-3 times daily during the final week so that you can pin-point the delivery time for yourself! I do recommend that you find all the info you can about canine pregnancy, nutrition and delivery so that you have confidence when the time (usually night) arrives!
My alpha lhasa just had a litter of six puppies 13 weeks ago! We were very proud and happy, but she did need my help to care for this many babies. Be sure that you have a relationship with a near-to-you vet staff in case you need assistance with delivery, etc.. Most vets are happy to be told that a temperature has 'dropped', so that they can either be available to you, or give you alternative contact information. Keep a supply of emergency nursing formula (made especially for puppies) on hand with the proper size bottles for this breed.
If you need to have your dog spayed to prevent future heat cycles, call your veterinarian's office to discuss how long they want to wait to schedule the procedure...generally in about 2 months after the vulvar swelling has gone.
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