Although we always encourage spaying and neutering of pet dogs to prevent unwanted litters, accidents do happen. Additionally, it is possible to breed your dog responsibly if you have the right training and take your pet through careful health screenings. In these cases, you might find yourself needing a dog pregnancy test.
Be aware that there is no true at-home test for those without veterinary training since test kits require a separated blood serum sample. However, it’s possible to have your vet draw blood and give it to you to test. It’s also a bit less expensive than simply having your vet do the test. However, if your dog is pregnant, you must work closely with your veterinarian to make sure your dog and her puppies are healthy. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about dog pregnancy and how to test for it.
A dog pregnancy is much shorter than human pregnancy – only about 63 days, or a little over two months. When people are looking to breed their dogs, they naturally want to know as soon as possible whether their dog is pregnant. However, canine pregnancy is substantially different from human pregnancy in some key ways.
Early Pregnancy Signs in Dogs
Within the first trimester of a canine pregnancy – that is, the first 21 days or so – you might not see many signs of change. A pregnant dog may gain a little bit of weight, but morning sickness is somewhat rare and usually only lasts for a few days during the third or fourth week. She will probably spend more time resting and may start creating a den thanks to her nesting instincts. However, more obvious signs of pregnancy like a growing belly and enlarged nipples won’t happen until the fourth or fifth week.
A pseudopregnancy occurs when a female dog’s body begins producing many of the hormones associated with pregnancy even though the dog is not actually pregnant. This can happen in humans, as well, but it is somewhat more common in dogs. Your female dog may begin to look at act pregnant – a swelling midsection, making a nest, even producing milk – even though she isn’t carrying a litter. It can be hard to tell a pregnancy from a pseudopregnancy until the sixth or seventh week when you should be able to feel the puppies moving in the womb.
Reliability of At-Home Pregnancy Tests
Because of pseudopregnancies, the only way to tell whether your dog really is pregnant early on is a blood test. This test requires blood serum derived from whole blood that has been spun in a centrifuge, and the test looks for the presence of a hormone called relaxin. A dog only begins producing this hormone when the placenta starts to develop during a real pregnancy, so the presence of relaxin is an accurate indicator that a dog is carrying puppies.
Some blood tests can tell a dog is pregnant as early as 22 to 25 days after breeding, but they are more reliable around 30 days. Of course, this test doesn’t tell you whether the puppies or healthy or viable, just that the dog is pregnant. However, it is fairly accurate and doesn’t produce false positives, since the only way relaxin will be present in the blood is if a placenta has developed. However, you may receive a false negative result if you test too early. For this reason, if you get a negative test, you’ll want to wait a week and test again.
Because dogs have heat cycles and humans don’t, their hormones are different, and a canine pregnancy test works very differently from a human test. Although you can test for canine pregnancy at home, test kits require a blood sample – there is no reliable urine test for dogs. That means drawing a blood sample. If you aren’t trained in this, you may cause your dog unnecessary pain, injury, or infection if you try to do it yourself. Additionally, you probably don’t have a centrifuge to separate the blood for testing. Thus, we always recommend going to your vet to have them draw blood for you. If you provide the actual test kit, however, this will often be much less expensive than your vet running the test for you.
Ultrasounds and X-Rays
Blood tests aren’t the only way to determine canine pregnancy. Your vet can use imaging scans to confirm a pregnancy, though the machines to perform these scans are far too expensive and complicated for you to buy and use at home. An ultrasound can confirm pregnancy at three to four weeks after breeding. If the dog is pregnant, the ultrasound will show swelling in the uterus from amniotic fluid. This is even more accurate than a blood test and can distinguish a pregnancy from a pseudopregnancy.
An X-ray can also confirm that a dog is pregnant, but not until much later on in the pregnancy. Puppies’ bones don’t develop until at least 49 days into pregnancy, so they won’t show up on an X-ray until at least seven weeks. Usually, a vet will recommend an X-ray a few days before a pregnant dog is set to give birth to count the number of puppies and make sure they’re correctly positioned for birth.
Top 6 Best Dog Pregnancy Test kits
We’ve gathered the most easily available, common dog pregnancy test kits to review. Five of these are blood test kits, and one is an ultrasound machine. Keep in mind that not every blood test kit includes everything you need to actually draw a blood sample. None include the centrifuge necessary to separate the blood serum.
1. JINGBO Pet Pregnancy Test Kit
Jingbo’s Pet Pregnancy Test Kit provides most of what you need to test as early as 25 days after breeding. Needles, tubing, blood collection tubes, and test cards are all in sterile packaging, though you will need a centrifuge to separate blood serum for testing. These test kits have a shelf life of 18 months.
- Choose between 2, 3, or 5 tests per package
- Includes everything except centrifuge
- Instructions in awkwardly translated English
- No Amazon reviews
2. My Breeder Supply Relaxin Pregnancy Test
Choose between five or ten tests per box with this test kit from My Breeder Supply. Most of what you need comes in the package, including needles and syringes. Detect pregnancy as early as 22 to 27 days after breeding with this test, which promises 99% accuracy.
- Instructional video on seller’s website
- Includes needles and syringes
- Relatively expensive
- Shelf life of only 12 months
3. Synbiotics Canine and Feline Pregnancy Tests
Five tests come in each box of Synbiotics Pregnancy Tests. This blood serum test can detect pregnancy as early as 22 days post-conception, though every dog is different. It’s also unclear whether the kit contains all the accessories necessary to draw blood, though judging from the price, it probably does.
- Quick results
- Good Amazon reviews
- Relatively expensive
- Shelf life of only 12 months
- Unclear what test kit actually contains
4. Witness Relaxin Canine Pregnancy Test
Witness, a brand owned by pharmaceutical company Zoetis, makes a relaxin test kit that provides results within 10 minutes. The kit includes five test strips, a bottle for the buffer solution, five pipettes, and instructions. The test strips have a shelf life of 18 months.
- Quick results
- Requires minimal blood serum sample
- Instructions in English
- Relatively expensive
- Doesn’t include needles or syringes for blood collection
- Most accurate 30 days after breeding
5. Rubsy Dogs Cats Early Pregnancy Test
The “kit” in the name is a bit of a misnomer since you’ll receive exactly one Rubsy Pregnancy Test card. Even though the listing includes pictures of syringes, needles, tubing, and pipettes, none of that is provided with your order. However, if you only need one individual test card, that’s what you’ll get at a very good price.
- Very inexpensive
- Requires minimal blood serum sample
- Doesn’t include any accessories
- Only one test per “kit”
- Instructions in Chinese
6. Draminski Dog Pregnancy Detector with Probe
The Draminski Dog Pregnancy Detector is not a blood serum test kit. Instead, it’s an actual ultrasound machine that you can use to detect the amniotic fluid in the uterus that accompanies pregnancy. Of course, that’s assuming you know how to use an ultrasound machine to find a dog’s uterus. There is a manual included, but it’s unclear how good the manual is, and there is no visual readout to interpret.
- Highly accurate
- No blood required
- Very expensive
- Requires training to operate
How to Use a Dog Pregnancy Test
As you can see, there are two main ways of detecting early pregnancy in a dog: testing blood serum for relaxin or using an ultrasound machine to check for changes in the uterus. A vet can also use an X-ray machine, but since bones don’t develop until later in pregnancy, these two methods give the earliest results.
Relaxin Test Kits
Most relaxin test kits require two to three drops of blood serum, which is different from whole blood. It’s highly recommended that you visit your vet for this procedure, as they can draw the blood and put it in a centrifuge to separate the serum from the rest of the blood. They can then give you the serum to perform the test yourself, which will be far less expensive than having the vet perform the test.
You’ll place two to three drops of blood serum where indicated on the test card, and then add two to three drops of a buffer solution. You’ll then wait 10-15 minutes for the test card to detect the presence of relaxin in the blood. Check your particular test kit to interpret the results, but often, one line is a negative result and two lines is a positive result. Although you may on rare occasions get a false negative, these tests don’t give false positives.
An ultrasound machine uses sound frequencies lower than the human ear can detect to pick up changes in the density and makeup of tissue. That means when a dog’s uterus begins to swell with amniotic fluid for a pregnancy, a trained ultrasound technician can detect this difference. Pregnancy can be detected as early as three weeks after breeding, and ultrasound is even more accurate than a relaxin test.
However, the type of ultrasound typically used for viewing human pregnancies – that is, the kind with a monitor attached that lets you “see” the baby – is extremely expensive medical equipment, costing in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. That means the kind of ultrasound that a consumer can buy, the kind that costs a few hundred dollars, is far less sophisticated. To use it, you’ll need to be able to interpret the sounds that the machine makes. Unless you are a professional dog breeder, the money and time required to use this kind of machine might not be a good investment.
1. How can you tell if a dog is pregnant without going to the vet?
There are behavioral and physical signs of early pregnancy, as covered earlier, but some of them can also be signs of pseudopregnancy. There are test kits that allow you to test blood serum at home, but unless you own a centrifuge and know how to safely draw your dog’s blood, you’ll need to make a vet appointment. At the very least, the vet can draw and separate the blood and give it back to you for testing.
2. Is there a blood test to detect pregnancy?
Yes, most canine pregnancy tests use blood serum to detect the presence of a hormone called relaxin that only pregnant dogs produce.
3. Can the relaxin test tell the difference between pregnancy and pseudopregnancy?
Yes, a dog experiencing pseudopregnancy does not produce relaxin, so one of these blood tests can tell the difference. Relaxin only enters the bloodstream when a dog’s uterus creates a placenta for the growing fetuses. There is no placenta in a pseudopregnancy, so there will be no relaxin in the dog’s bloodstream.
4. Does a single negative relaxin test mean a female dog is not pregnant?
Not necessarily, especially if you perform the test early on in the pregnancy. Some tests will say they can detect pregnancy as early as 22 days, but in general, relaxin tests are more accurate around the 30-day mark. Remember that every dog is different, so not every pregnant dog will have substantial relaxin in their bloodstream right at the three-week mark.
Fortunately, many test kits include multiple testing cards so you can perform another test a few days to a week later. Of course, this also means you’ll have to get another blood sample. Two negative relaxin tests a week apart generally means the dog is not pregnant
5. Do human pregnancy tests work for dogs?
No. Human pregnancy tests check urine for the presence of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG. Dogs don’t produce hCG, pregnant or not, so this type of test won’t work on a dog.
6. Are there other ways of detecting pregnancy in a dog?
Yes. In the absence of blood tests and imaging equipment, you can use palpation of the abdomen to feel for the developing puppies. Palpation is just a fancy word for gently feeling around with your fingers to try to find the shapes of the fetuses inside the dog’s uterus. This is generally not possible until four to five weeks after breeding, and without training, you might not know what you’re looking for.
Your vet will be better able to use palpation to determine pregnancy, though they will probably want to confirm with a blood test. They also may use an ultrasound and later an X-ray to see the developing puppies.
7. How soon can you tell if your dog is pregnant?
You may be able to tell as early as three weeks, or 21 days, after breeding. However, blood tests are most accurate after at least four weeks.
8. How much does a dog pregnancy test cost?
Dog pregnancy test kits typically come in packs of five or ten tests, which cost between $15 and $40 apiece. Of course, keep in mind that you’ll need to draw blood for these tests, so ask your vet how much they charge for a blood draw and keep that cost in mind as well.
9. Is progesterone an indicator of pregnancy in dogs?
No, the presence or increase of progesterone doesn’t mean a dog is pregnant. Progesterone levels increase throughout a dog’s heat whether or not they conceive. However, you can track a female dog’s progesterone levels in order to tell when they’re ovulating to predict the best time for breeding.
10. Is there a urine pregnancy test for dogs?
No, there is not a urine pregnancy test for dogs. Relaxin, the hormone that indicates a dog is pregnant, is not excreted in the urine.
In general, the breeding and whelping of dogs is best left to the professionals, and you’re far better off having your pet spayed or neutered. This will help protect against many behavioral and health problems. However, if you do suspect your dog is pregnant, you can purchase one of the test kits mentioned above and work with your vet to give your dog – and possibly her puppies – the best chance of a healthy pregnancy.