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Four most common ways to determine pregnancy:

1) Palpation: The traditional method of detecting pregnancy in the dog is careful abdominal palpation (pressing on the surface of the abdomen with the fingers) to detect swellings in the uterus that signal the presence of developing puppies. This method depends on the temperament, size, and body condition of the dog, as well as the timing of the palpation (the optimal time is between three and a half and five weeks of pregnancy), the number of fetuses present, and the experience of the person doing the palpation. Palpation is unreliable for determining the viability of the fetuses.

2) Blood Test - A blood test detects pregnancy in the dog by measuring levels of a hormone called relaxin. This hormone is produced by the developing placenta following implantation of the embryo and can be detected in the blood in most pregnant females as early as 22-27 days post-breeding. The level of relaxin remains elevated throughout pregnancy and declines rapidly following the end of the pregnancy.

3) X-ray: Abdominal X-rays are useful in detecting a pregnancy in the last trimester of gestation (three weeks before whelping) when the bony structures of the puppies can be seen. Basically, the veterinarian counts the skulls as they are the largest boney structure.

4) Ultrasound: The most reliable way of detecting and monitoring pregnancy is an abdominal ultrasound. Developing embryos can be detected as early as three weeks post-breeding and the viability of the fetuses can be determined throughout the pregnancy. Ultrasound is the ‘gold standard’ for detecting pregnancy and assessing the viability of the fetuses.

I'm not very good at palpation. You feel for beads lined up that feel like rosery beads. The grip has to be firm and I'm uncomfortable doing that myself.

Their abdomen starts to swell around day 35. It's difficult to determine if they're pregnant before day 35 without a blood test or ultrasound.

Approximate cost:

Blood test: $40

Ultrasound: $150

X-ray: $60 per sheet and may need several sheets

The following ultrasound pictures were taken at 30-day after conception. The pictures are from Candy in July 2020. The red circle is her bladder and the yellow circle is a puppy. Each puppy is in an individual sac that is part of the placenta. The veterinarian tries to count the individual puppies but it's difficult. He/She starts by finding the bladder and then moving from that point.

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