If you’re a dog breeder, the prospect of a pregnancy in your dog is cause for celebration. If you’re a regular owner with an unspayed dog, the possibility of pregnancy is probably concerning.
Regardless of your situation, do human pregnancy tests work on dogs? The short answer to this question is no. A human pregnancy test won’t work on a dog. Read on to learn more.
I’ll explain why a human pregnancy test won’t work on a dog. We’ll also look at some other reliable methods of testing for pregnancy in dogs.
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Why Won’t a Human Pregnancy Test Work on Dogs?
Dogs and humans have different hormones. For example, when a human is pregnant, she produces a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Trophoblast cells, which form the placenta, produce this hormone. It is released in urine and is also present in the blood.
At-home human pregnancy tests look for this hormone. Unfortunately, dogs don’t produce this hormone (note that the word “human” is the first word in the name of the hormone.)
What About Progesterone?
Dogs produce progesterone as humans do, and during pregnancy, they do it in excess. Because of this, many people incorrectly assume that higher progesterone levels in a dog indicate pregnancy.
However, a dog always produces higher progesterone levels for at least two months during her heat cycle. Progesterone levels are highest in a dog about 20-30 days after oestrus (when she has produced an egg) regardless of whether or not she is pregnant.
Progesterone levels are easy to test and can be used to determine if your dog is ready to mate. However, they are not a reliable indicator of pregnancy.
Are There Dog Pregnancy Tests?
Currently, there are no over-the-counter urine tests for pregnancy in dogs. However, it is possible to test for pregnancy via the blood. A veterinarian must do this because it requires a blood sample.
A blood sample pregnancy test checks the dog’s blood for the relaxin hormone. The placenta produces this hormone as it develops. It can be detected in the blood of pregnant dogs between 22-27 days after breeding.
A positive relaxin result always indicates a pregnancy, as dogs don’t produce this hormone unless they’re pregnant. However, it’s possible to get a false negative if the test gets done too early. For example, if you perform the test before the placenta has started to develop, the test could come back negative even if the dog is pregnant.
There are kits available online for performing relaxin tests at home. Unfortunately, no dog owner or breeder possesses the equipment to draw blood or separate plasma. Therefore always have a veterinarian do this.
What Are Other Ways of Testing for Pregnancy in Dogs?
Besides the relaxin test, there are other ways of determining if your dog is pregnant. These include palpation, ultrasound, and abdominal x-ray.
Palpation is the process of palpating or pressing on the abdomen to feel for puppies. You can use this method between days 28 and 35 of pregnancy. Palpation should be done by a professional to avoid injuring the mother or the pups.
An ultrasound is the most reliable way of testing for pregnancy. Vets will usually do an ultrasound when they do another test to confirm that the other test is accurate. Ultrasounds can be performed after day 45 of pregnancy.
From day 45 onwards, a dog can also undergo an abdominal x-ray. This method is exceptionally reliable to test for pregnancy. It also allows you to see how many puppies are in the litter and check the bone structure of the pups.
What Are the Symptoms of Pregnancy in Dogs?
If your dog is pregnant, she’ll start to exhibit some signs early on. While I don’t recommend that you rely solely on these symptoms to diagnose a pregnancy, you can use them to determine whether you should talk to your vet and have her tested.
These symptoms can include:
- Decreased activity
- Changes in appetite
- Mammary gland enlargement
- Discoloration of the nipples
- Weight gain
- Enlarged abdomen
- Nesting behaviors
- Increase in affection
These symptoms can change depending on the dog and the stage of pregnancy. For example, at the beginning of pregnancy, a dog will likely vomit or turn down food. However, at later stages of pregnancy, her appetite might increase dramatically.
What Is a False Pregnancy?
False pregnancy, aka pseudopregnancy, is very common in unspayed female dogs. Most dogs will exhibit some symptoms of a false pregnancy during their heat cycle. It usually occurs four to nine weeks after the end of oestrus.
False pregnancy means the dog exhibits pregnancy symptoms even though she isn’t pregnant. These can include:
- Mammary gland enlargement
- Milk production
- Fluid retention
- Nesting behaviors
Because it’s so common for female dogs to experience pseudopregnancies, you shouldn’t rely solely on the symptoms listed above as indicators of pregnancy. Instead, if your dog is exhibiting these symptoms and you think she is pregnant, consult your vet and have them perform a more reliable test.
What Should I Do If I Think My Dog Is Pregnant?
If you suspect your dog may be pregnant, the best thing to do is to contact your veterinarian. They will be able to perform a reliable test for you. If it’s too early in the pregnancy to perform a test, they can advise you on how to care for your dog until the time is right for testing.
Don’t attempt to perform palpation by yourself, and don’t attempt to use a human pregnancy test on your dog. In addition, it’s not advisable to order an at-home relaxin test kit, as it requires specific equipment for blood drawing and plasma separation.
How Can I Care for My Dog While She’s Pregnant?
Talk to your vet about how to provide care for your dog in the last stage of her pregnancy and when she gives birth. You should continue her routine until then but modify it slightly.
Proper nutrition is crucial for a pregnant dog. If your dog is already on vet-approved food, you won’t need to do anything else for the first two-thirds of her pregnancy. Don’t overstimulate her, but don’t let her become lethargic. Gentle exercise and playtime are vital.
So, Do Human Pregnancy Tests Work on Dogs?
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to tell whether your dog is pregnant by using a human pregnancy test. Because dogs and humans produce different hormones when pregnant, human pregnancy tests won’t be able to detect pregnancy in your dog.