How Would You Cope If Your Dog Got Pregnant?

Mother Nature plays a cruel little joke where it looks like female dogs aren’t in heat — when, in fact, chances are very good for an unplanned pregnancy.

This dog had free roam outside and was not spayed, so she had an unplanned litter. By: northways
This dog had free roam outside and was not spayed, so she had an unplanned litter. By: northways

Accidents happen.

I vividly remember a client who came in one morning in a state of shock. Overnight, her dog had produced a litter of puppies — the catch being the dog had never gone missing, and the client had no clue she was pregnant.

However, on questioning about this apparent miraculous conception, I learned that the dog’s brother lived in the same house.

This is one of those myths that needs busting straight out. Animals have no concept of “family” relationships, and nature always finds a way to perpetuate the species. Obvious as it might sound, never leave any male dog with a female in heat — even if they are related — or else puppies will result.

Even the most responsible pet caretakers can be deceived into lowering their guard. With so many animal shelters full to overflowing with dogs desperate for homes, the last thing we need is more unplanned puppies. So, how do you avoid facing this situation?

Peak Time for a Dog to Get Pregnant

One ace card Mother Nature holds up her sleeve is to fool you into thinking your girl’s heat has finished and it’s OK to let your guard down.

This false sense of security comes about because a week or so into the heat cycle, vaginal discharge disappears. You breathe a sigh of relief and think seasons aren’t so bad after all.

However, this is precisely when the dog ovulates and when she’s most likely to become pregnant if a male enters the picture. To leave her unattended in a yard now is tantamount to an open invitation for all the neighborhood dogs to come calling. What’s more, she’s going to be very pleased to see them.

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Pattern of a Normal Estrus Cycle

  • On average a female dog comes into heat twice a year
  • Estrus lasts 3–4 weeks total
  • Days 7–10 she has a vaginal discharge
  • Days 10–14 (approximately) the discharge dries up and she ovulates
  • Days 14–28 the discharge returns but becomes gradually lighter

Dogs can also ovulate at unpredictable times, so it’s safest to keep yours under lock and key for the entirety of her heat.

Shelters can be overwhelmed with unplanned litters of puppies. By: jeffreyw
Shelters are overwhelmed enough as it is without your unplanned litter of puppies. By: jeffreyw

Planned Pregnancy

Think carefully before deliberately breeding your dog. It’s not reason enough to say she’s pretty or that a neighbor wants a puppy. If she is a pedigree, she must be an outstanding specimen of the breed and free from genetic diseases.

Remember, animal shelters are already bursting with unwanted dogs.

Another consideration is your pet’s health. There’s always risk associated with pregnancy and birth; plus it’s hard work for the mother nursing a litter of puppies. You need to have the finances available to cover the veterinary bills in case of cesarean delivery or other medical care.

Unplanned Pregnancy

As I said earlier, accidents happen. Perhaps it’s a resourceful dog who breaks into your yard, or your girl slips her leash on a walk. If she’s in heat and gets out or a male dog gets in, there’s a fair chance she’ll get pregnant.

Think carefully about whether it’s appropriate or safe for her to have the puppies. If, for example, a Labrador Retriever mates with a small terrier, the resulting offspring may be too big for the mother to birth naturally.

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Terminating the Pregnancy

After the incident happens, contact your veterinarian. Some professionals prefer to confirm the dog is actually pregnant before giving drugs to induce abortion, while other professionals may suggest giving the treatment regardless.

The drug most commonly used is Alizin. Once the dog’s heat has finished, the vet gives 2 injections 24 hours apart. This drug almost always successfully ends the pregnancy.

Time to Spay Your Dog

Many female dogs return to heat earlier than normal, within 1–3 months of this treatment. So avoid jumping back on the same merry-go-round by getting your dog spayed at the earliest opportunity.

Yes, It Can (And Will) Happen Again

Back to my client with the unplanned brother/sister pregnancy. Despite advising her to get at least one of the siblings spayed or neutered, exactly the same thing happened during the next heat — another litter of unplanned puppies arrived.


This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS. It was last reviewed May 22, 2015.

Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS

View posts by Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS
Dr. Pippa Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS, is a veterinarian with nearly 30 years of experience in companion animal practice. Dr. Elliott earned her Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery from the University of Glasgow. She was also designated a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Married with 2 grown-up kids, Dr. Elliott has a naughty puggle called Poggle, 3 cats and a bearded dragon.

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