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How to Conduct a Canine Pregnancy Test: Real-World Insights and Practical Guidance

As a professional educator in the field of canine reproduction, it is my pleasure to provide a comprehensive guide on how to conduct a canine pregnancy test. This process is crucial for breeders, veterinarians, and dedicated pet owners who need accurate and timely information about a dog's reproductive status. By integrating real-world scenarios and practical insights, this blog aims to equip you with the knowledge and confidence to perform canine pregnancy tests effectively.

Understanding Canine Pregnancy Testing

Canine pregnancy testing involves several methods to determine whether a female dog (bitch) is pregnant. These tests vary in complexity, accuracy, and timing. The primary methods include hormonal assays, palpation, ultrasound, and radiography. Each method has its own set of advantages and considerations, which we will explore in detail.

Scenario 1: Hormonal Assays – Relaxin Testing

Consider a scenario where a breeder, Emily, suspects her female dog, Daisy, might be pregnant after a planned mating. Emily decides to use a relaxin test, a common hormonal assay, to confirm the pregnancy.

What is Relaxin? Relaxin is a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy. Its presence in the blood indicates that the dog is pregnant. The test is typically performed 20-30 days after mating.

Steps to Conduct a Relaxin Test:

  1. Blood Sample Collection:

  • Emily takes Daisy to her veterinarian, who collects a blood sample. Proper technique and hygiene are essential to prevent contamination and ensure accurate results.

  1. Laboratory Analysis:

  • The blood sample is sent to a laboratory that specializes in veterinary diagnostics. Some clinics may have in-house testing capabilities, speeding up the process.

  1. Interpreting Results:

  • The laboratory tests the sample for the presence of relaxin. A positive result indicates pregnancy, while a negative result means the dog is either not pregnant or it is too early to detect the hormone.


  • The test results come back positive, confirming Daisy’s pregnancy. Emily can now prepare for the upcoming litter with confidence.

Scenario 2: Palpation – Early Detection by Feel

In another scenario, Dr. Sarah, a veterinarian with years of experience, demonstrates palpation to determine pregnancy in a client’s dog, Bella, around 28-35 days post-mating.

What is Palpation? Palpation involves gently feeling the abdomen to detect the presence of developing embryos. This method requires skill and experience to avoid causing discomfort or harm to the dog.

Steps to Conduct Palpation:

  1. Timing:

  • Dr. Sarah schedules the palpation between 28-35 days after mating, when the embryos are large enough to be felt but still distinct from the surrounding tissues.

  1. Preparation:

  • Bella is placed in a calm and comfortable position. Dr. Sarah ensures Bella is relaxed to prevent tensing of the abdominal muscles, which can hinder the examination.

  1. Examination:

  • Dr. Sarah uses her fingers to gently palpate Bella’s abdomen, feeling for small, firm, grape-like swellings, which indicate the presence of embryos.


  • Dr. Sarah successfully identifies the embryos, confirming Bella’s pregnancy. The owner is advised to follow up with an ultrasound for a more detailed assessment.

Scenario 3: Ultrasound – Visual Confirmation and Monitoring

Ultrasound is one of the most reliable methods for confirming canine pregnancy and monitoring fetal development. Let’s explore how Dr. Mark, another experienced veterinarian, uses ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy of a dog named Luna.

What is Ultrasound? Ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of the internal structures of the body. It can detect pregnancy as early as 21 days post-mating and provides valuable information about the number of fetuses and their viability.

Steps to Conduct an Ultrasound:

  1. Scheduling:

  • Dr. Mark schedules Luna’s ultrasound around 25-30 days after mating for optimal results.

  1. Preparation:

  • Luna’s abdominal area is shaved to ensure good contact between the skin and the ultrasound probe. She is placed in a comfortable position, often on her back or side.

  1. Performing the Ultrasound:

  • Dr. Mark applies a conductive gel to Luna’s abdomen and moves the ultrasound probe over the area. The images are displayed on a screen, allowing him to see the developing fetuses.


  • Dr. Mark confirms Luna’s pregnancy, identifies the number of fetuses, and ensures they are developing normally. This information helps Luna’s owner prepare for the birth and manage any potential complications.

Scenario 4: Radiography – Late-Stage Pregnancy Confirmation

Radiography (X-rays) is another method used to confirm pregnancy, particularly in the later stages. In this scenario, Dr. Lisa uses radiography to determine the number of puppies in a dog named Rosie.

What is Radiography? Radiography involves taking X-ray images to visualize the skeletons of the developing fetuses. It is typically performed in the final trimester (around day 45-55 of pregnancy) when the fetal bones are sufficiently mineralized.

Steps to Conduct Radiography:

  1. Timing:

  • Dr. Lisa schedules Rosie’s radiograph around 50 days post-mating to ensure the puppies’ skeletons are visible.

  1. Preparation:

  • Rosie is positioned carefully on the X-ray table. Sedation is rarely needed but can be used if Rosie is particularly anxious or uncooperative.

  1. Taking the X-ray:

  • Dr. Lisa takes several X-ray images from different angles to get a complete view of the uterus and the developing puppies.


  • The X-rays reveal the number of puppies and their positions, helping Dr. Lisa and Rosie’s owner prepare for the upcoming birth. This information is crucial for planning the whelping process and managing any potential complications.

Practical Insights and Tips for Conducting Canine Pregnancy Tests

1. Timing is Crucial:

  • Each pregnancy test method has an optimal time window. For hormonal assays like relaxin testing, timing is essential to avoid false negatives. Similarly, palpation and ultrasound have specific periods when they are most effective.

2. Veterinary Expertise:

  • Conducting pregnancy tests requires veterinary expertise and experience. Even palpation, which might seem straightforward, can lead to incorrect conclusions or harm if not done correctly.

3. Follow-Up and Monitoring:

  • Confirming pregnancy is just the beginning. Regular follow-up and monitoring are crucial to ensure the health of both the mother and the developing puppies. Ultrasound can be used periodically to monitor fetal development and detect any issues early.

4. Owner Education and Involvement:

  • Educating dog owners about the importance of pregnancy testing and what to expect can improve compliance and outcomes. Owners should understand the significance of each test and the care required during pregnancy.

5. Combining Methods:

  • In some cases, combining multiple testing methods can provide a more comprehensive picture. For example, starting with a relaxin test followed by an ultrasound can confirm pregnancy and provide additional details about fetal health and development.

Real-World Example: A Comprehensive Approach to Canine Pregnancy Testing

To illustrate the importance of a comprehensive approach, let’s revisit the scenario of Luna, a dog owned by a breeder named Sarah.

Initial Testing:

  • Sarah suspects Luna is pregnant after a planned mating. She takes Luna to the veterinarian, Dr. Mark, who performs a relaxin test around day 25 post-mating. The test returns positive, indicating pregnancy.

Ultrasound Monitoring:

  • Dr. Mark schedules an ultrasound for Luna at day 28 to confirm the pregnancy visually and estimate the number of puppies. The ultrasound shows four healthy fetuses, providing Sarah with crucial information to prepare for the litter.

Follow-Up Care:

  • Throughout Luna’s pregnancy, Sarah follows Dr. Mark’s advice on nutrition, exercise, and health monitoring. Regular check-ups ensure that Luna and the puppies remain healthy.

Final Confirmation:

  • As Luna’s due date approaches, Dr. Mark recommends a radiograph around day 50 to confirm the number of puppies and their positions. The X-ray shows four well-developed puppies, all positioned correctly for birth.


  • Sarah feels well-prepared and confident thanks to the comprehensive care provided by Dr. Mark. Luna gives birth to four healthy puppies without complications, and Sarah attributes the successful outcome to the thorough pregnancy testing and monitoring.


Conducting a canine pregnancy test is a multifaceted process that requires expertise, precision, and proper timing. Whether using hormonal assays, palpation, ultrasound, or radiography, each method provides valuable information that helps ensure the health and well-being of both the mother and her puppies.

As a professional in canine reproduction, I have seen firsthand the impact of thorough and accurate pregnancy testing. These tests not only confirm pregnancy but also provide critical insights that guide the management and care of pregnant dogs. By understanding and utilizing these methods, breeders, veterinarians, and dedicated pet owners can significantly improve reproductive outcomes and support the health of their canine companions.

For more detailed information, training, and certification opportunities, visit us at Together with Master Breeder Academy, we are dedicated to advancing the field of canine reproduction and supporting the health and happiness of dogs everywhere.

Bellylabs Canine Pregnancy Test
Bellylabs Canine Pregnancy Test


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