How Do I Know If My German Shepherd is Pregnant? + Signs & Stages

how to tell German shepherd is pregnant

Knowing whether your German Shepherd is pregnant or not isn’t always easy, particular during the early stages of pregnancy. However, there are some tips that breeders use to help them tell if a German Shepherd is pregnant or not; and I will share those with you today.

If you read on you will find out what the early gestation signs are, what the German Shepherd pregnancy stages are, and how you can make her as comfortable as possible.

The early signs of a German Shepherd pregnancy

  • Your GSD’s appetite will decrease, and she might even miss some meals altogether.
  • Your GSD’s stomach could get bigger, sometimes as soon as 14 days after insemination.
  • Your vet could feel her belly, possibly feeling movements as soon as 20 to 30 days.
  • Your GSD may exhibit behavioral changes including lethargy.
  • Your GSD’s nipples might have become enlarged in readiness for nursing.

None of the methods above are fool-proof checks to tell whether your German Shepherd is pregnant and expecting a litter of puppies though. Instead vets and breeders rely on more scientific methods to test for pregnancy, including German Shepherd ultrasounds, all of which you can see below.

German Shepherd pregnancy stages
If your German Shepherd is pregnant, one sign can be tiredness during the early pregnancy stages. (Image via https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-died-german-shepherd-sleep-2817560/)

How to tell if a German Shepherd is pregnant

To check for certain if your German Shepherd is pregnant, there are two methods which will offer 100% proof of pregnancy.

1. German Shepherd ultrasound 25 days after mating

The fastest method for finding if your German Shepherd has conceived is to get your vet to perform a German Shepherd ultrasound. This scan can be first done 3 weeks after mating, but at this early stage it won’t always be 100% accurate – the best results come with an ultrasound at least 25 days after conception.

Ultrasounds are pain-free, but it can be a stressful occasion if your German Shepherd doesn’t like the vets as their belly hair will be shaved off.

The costs of an ultrasound pregnancy check tend to range between the $300 to $500-dollar bracket (£230 to £380 GBP). It’s not a cheap method, and many people will simply wait until their German Shepherd is showing more obvious signs of pregnancy rather than paying for a scan.

2. Blood sample at 5 weeks after mating

The second option for a pregnancy test is using a blood test. This can be performed after 5 weeks post mating and will help to detect a pregnancy hormone in your German Shepherd.

It doesn’t cost as much as an ultrasound but isn’t always accurate when done too early on. For example, if your German Shepherd has been pregnant for less than 35 days, it might flag up as being negative, even if she is pregnant.

What is the most reliable German Shepherd pregnancy test then?

The most accurate way to know if your German Shepherd is pregnant is the first option; the German Shepherd ultrasound. However, it should only be done after 25 days post mating, otherwise it might throw up an inaccurate result.

One the best things about this type of pregnancy test is how you can see the developing puppies on the scan images. You might also be able to tell at this point how many puppies your German Shepherd is expecting, although it might not always be an exact count due to their size and overlapping in the womb.

If you wait another 20 days, but day 45 you can also get an X-ray of the pregnant German Shepherd. This will let the vet count the skulls in the womb, giving a 100% accuracy count on how many puppies are in the litter.

German Shepherd pregnancy stages

Once you know your German Shepherd is pregnant, the excitement can really start. But what can you expect from the German Shepherd pregnancy stages? Here’s a quick overview of each stage.

Month 1

The first month of your German Shepherd’s pregnancy isn’t actually that interesting, and a lot of the time you might not even notice anything at all. Some owners won’t even know their German Shepherd is pregnant without the aid of an ultrasound.

By day 7 of the pregnancy, German Shepherd puppy embryos will get to the uterine horns. By 14 to 16 days the German Shepherd embryos will have attached themselves into the lining of the mother’s uterus.

The 22nd day will typically see the German Shepherd fetuses starting to form, and around the 29th day, vets are able to detect heart beats using an ultrasound scan.

Your German Shepherd will now 3 weeks pregnant and should start showing some of the pregnancy signs I spoke of earlier. At this point those signs may even change a little to be:

  • Your German Shepherd might now be eating more than usual after the loss of appetite earlier in the pregnancy.
  • Your German Shepherd’s nipples should now be larger than they were before.
  • Your German Shepherd might change behavior, looking for comfort and cuddles with her owner.
  • Your German Shepherd might have a clear discharge during the 4th
  • Your German Shepherd will start to slow down and reduce her activity levels.
  • Your German Shepherd could even start showing signs of canine morning sickness.

Whilst these are typical signs of German Shepherd pregnancy, not all German Shepherds will exhibit these. It’s still very early on in the pregnancy and can be hard to detect properly.

Handy Hint: German Shepherds can actually have false pregnancies. I wrote a guide which includes information on what to look for and how long a dog’s phantom pregnancy can last.

Month 2

The second month is where the pregnancy signs start to accelerate with the eyelids and toes appearing on the fetuses between the 32nd and 35th day.

The development is very rapid, as by day 40, the German Shepherd fetuses will have grown claws, and by day 45 have a skeletal form and even a coat.

You could ask your vet to perform an X-ray on the 50th day as it will be possible to use this to check how many puppies your German Shepherd is expecting. It’s very exciting, as you can now plan for the litter size!

By the 58th day, your German Shepherd will start her nesting behavior. This is where she starts looking for a safe and comfortable place in the house to give birth. Owners can help their dogs with added bedding, heat lamp, and creating a more secure environment for them – here’s what you need to know about whelping boxes.

It should now be outwardly obvious that your German Shepherd is pregnant, as she will certainly now be showing a rounder belly.

More signs of German Shepherd pregnancy at this stage include:

  • Your GSD will be eating a lot more than usual.
  • Your GSD will then start to eat less again around the 45th
  • Your GSD will gain significant weight.
  • Your GSD will need to urinate more than usual.
  • Your GSD will have a clear vaginal discharge.
  • Your GSD’s belly will become firmer between the 45th and 50th
  • Your GSD’s belly might show signs of movement by day 50.

Month 3

The third month is when you can ratchet up the excitement. You will definitely now know that your German Shepherd is pregnant, as there’s no mistaking it in this stage.

Yep, you guessed it, during this German Shepherd pregnancy stage she will be giving birth. The puppies will start to move into position to arrive as by the 58th day they are almost completely formed – they will move into the birth canal for the last few days of pregnancy.

The signs during this stage you will start to see include:

  • Her waist will get slimmer as the puppies move into position.
  • She will not want to eat much around days 61 and 62.
  • Her temperature will drop around 1 and 2 days before birth.
  • She will start to get agitated and restless.
  • She could even increase the nesting actions such as digging, pacing, panting, and shivers.

German Shepherd pregnancy tips

Your German Shepherd will be pregnant for between 58 and 68 days. The average length of a German Shepherd pregnancy is about 63 days from the mating date to delivery.

There will be plenty of behavioral changes in your German Shepherd too, not just physical ones. For example, as she enters the last 14 days of pregnancy you might see the following signs:

  • Your German Shepherd will want to cuddle you more and show you more love.
  • Your German Shepherd won’t want to socialize with other dogs but could be cling to you.
  • Your German Shepherd will be calmer and less excitable.
  • Your German Shepherd might appear to be uncomfortable.
  • Your German Shepherd might want to sleep more and even in different places.

How to prepare for a German Shepherd pregnancy

As a breeder or owner, there are things you can also do to make sure your German Shepherd is ready to have a comfortable pregnancy and then give birth safely. These preparation tips include:

  • Change her diet after month 1 by adding puppy kibble. This is smaller and more nutritious for growing puppies.
  • Don’t over-exert her and she will be more tired and have a lot less energy. Her breathing might also become strained.
  • Help her with the nesting process, making up her crate as comfortable as possible and not at the last minute. She needs to feel safe and secure, and know that she has a place to give birth safely and securely.

How German Shepherds give birth

The most common way that a German Shepherd will give birth is naturally. However, due to complications, some might need a c-section. Here’s an overview of what that might mean.

1. C-section

This technique is used in a small amount of German Shepherd pregnancies. Your vet can help you to decide if this is the best option by using an X-ray to check how large the skulls are, and how many puppies are expected.

German Shepherd c-sections can cost between $640 and $1,300 dollars (£500 and £1,000 GBP). There are some risks to this surgery as it will be performed under an anaesthetic.

German Shepherd pregnancy signs
Whilst rare, some German Shepherd pregnancies will be delivered via a c-section. (Image via https://pixabay.com/photos/german-shepherd-dog-domestic-animal-3404340/)

2. Natural birth

If you decide to let things happen naturally after consultation with your vet, look out for the warning signs that your German Shepherd is ready to give birth to her litter.

If it’s time for your German Shepherd to give birth, then make sure her nest is completely ready. You will notice that she will start to visit her nest several times, returning back and forth to the area, scraping the towels several times, and then finally settling down and panting like she’s just had a lot of exercise.

This is not a calm time for her at all, and you will notice heavy breathing and an increased heart rate. It can take up to 12 hours for the first of the puppies to appear.

After a puppy has been delivered, the German Shepherd mother will bite at the sack and lick the excess away from the puppy. This lets the newborn start to breath in oxygen. Some owners might have to help with this if the mother struggles to do so.

You might even see the German Shepherd mother eating the sack and umbilical cords. Don’t be alarmed, as they actually contain nutritional elements and it’s entirely instinctive.

Once the German Shepherd puppy is out and moving, you can help my placing it onto the mother’s nipples to let them start feeding.

When to worry

Whilst most births should go without a hitch (if recommended by a vet), there are warning signs that the delivery isn’t going to plan.

For example, if 10 hours have passed since she nested and sat down and you still haven’t seen a puppy, it could mean a blockage in the birth canal. This will then require an emergency c-section.

Handy Hint: If you do opt for a natural birth and encounter complications you will have to pay for an emergency c-section which will be far more expensive than if you had just booked one in to start with.

Conclusion

Knowing when your German Shepherd is pregnant is absolutely essential. If you don’t know she’s expecting, you can’t prepare her for the birth, and could put her and the litter at risk of miscarriage.

When it comes to the birth itself, most breeders I have spoken recommend a natural births.

If you do have a pregnant German Shepherd, then I wish you and her all the best and would love to see some photos of the pups!

You might also like…

Here are some more guides for owners of this breed.

Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-friend-german-shepherd-coat-1877814/

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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