Welcoming new puppies into your home is one of the most heartwarming experiences for dog owners. If your female French Bulldog is pregnant, they’ll go through a lot of changes, just like a pregnant human.
In most cases, natural mating isn’t possible for Frenchies. Instead, they get pregnant through artificial insemination. So, it’s highly unlikely that your female Frenchie would have gotten pregnant accidentally.
Artificial insemination doesn’t always guarantee success, so you might be wondering how to tell if your Frenchie is pregnant. There are lots of signs you can look for.
Early Signs of Pregnancy
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Dogs are pregnant for between 62 and 64 days on average. During the first few weeks, it can be hard to tell if your Frenchie is pregnant. There will be some subtle signs that you are more likely to notice if you’re paying close attention.
1. Changes in Appetite
Changes in appetite are common in the early stages of pregnancy. Some dogs may eat more while others may experience a lack of appetite and go off their food This depends on the dog and how their hormonal changes are affecting them.
2. Changes in Behavior
A lot of pregnant dogs will display changes in behavior. Some may be more affectionate, seeking your attention more than usual and wanting to be very close to you. Some female dogs may prefer more space and isolate themselves.
3. Reduced Activity
Being pregnant takes up extra energy, so you’ll likely notice that your dog gets tired quicker. For example, on their usual walk, they might see them slowing up or appearing tired.
You may notice them appearing more lethargic at home and having less energy. They might snooze more often during the day.
4. Enlarged Nipples
In early pregnancy, your dog’s nipples will start to change. They’ll increase in size and may start to change color slightly, becoming darker as the blood flow increases. You may even notice them change shape, becoming more rounded rather than flat.
5. Morning Sickness
Some dogs will vomit now and then in early pregnancy. This is like the dog equivalent of morning sickness.
It’s important to note that these early signs can also be indicators of health issues or false pregnancy, so if you notice any of them it’s best to get your dog checked by a vet.
Later Signs of Pregnancy
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As the puppies start to develop, there will be much more noticeable changes in your dog. Most of these signs will begin in the second trimester of pregnancy and progress from there.
1. Changes in Appetite
As the puppies get bigger your dog will be using more energy, so you’ll definitely see an increase in appetite during the middle stage of pregnancy.
As the pregnancy period nears its end, you’ll notice she starts to go off her food again. She might be quite picky and irritable about her food, even if your Frenchie is usually a big eater. In the day or two before the birth, she’ll be eating small meals or potentially not at all.
2. Enlarged Abdomen
When the puppies grow, of course, they’ll be taking up space in your Frenchie’s womb. You’ll notice her abdomen increasing in size as the pregnancy progresses. You may notice she starts to lose fur around her stomach area to prepare for nursing.
In the last 2 or 3 weeks of pregnancy, you might even see the puppies moving around: how amazing!
3. Increased Weight
As the abdomen increases in size, so will your dog’s weight. Weight gain is normal and expected. She’s now carrying the weight of the puppies as well as her own body! She may gain up to 20% of what her body weight was before pregnancy.
4. Vaginal Discharge
You’ll likely notice some clear, white vaginal discharge coming from your dog. This will increase in the last couple of weeks of pregnancy.
This is nothing to worry about as long as it’s only a moderate amount, is white or clear, and doesn’t have a foul smell. The fluid helps to keep your dog’s cervix and vagina clean, protected and lubricated ready for birth.
5. Nipple Changes
You will begin to notice more significant nipple changes as her body prepares to nurse her puppies. You’ll see the nipples become larger and darker. You will also notice milk or a milky-colored fluid leaking from the nipples in the last few weeks of pregnancy.
6. Increased Urination
Pregnant dogs will typically pee more than usual. Frequent urination can be because they’re drinking more, as their body needs more water. Alternatively, just like humans, it may be that the puppies are putting pressure on their bladder.
7. Changes in Behavior
Later in pregnancy, you may notice more significant behavioral changes. This can vary depending on the dog.
Some dogs may be more needy and affectionate as in earlier pregnancy. Others may become very irritable and seek time alone.
You’ll likely see them struggling to move around and may notice that they seem uncomfortable. They might take longer to find places to rest and get in a comfortable position. Some dogs may become protective and dislike having their stomach touched, but this can vary greatly.
In the last couple of weeks of pregnancy, most dogs become less tolerant and more agitated. It’s best to give her space and keep other dogs (especially male dogs) and children away from her during this time.
8. Nesting Behavior
As the pregnancy nears its end, your dog will display nesting behavior. This might include ripping up bedding and other items to create a nest. You may see them circling a lot more, digging at their bedding area, and moving things around to get them in the ‘perfect’ place for giving birth.
In the day or two before they’re ready to give birth, it’s common to see them panting and sometimes shivering or shaking.
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Aside from behavioral and physical signs of dog pregnancy, your vet can run diagnostic tests. This is the best way to determine for definite that your Frenchie is pregnant.
As soon as you notice the signs of pregnancy we’ve discussed, you should take them to the vet for a health check.
Due to the Frenchie puppy’s large heads combined with the size of a Frenchie’s birth canal and their narrow hips, a natural birth is not usually recommended. Instead, vets will recommend a caesarean section. This means that regular health checks are even more crucial so the vet knows when it’s time to schedule the cesarean section.
Palpation refers to the vet using their hands to feel your dog’s stomach and see if they can feel signs of the puppies. Signs may include the stomach being firmer or being able to feel the fluid-filled sacs that surround the French Bulldog puppies.
Palpation can be done from around 28 days into the French Bulldog’s pregnancy. It’s crucial that only the vet does this and you don’t try it at home, as it can be dangerous for your Frenchie and her puppies if done incorrectly.
One of the most reliable ways to detect pregnancy is using an ultrasound. Your vet can give your dog an ultrasound between 25 and 35 days after mating.
This can also give an idea of the number of puppies she’s carrying. The ultrasound can detect the heartbeat of the puppies which gives a good estimate of the size of the litter of puppies. Pregnant Frenchies typically have around 3 puppies, but this can vary.
Your vet may recommend fairly regular ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy, unlike with many other dog pregnancies. This is because Frenchies are so small and therefore have small uteruses.They are also prone to birth complications, so it’s vital that the vet keeps a close eye on how the puppies are developing to keep both the pups and the mother safe.
3. Blood Test
At 25 to 30 days into the pregnancy, your vet can carry out a blood test. This measures the hormone levels in your dog’s blood to detect whether pregnancy hormones are present. Positive tests are fairly accurate, however, negative tests can be false especially early in pregnancy.
Later in pregnancy, at around 50 days onwards, your dog can be x-rayed to confirm the pregnancy and determine how many puppies are present. The puppy’s skeletons aren’t fully formed before then, and therefore wouldn’t show up on an x-ray. The x-ray will also let the vet check how the puppies are positioned, give a clearer idea of the due date, and enable them to make informed choices about the birth.
While a Frenchie pregnancy can be quite risky, it can also be incredibly rewarding. If you notice signs of pregnancy in your furbaby, the first thing to do is get them to the vets so you can keep both mum and puppies healthy.
Harriet Meyers, (2021), Dog Pregnancy: Signs, Care, and Preparing for Puppies. American Kennel Club.
Krista Williams, BSc, DVM; Robin Downing, DVM, CVPP, CCRP, DAAPM, (2022), Feeding the Pregnant Dog. VCA Animal Hospitals.