Can dogs sense pregnancy?

Parents-to-be aren't the only ones impacted by a pregnancy – our canine companions are as well. Is it true, though, that your dog can sense pregnancy, or is it all just an urban myth?

Dogs also feel when their mistress is pregnant that a lot changes.
Dogs also feel when their mistress is pregnant that a lot changes.  © 123rf/dtatiana

Dogs often start to behave strangely when their owner gets pregnant, displaying a variety of different behaviors that certainly suggest that they can tell when a person has become pregnant.

Is it true, though, that your dog's newfound affection has something to do with the little life growing inside you? Or is that just a myth perpetuated by canine lovers?

TAG24's dog guide is here to answer all of your questions!

Puppy and kitten become best friends at shelter after harrowing injuries
Dogs Puppy and kitten become best friends at shelter after harrowing injuries

Can dogs sense pregnancy in humans, what are the signs that they know you're pregnant, and what about when another dog gets pregnant? Let's find out!

Can dogs sense pregnancy in humans?

While dogs do not have a sixth sense, as many people believe, they can sense a number of the changes that occur when a human becomes pregnant. These "senses" are not magical by any means and, instead, are almost entirely predicated around your dog's sense of smell and observation skills.

The American Kennel Club reports that the hormones given off by a person when they're pregnant can be smelt by the dog. In a way, this actually means that dogs are quite possibly able to detect your pregnancy before you even know about it, due to the immediate hormonal changes that occur once pregnancy is induced.

Russell Hartsein, a dog behaviorist based in Los Angeles, agrees with this prognosis. According to Hartstein, a huge amount of a dog's brain power is used in the analysis of smells, giving them not only better smell receptors in the nose, but more resources to develop an understanding of what a smell means.

Speaking to USA Today, Dr. Camille Alander made sure to reiterate that there is no hard science suggesting that dogs can sense pregnancy. She did, however, go on to repeat some of the same points previously discussed, acknowledging that "dogs have an absolutely incredible sense of smell."

According to Alander, dogs may start responding to pregnancy, leading their owners to notice "subtle things that other people probably wouldn't notice as a change, but because you know your pet well you would probably pick up on it."

How soon can dogs sense pregnancy?

It seems that there is, yet again, no hard science on when a dog can notice pregnancy. Many believe that dogs can recognize that things are different as soon as hormonal changes begin occurring, around the time that a pregnant woman would miss her period.

If true, this would mean that your dog will likely notice your pregnancy even before you do. This is highly disputed though, as no official studies have confirmed that any of this is true. It is widely acknowledged, though, that while the definitive answer is yet to be found, the strange behaviors that dogs exhibit around pregnant women probably have something to do with hormones.

"Anecdotally, dog owners who are pregnant say that their dogs behave differently." While acknowledging the scientific uncertainty, he believes that dogs "can detect very subtle changes in human odors that are caused by the hormonal changes in pregnancy," Dr. Mitchell Kramer of Huntington Hospital acknowledges.

As a result of this factor, Kramer believes that dogs become "more protective and stay closer to their pregnant human" from quite early in the pregnancy, around the four-week mark.

Signs your dog knows you're pregnant

So we've been discussing whether a dog can sense pregnancy, but we haven't yet addressed why this is such a commonly asked question in the first place. Many report changes in their dog's behavior a few days or weeks before they themselves discover that they or their partner are pregnant.

The most common thing to happen when a human becomes pregnant is for their dog to start being significantly more caring and careful. Dogs understand when someone is in a vulnerable position and, while not astute enough to know exactly why, or what is specifically happening – after all, they don't know what pregnancy is – they'll respond to that vulnerability.

Here are the most common signs that your dog knows you're pregnant:

  • Increased protectiveness towards the pregnant human
  • Increased moodiness
  • Less demanding of the human for things like walks
  • Intense attachment
  • More frequent and consistent barking
  • Increased urination and marking
  • Chewing on items to mark as own
  • Acts of rebellion
  • Signs of jealousy
  • Dog anxiety

If your dog is reacting to your pregnancy, make sure that your partner is taking good care of it and giving it the attention it deserves. Doggos can get jealous in these situations, and can start acting out.

Make sure to get your dog used to the idea of a baby before the little human is born.
Make sure to get your dog used to the idea of a baby before the little human is born.  © 123RF/Timwit

Can dogs sense pregnancy in other dogs?

Using their tremendous sense of smell, hormonal changes in dogs can also be detected by other perfect pooches. As a result, it is highly likely that non-pregnant doggos can detect when another dog is pregnant. Again, they don't understand what pregnancy is, but they may exhibit behavioral changes.

Especially when two dogs are very close, the non-pregnant pooch will become highly protective and will make sure that no one untrusted comes anywhere near their friend/partner. In such situations, it's best to also provide some support to the non-pregnant dog too, to relieve potential anxieties and stresses.

Please note: Pregnancy in dogs is a very serious thing, and a medical condition that needs to be monitored and looked at by the vet. If you suspect that your dog is pregnant, it's best to go and get it checked out.

You need to prepare your dog for the pregnancy

In order to help your dog cope better with the big change to come, it's a good idea to start reducing the attention given to your four-legged friend. By slowly reducing the amount of attention it receives, you will get it used to the inevitable drop, but over a longer period of time that's less traumatic and sudden.

This applies to not only petting sessions, but walks and games as well. You are going to have a lot less time for your beloved doggo once the baby has arrived, so either way there's going to be a drop-off in engagement. It is better to make this happen slowly, so that your dog notices the change less and doesn't suffer severe dog anxiety or separation anxiety as a result.

On top of reducing the risk of anxiety and getting your dog used to the reduced attention it will receive, this slow transition will also improve your chances at having a dog and baby that get along well. We're crossing our fingers for you, though, because it's going to be hard no matter what you do!

Cover photo: 123rf/dtatiana

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