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How do you tell if a dog has had puppies?

How do you tell if a dog has had puppies?

When you get a grown female dog, it’s normal to wonder if they’ve had puppies in the past. It’s not a problem when you’ve raised your dog from a pup. However, if you adopt or rescue an adult dog, you’ll need to know if they’ve ever had puppies. It’s information that can help you properly care for your dog, so it’s an important question. 

Can you tell if a dog has had puppies in the past?

There are ways that you can tell if your dog has had puppies in the past. However, these are not 100%. Since each dog is different, their natural bodies can be mistaken for signs of a previous pregnancy. To know for certain, you’ll need to get her examined by your vet. 

How do you tell if a dog has had puppies?

Want to know if your dog has had puppies? Here are the signs to look for. 

Enlarged Nipples

Enlarged nipples are a tell-tale sign your dog is a mother. You’ll need to compare her nipples to those of dogs who haven’t given birth. It’s not an exact science, but it’s usually fairly obvious. 

Larger Vulva

Dogs who have given birth have a larger vulva than those who haven’t. If you are a mother, you may have noticed some physical changes in your own body. 

Having puppies, or children, stretches the vulva. It will look a bit different after giving birth. If it appears distended, stretched, or simply larger than those of a non-mother, she has likely had puppies. 

It is important to note that the appearance of the vulva will vary based on breed and the individual dog, so it’s not a guarantee they’ve had puppies. 

False Pregnancy

False pregnancy can also cause physical signs of pregnancy. A dog with a false pregnancy will have some or all of the symptoms of pregnancy, even though they aren’t pregnant. This can cause the nipples to enlarge. 

Signs of Recent Birth

The signs above suggest that your dog has had puppies at some time in the past. However, if you are wondering if your dog has recently given birth, there are a few things to look for. 

The first is enlarged or swollen nipples. If the birth was very recent, her mammary glands may also be swollen with milk. Milk may come from her nipples as well. 

The second is discharge. After birth, dogs will have a brown discharge from the vulva, similar to human mothers. These signs suggest that she has given birth recently, and may be caring for puppies. 

Veterinary Evaluation

The only concrete way to know if your dog has had puppies is a veterinary evaluation. The vet will examine your dog’s uterus to look for changes associated with pregnancy. This can be done via an X-ray or an ultrasound. 

Will a dog’s nipples go back to normal after having puppies?

Nipples are truly an amazing body part. They can take quite a lot of pulling, tugging, and producing milk. They are similar to a rubber band. They can stretch more than most people realize, and still go back to a somewhat normal shape. 

Generally, the dog’s nipples should go back to normal, or near normal, after the weaning period. Many dogs will retain a slightly larger nipple size after birth, but there should be some shrinkage after they finish weaning. 

It typically takes about 6-10 weeks for their nipples to return to normal. However, there are some factors at play, so variation can occur. 

Individual Dogs

Every dog is different, just as every person is different. You could have two dogs of the same breed, health, and activity level. The nipples on one may recede quickly, while the other will always have enlarged nipples. 

Some dogs can take 1 year for their nipples to return to normal, and some dogs will always have enlarged teats after birth. It truly does depend on the dog. 


The level of exercise your dog gets also plays a role. Dogs gain weight during pregnancy. When breastfeeding, they need more calories to make milk. They are exhausted from birth and caring for puppies, so their activity level is greatly reduced. 

Once the weaning period is over, getting your dog to exercise can help them recover from pregnancy and birth. It will help them shed the excess weight, which can also help their nipples recede. 

Age and Births

If your dog is young, her nipples are more likely to recede quickly. The body and skin are still young enough to bounce back easily. If your dog is older, it can take more time. This is also true if your dog has had multiple litters. Each litter can add to the changes of the last, making it harder for the body to go back to normal. 

Number of Pups

In addition to how many litters your dog has had, litter size also matters. More puppies mean she has to produce more milk. This will cause the mamory glands and nipples to be larger to accommodate the pups. 

It also means a bigger belly, to provide room for the pups. More puppies also means more mouths tugging at her nipples to feed, which can also cause more stretching. 

Does a dog’s personality change after having puppies?

A dog’s personality will nearly always change after having puppies. Most experts say that they should revert back to their previous personality after the pups are weaned. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that this may not always be true. 

Aggression or Protectiveness

The biggest change you can expect to see after your dog gives birth is an increase in aggression or protectiveness. This is a feeling human mothers know very well. 

Most mothers, especially first-time mothers, are extremely protective over their babies. They are very selective about who comes into contact with their child. Your dog will act in a similar manner. 

To keep aggression to a minimum, give your pooch as much space as possible. It’s important that she get used to you handling the pups, but others, including other pets, should stay out of the whelping area for the first few weeks. 

Avoid handling the pups more than is necessary, especially during the first few days after birth. Don’t remove the pups from their nest unless absolutely necessary, because the mother might protest. 


Your previously calm dog may become very anxious after birthing her puppies. This is normal as well. Her hormones are fluctuating. She is concerned about her pups health and safety. 

Again, this same behavior is seen in humans. New moms worry over everything. They often have increased anxiety levels. 

Some moms tend to their pups too much, licking them constantly. Others will be very clingy with their owner, wanting to be near them constantly. 

Other signs of anxiety include whining, barking, pacing, and loss of appetite. 

This should subside within two days after birth, but there may be some mild lingering anxiety. 


After birth, your dog will think of nothing but her pups. During the first few weeks, she will only leave the nest long enough to eat, drink, and potty. As the pups get older and need her less, she will begin to pick up her old interests. 

Increased Affection

Dogs will often display increased affection after giving birth. They may be more affectionate with you and other family members, as long as you aren’t bothering the pups. The oxytocin that creates a strong bond between mother and pups can also make her more affectionate in general. 

Permenant Changes

Some changes to your dog’s personality may be permanent. The most common change is an increase in affection or friendliness. Some dogs maintain some maternal instinct. They may tend to human children, or become protective over them, as they would their pups. You may find your dog grooming you, as she did her puppies. 

Mothers can also maintain a higher level of aggression. This appears to occur for two reasons. The first is that having puppies seems to make females more confident and outspoken. She may have backed down before, but now she will display her displeasure. 

The other possibility is that the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy left some lingering effects.

Most mothers will not be aggressive without a reason. However, if they are being bothered by a person or another dog, they may be quicker to let them know to back off. 

Calmer or Hyper

Some dogs become calmer after having puppies, particularly after the puppies are weaned. It can seem as if they are more grown up, and less puppy-like. They will still enjoy a good play session, but they are more settled. 

Other dogs can become more hyper after having puppies. There’s no clear reason for these behavioral changes. However, if your dog is hyper after having puppies, it’s a good idea to get their hormone levels checked. In some cases, hyperactivity is caused by hormonal imbalance.  

Can dogs lose hair after having puppies?

Yes, dogs can lose their hair after having puppies. This can be normal, or can indicate a potential vitamin or mineral deficiency. 

Normal Post-Partum Shedding

Your dog’s coat goes through two phases. The resting stage and the growth stage. When your dog is pregnant, the hair goes into its resting phase. Their body directs all available energy to developing and caring for puppies, so things like hair growth take a back seat. After birth and weaning, the hair will enter the growth stage. 

Shedding will occur, because a new coat is growing in. The old hairs are lost to make room for the new growth. 

To help your dog with normal shedding, you will need to brush her coat daily. A weekly bath can also help release the old hair so the new coat can grow in. 

Lack of Vitamins and Minerals

A lack of vitamins and minerals can cause severe hair loss. Pregnancy and breast-feeding can cause your dog to lose calcium or other important vitamins and minerals. When their bodies are depleted, coat quality declines and hair loss can occur. 

Hormonal Imbalance

Hormonal imbalance can also cause your pooch to lose hair. The changes of pregnancy and breastfeeding can cause temporary hormonal imbalances. 


You may have heard of humans losing their hair when under lots of stress. This can also occur in dogs. Having puppies is a stressful experience, and raising them isn’t easy either. 

The extra stress of birthing and caring for puppies can cause your dog to lose their hair. 

What to Do About Hair Loss

If your dog is losing large amounts of hair or has bald patches, they need a veterinary evaluation. It’s difficult to determine the cause on your own, and they may need treatment.

If a vitamin deficiency is the problem, they will need a supplement. If stress is the culprit, you may need to make some household changes. 

Home Treatment for Hair Loss

There are some things you can do at home to help your dog’s coat, but these are not a replacement for veterinary care. 

One option is to begin feeding them Omega-3 fatty acids. These can contribute to a healthy coat and overall health. You can find salmon and krill oil supplements made for dogs. It isn’t recommended to give them fish oil designed for humans, because dogs require a different dosage. 

Other helpful additions include kelp, evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil, and lecithin.