How To Tell If A Dog Has Had Puppies: 6 Signs to Check

Rescue dogs have different stories. While these canines are amazing pets, the downside is you don’t fully know what they’ve gone through. Has the dog been bred before? Did it have any litter before the rescue?

Knowing how to tell if a dog has had puppies is more than just looking at its body superficially. In most cases, you need the vet for a more thorough physical examination. Please read here how to get a rescue dog to eat

how to tell if a dog has had puppies

How To Tell If A Dog Has Had Puppies (6 Signs)

how to tell if a dog had puppies

If you’re wondering if your rescue had puppies before, the following signs will point to yes.

1. Enlarged nipples

Enlarged nipples are a dead giveaway if you’re wondering if your dog has had puppies before. A mother dog’s nipples will swell as the mammary gland produces milk. It will also become more enlarged as the puppies nurse and suckle.

If the dog recently gave birth, you might be able to squeeze milk from its nipples. Still, many dogs who have given birth years ago will retain their swollen or saggy nipples. This is the case for mother canines that have produced multiple litters in the past.

2. Larger vulva

Another physical attribute you should check is the changes in the dog’s vulva. A dog that has previously given birth to puppies will have an enlarged vulva. Some appear distended or loose. Compare this to other dogs that haven’t produced puppies, and you’ll see the difference.

However, this isn’t 100% conclusive. Some canines tend to have larger vulvas than other breeds due to size differences.

3. Loose belly skin

loose belly skin dog

Like humans, a dog’s belly will stretch during pregnancy. After birth, the skin will remain loose. In some cases, the dog’s belly will shrink back to normal, but there are also a few that will remain flappy.

However, loose belly skin can also be due to losing a lot of weight. Please read here what is the oldest age a dog can have puppies

4. Brown discharge

For dogs that recently gave birth, a brown discharge is commonly observed. A rescue dog that recently had puppies will have a brownish discharge for a few weeks post-birth. This is accompanied by enlarged nipples, the presence of milk, and a loose belly.

5. Behavioral differences

Some dogs that recently gave birth will be more defensive and territorial. With this, the pooch will snarl, bark, and try to attack people that they find threatening.

After birth, dogs are irritable and in hormonal overdrive. It’s normal for them to react differently, especially if someone is trying to touch their puppies or intrude on their territory.

When it comes to rescuing dogs, it’s hard to identify whether aggressive behavior is due to post-pregnancy changes or mere behavioral issues. If physical signs accompany the harsh behavior, there’s a higher chance that the pooch had puppies not too long ago.

6. Changes in the uterus

The best way to identify if the dog has had puppies is to bring it to the vet. The veterinarian will conduct an examination of the dog’s uterus to see if there are any signs of a previous conception.

Ultrasounds and X-rays will help determine if the dog has had puppies before. Also, the vet can ascertain to some degree whether the physical signs are due to phantom pregnancies or not.

How do you know if there’s still a puppy inside?

If your dog is whelping, it will remain tensed and unsettled until all the puppies have been birthed. If your dog is already relaxed and resting, it’s usually a sign that it has released all the puppies from its belly.

If the mother dog didn’t have any more puppies within two to three hours, it’s likely done whelping. Observing and monitoring are still necessary.

However, if you’re expecting more puppies based on vet examinations, you should wait further. If the mama dog didn’t birth the remaining pup, you might need to bring it to the vet right away.

Will a female dog’s nipples shrink after puppies?

will a female dog's nipples shrink after puppies

Most of the time, the mother dog’s nipples will shrink back to their original size after the puppies have been weaned. However, some dams (mother dogs) will keep their enlarged nipples and may never go back to their normal size. If the dog has multiple litters in a year, its nipples may not recover from the repetitive swelling.

You don’t have to worry because this is completely normal. As long as there’s no infection on the dog’s nipples, you can leave it alone.

Can a dog deliver puppies days apart?

No, it’s not normal for dogs to deliver puppies days apart. The longest interval is three to four hours, not days. For canines with smaller litters, the interval will be 45 minutes to an hour.

It’s essential to get your dog examined before whelping so you’ll know the number of puppies that have to come out. An X-ray at the vet’s clinic will easily determine the number of puppies within the litter.

If your dog is still due to release more puppies but not whelping for more than three hours, I suggest calling the vet. While rare, some dogs need to undergo emergency C-section to remove the remaining puppy.

Can a vet know how many litters a dog has had?

Unfortunately, the vet can only determine if the dog has had puppies before, not the number of litters. It’s quite difficult to identify this, even from a scientific standpoint. Overall, the vet can only tell whether the canine has had at least one litter or not. Beyond that, there’s no way to tell a more specific number.

How can I get my dog back in shape after having puppies?

how can i get my dog back in shape after having puppies

Like humans, dogs will undergo drastic physical changes during and after pregnancy. To get your dog back in shape, nutrition should be the major focus. Nursing mother dogs need to eat more to compensate for the nutrients it loses while producing milk.

Take note that weight loss is never the goal when caring for a dog after it has given birth. Your focus should be providing adequate nutrition so it can nurse the puppies well.

Avoid strenuous exercise so your dog can focus on healing and gaining back strength. Exercise should be limited to light walks around the house and short playtime sessions.


Knowing how to tell if a dog has had puppies can be tricky. Still, physical signs and examinations could tell whether the canine has produced a litter before. Other than that, even the vet can’t ascertain the number of puppies or litter the doggo has had in the past.

Written By