Your dog slipped out the door and went on a little unsupervised adventure. No big deal, usually, but in this case she may be in heat. If you don't get to the veterinarian in time for the canine version of the "morning after" pill, there may be puppies in your future. You could just keep an eye on your dog for the next couple of months to see if she's getting a bit tubby. Instead, why not consider getting a veterinary ultrasound? Below you'll find an explanation of what an ultrasound is and some exam basics.
Ultrasound Scans Explained
An ultrasound is a non-invasive way to look inside your pet's body. The veterinarian runs a hand held transducer over the targeted area on your dog. The transducer emits high-frequency sound waves that humans can't hear. The sound waves bounce back, showing an image on the ultrasound screen. The principles and procedures are similar to what is used on humans to determine and track pregnancy. The images on those little photos that expectant moms and dads tend to carry around were created by ultrasound machines.
Scheduling the Ultrasound
The gestation period in dogs usually runs between 58 and 65 days. Most veterinarians suggest scheduling an appointment for roughly 28 days after your dog's "adventure." At this point the ultrasound can usually pick up fetal heartbeats, but may not be able to tell how many puppies are on the way. At the same time, a blood test may be done to see if the hormone relaxin is present, indicating pregnancy. The veterinarian may also be able to determine pregnancy by palpating, or feeling, the abdomen.
Performing the Exam
Most dogs tend to handle ultrasound exams quite well because they are painless. A veterinary technician gently restrains the animal during the procedure. Your dog's belly is shaved first because sound waves don't travel well through fur. A warmed, gel solution is rubbed on the belly so the transducer glides more freely. Unless they have ticklish spots, most of the time the dogs just lay back and relax after their warm gel "massage."
If your dog is confirmed pregnant, your veterinarian usually suggests a follow-up ultrasound during the later stages. This is especially important in smaller dogs, since you probably don't know the breed of the father. If the male was considerably larger than the female, the heads of the puppies might be too big to fit through the birth canal. The ultrasound can determine the size of the puppies, allowing you to schedule a C-section if needed.