Does my dog know I’m pregnant?

posted: 05/15/12
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Does my dog know I'm pregnant?
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In addition to being man's best friend, dogs are known for their ability to sniff out changes in the human body. For example, in a 2011 study published in Gut, an International Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, a Labrador retriever correctly detected colorectal cancer with 95 percent and 98 percent accuracy in two different sets of human samples. The study stated that a specific smell is linked to cancer, and that's what the pup picked up on.

Similarly, when you're pregnant, all the hormones flooding your body are likely to alter your scent somehow. Not much gets by the canine nose, so there's a chance your dog caught wind of a change in you -- maybe even before you did.

"Although it hasn't been scientifically explored, it's within the realm of reason," says Jennie K. Willis, an applied animal behaviorist with Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

However, while your dog may have detected a scent change, according to Willis, it's unlikely he comprehends the reason. So you can still expect your furry friend to raise a puzzled eyebrow when your little bundle comes home. "Perhaps if the dog has been with you for multiple pregnancies, he might make the connection, but it would be tricky," Willis adds.

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Who's the moody one, again?
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All dogs react differently to a pregnant owner -- some become protective, others more fearful and still others remain indifferent. As your waist expands, their reactions may vary. Your new gait may invoke a protective dog to become your constant escort or send a timid dog to his favorite hiding spot. Dogs that were never lap dogs may suddenly have a newfound interest in snuggling.

This atypical behavior could be due to physical changes your dog has sensed within you, but it's more likely he's reacting to environmental changes that are occurring at home as a result of your pregnancy.

"Dogs are students of our routine," Willis says. "Any change, such as different work hours, exercise or bedtime, is very prominent to a dog."

Perhaps you're waking up more often at night, or coming home from work earlier. Even seeing you cleaning or redecorating a room can alter a dog's view of the world.

Even when you weren't pregnant, you probably noticed that emotions -- anger, sorrow or elation -- all triggered a reaction in your dog. So if pregnancy has you riding the emotional roller coaster, your dog is probably along for the ride, too.

Your dog also may be sensing shifts in the family pack order. Your increased fatigue may make you seem vulnerable, or your husband's sudden fervor to get things done around the house may make him appear more dominant.

You'll never know what your dog is thinking, but you do want to keep him happy. On the next page, we'll look at how you can do that.

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