Abi, a 1 year old Yorkshire Terrier who had an unplannned pregnancy

Ania had not owned a dog for several years. Recently, she found herself at a stage in life when she had the time, space and energy to have one again, and she knew exactly what type of dog she was looking for. She wanted to rescue an unwanted dog, and ideally it would be a young, female terrier-type. She searched on the internet, looking at dogs that had become available after being abandoned in dog pounds across Ireland.

When she saw Abi’s photo on the Dogs in Distress website, she realised at once that this was the type of animal that she’d been looking for. Abi had been picked up on the streets of inner Dublin, and had not been claimed from the pound after the statutory period of five days. In former times, she would have been “put down”, like the thousands of other healthy dogs in Irish dog pounds that are euthanased just because they’re unwanted. Happily, Ashton Pound has an excellent working relationship with the Dogs in Distress team of volunteers, so that the destruction rate of unwanted stray dogs is now kept to an absolute minimum

Ania went down to the pound to meet Abi, and she fell in love with her straight away. She has a lovely gentle temperament, and when Ania took her back to her apartment, she settled in at once: it was as if she had “come home”.

Soon after her arrival, Ania gave Abi a bath, to give her a fresh, clean start in her new life. Abi’s fur flattened down when her coat was wet, with the shape of her underlying body showing through. Ania couldn’t help noticing that she seemed to have prominent teats on her underside, and a small question formed in her mind: could her new dog be pregnant?

Ania brought Abi along to see me, to vaccinate her and to discuss other aspects of pet care, including spaying. Ania didn’t want to breed from her, so she wanted the operation to be scheduled as soon as possible. But she asked me a good question: could Abi already be pregnant?

It can be surprisingly difficult to tell when a small dog is pregnant. They often have a small number of pups, that are tucked up underneath the ribcage, so that they can’t be felt when the abdomen is gently prodded. I told Ania that I suspected that she was indeed pregnant, but that it was difficult to be sure, and I couldn’t estimate the date when she’d be due. It would be best to re-examine her after two more weeks.

Two days before that check up, Abi’s behaviour changed. She lost her hungry appetite, just taking treats offered by hand. She stopped running around, preferring to stay on the sofa, pulling her blanket into a ball, and snuggling into it.

Ania realised that something was going on, so she made sure that Abi slept beside her own bed that night. At two in the morning, Ania was woken by a noise: Abi had become agitated, and was restlessly panting and scratching at her bed. An hour later, the first pup was born, and soon after there was another. As soon as the second pup had been born, Abi settled down, behaving like a perfect mother. It was as if she had read the textbook on how to behave: she licked her pups clean, and nuzzled them into herself so that they could suckle.

Abi and the pups came back for her checkup, as planned, two days later. I gave her the final vaccine, and we scheduled the spaying operation to happen in six weeks. I could be absolutely certain of one thing during that second visit: Abi was definitely not pregnant.


  • Dogs that are rescued from pounds often make excellent pets
  • Vaccination and spaying should be done as soon as possible
  • Due to their unknown background, there’s always a risk that such dogs could be pregnant

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