June 2, 2023

Can ultrasound be wrong about puppies?

Yes, ultrasound can sometimes be wrong about the number of puppies expected. Factors like foetal position, maternal tissue interference, or early gestation can affect the precision of the ultrasound results. Check with a vet for the most accurate assessment. 

Can Ultrasound be wrong about puppies

Bringing new puppies into the world is an exciting time for dog owners and breeders. One way we determine the number of puppies during pregnancy is through an ultrasound. But have you ever wondered if ultrasound can be wrong about puppies? In this piece, we’ll explore this question and look at what factors that may affect the accuracy of an ultrasound in detecting puppies and find out how accurate it is and whether they are safe.  

First, let’s look at when you can use ultrasound to confirm pregnancy. 

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When is the best time to do an ultrasound on a dog?

It’s best to do an ultrasound between 21-30 days after breeding. If you do an ultrasound before this, you can easily get a false positive. Ultrasounds are a great way to confirm if a dog is pregnant, 30 days after breeding. 

You can also tell if the puppies are alive by monitoring the foetal heartbeats. You can also estimate the size of the litter, but it can be much less accurate for dogs carrying a larger litter than those carrying a smaller litter. Ultrasounds can be more accurate if done later in pregnancy but can still be wrong.   

How ultrasounds work

Ultrasound technology uses sound waves to create images of the developing puppies in the mother dog's womb. Typically, ultrasounds are performed at specific times as the mother’s pregnancy progresses. A vet will then interpret these images to count the number of puppies in the litter. This is very difficult to do, and it’s easy to underestimate the size of the litter. 

It’s time to find out how accurate ultrasounds are.  

How accurate are ultrasounds for determining the number of puppies?

Ultrasounds are notoriously bad for estimating the number of puppies in a litter. A mother dog’s womb has two horns, which often overlap and crisscross. This makes it nigh on impossible to figure out the number of puppies the mother’s expecting, unless her litter is very small.  

Just as with human ultrasounds, some knowledge of anatomy is essential if you want to be a proficient scanner. You also need to be familiar with the machine you’re operating.

Otherwise, it’s all to easy to make mistakes like counting tiny black sacs in a row as individual pups when they are more likely to be intestinal loops than gestation sacs.  

Asking your vet to perform an x-ray on your dog will give you a much better idea of how many puppies she’s expecting. 

You can use ultrasound to check the vital signs of unborn pups though. Read Do puppies stop moving before birth? 

Are ultrasounds safe for mother dogs?

Most vets can perform an ultrasound on a dog 25 days after breeding. Sound waves are sent through the mother’s body to create an image, and the process is perfectly safe for both the mother and her pups. 

What affects the accuracy of ultrasounds? 

There are several factors that can affect how accurate an ultrasound of a pregnant dog is.  

  • The position of the puppies in the mother’s uterus. 
  • The movement of the puppies (if one puppy moves a lot, he or she may make it difficult to see individual puppies, making it easy to miss the presence of a pup). 
  • If the mother is in the very early stages of pregnancy, the puppies are miniscule and still developing, so can be extremely difficult to count. 
  • Sometimes the tissue of the mother can make the image less clear and make it harder to figure out how many puppies she’s expecting.  
  • Sometimes ultrasounds can give a false negative early in gestation, but not detecting all the puppies in the womb and underestimating the size of a litter. Ultrasounds can also overestimate the size of a litter, making it very difficult for breeders to prepare for the birth. There may well be some unexpected surprises in store.   

To get the most accurate idea of the number of puppies to expect seek advice from a vet. They will have the expertise and experience to understand ultrasound results. They may also use other diagnostic methods, like X-rays or palpitation to confirm what the ultrasound revealed.    

Conclusion: Can ultrasound be wrong about puppies?

Ultrasound is useful tool for detecting pregnancy in dogs.  

However, ultrasound can be wrong about puppies, primarily due to factors like foetal position, maternal tissue interference, and early gestation challenges. So, if you're eagerly awaiting a litter of puppies, consult with your vet to help you navigate the exciting of pregnancy and whelping journey with confidence. 

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy exploring What do breeders do with unsold puppies? 

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