What To Expect When Your Female Animals Are Expecting: How Vets Perform Pregnancy Checks

If you have a pet or farm animal that you suspect is pregnant (or one that you are hoping is pregnant), then you will want to engage the veterinary services of an experienced and qualified vet. Depending on the size of the animal, the pregnancy check is very different for each kind of animal. Here is what you can expect, based upon the size and type of animal you want checked for pregnancy.

Pregnancy Checks for Horses and Cows

Pregnancy checks on cows are often done by placing a gloved hand and arm into the cow’s rectum. Because the cow’s rectum rests over the top of the uterus (and the uterus should not be disturbed during a pregnancy), the vet is able to palpate the uterus through the rectum and lower colon. A hard and/or enlarged uterus tells the vet that your cow is indeed pregnant. Horses may be checked for pregnancy the same way, but many mares resist this method. Thankfully, if your vet has a mobile fetal ultrasound for horses, your mare can be checked for pregnancy using this piece of equipment. The ultrasound camera is much smaller and less invasive than a human arm and hand, and the camera can be inserted directly into the mare’s vagina to get a clearer picture of the uterus and its contents.

Pregnancy Checks on Sheep, Pigs, Goats and other Medium-Sized Livestock

On these medium-sized farm animals, a pregnancy check involves feeling around the animal’s abdomen and listing for signs of life inside the abdomen.  A hard, stretched abdomen, as well as teats that may begin trickling milk, are signs that your sheep, pigs, goats or other female livestock are expecting. The vet may also use a stethoscope to listen for additional heartbeats and/or fetal movement.

Pregnancy Checks on Cats and Dogs

Pregnancy checks on cats and dogs are a little bit different than pregnancy checks on medium-sized livestock simply because dogs and cats are easier to transport into the vet’s clinic. Once your pet is in the clinic, the vet may conduct some of the same tests done on pregnant livestock, but with the addition of blood tests and maybe even an x-ray to confirm the presence of (and number of) babies. If an x-ray is performed, then the vet may even be able to see if the babies are in trouble or see if your mama pet may need help with the delivery.

Pregnancy Checks on Smaller Mammalian Pets

Unfortunately the only way a vet can check your small mammalian pets for pregnancy is through a blood test. Palpation could harm the babies if they are present, and there are no ultrasounds made small enough to check rats, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, etc., for pregnancy. X-rays are also not much help, since they would be very difficult to read if the mother pet is still in the early stages of her pregnancy. With these small pets, it is often a waiting game and watching for signs of pregnancy and motherhood.