Martin Buber (1878–1965), a prominent twentieth century philosopher and educator, once wrote: “An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”
When it comes to whether our four-legged friends really can tell if we’re pregnant, the answer is surely in their eyes — and their behavior. Just as with other important changes in your life, dogs can tell when something is different. Experience shows that dogs recognize changes in smell, and in your behavior, routines, and mood.
Their Noses Often Know First
Dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell; they have been used for thousands of year to hunt and find prey. A human and a dog are much more powerful together than they are alone. Throughout time, humans have benefiting by allowing dogs to augment their own senses. The dog’s nose is super sensitive which make’s him perfect for jobs where the ability to sniff is all important. In fact, research shows that a dog can sniff out smells within a 1,400 square foot area. Whereas, a human, on average, can smell something within only about a 32 square foot area. Many dogs have been known to track the scent of their master for miles.
It’s the same thing when it comes to sensing whether a woman is pregnant. Many dogs (and cats) seem to know before the woman does. The dog may not necessarily realize that a new person will be joining the family, but they can sense that something is different in a woman — your breath, body odor, and most important of all, your hormones. During the first trimester, estrogen levels increase rapidly, which is the main cause of morning sickness. Progesterone levels also are also high during pregnancy. These hormones are released into the air. An animal, especially one that knows you well, is quick to pick up on these clues.
A recent discussion thread on Animal Planet as to whether pets can sense pregnancy tells it all. Here is what three women have to say:
C.C. – “My Bassett hound knew I was pregnant before I did. He’s been sleeping near my side of the bed, follows me everywhere (including the bathroom), he’ll stand in the doorway starring at me every now and then like he’s checking on me, and he never takes his eyes off me when I’m on the couch. He’s never done any of this before. However, that wasn’t what led me to take a test. I’m a week late and found out yesterday that I am pregnant. It’s pretty cool seeing his behavior change like that. I actually like that he does these things. It’s a very peaceful feeling.”
Cassaundra – “Recently, I’ve noticed changes in my 10-year-old chihuahua daschund. I think I may be pregnant. I noticed today she’s wanting to be around me more and she’s being super needy and clingy….I kinda love it, but it has me thinking this may be it!”
Tina – “Same thing happened with us! Turns out we are definitely pregnant and now my 55-pound boxer is this protective cuddle monster!”
Your Routine and Mood Provide Great Clues
Pets also are creatures of habit; they become finely tuned to their master’s routines and behaviors. When your routines and behaviors change, your pet knows something’s up. Dogs and cats know your schedule better than you do. They follow you around the house and know what you’re doing and why. So, if something out of the normal happens, they are keenly aware of it. You may have had morning sickness. You may be sleeping differently. You may not be taking as many walks with your dog. Your gait may change. You may be changing around the house to get the baby’s room ready. These are all activities that pets notice.
As Nikole Gipps, an animal therapist, observes, “It will be most apparent to the pooch if you designate a room for the baby and you don’t allow the dog into that room anymore.” She suggest that you be inclusive with your dog (or cat) throughout your pregnancy to reduce any anxiety he/she might have in sensing these changes. “That will make it easier on everyone when you bring your baby home from the hospital.”
Though they might now be able to see as well as you do, dogs do rely on their observation skills to stay alive and to protect their master. Your dog can see that you are heavier and that you have a bigger belly. They might not be able to identify these changes as “pregnancy,” but they still know that you need to be protected more than ever.
Your Pet’s Behavior Changes As Yours Does
Though all dogs and cats will react differently to a pregnancy, many begin to actually lick a woman’s pregnant belly and tend to be more cuddly and protective than ever before. Cats are known for being extremely independent. But, some cat owners see a real change when they become pregnant, too.
On a forum on PregnancyInfo.net, Britani remarked: “My cat is not one to be picked up and be loved all the time, she kinda keeps her distance occasionally letting me pet and hold her, but lately she’s been following me around more often. When I go to the bathroom, she whines at the door until I let her in. She has to be in the room when I’m sleeping. She’s constantly wanting me to pet her and she’s always near me. And last night, she even went under the blankets and wanted to sleep right next to me. Im hoping that this is a good sign.”
Angel, a dog owner reported the same phenomenon: “I have two pit bulls, one I’ve had during the entire pregnancy the other we acquired recently. The one we’ve had the longest seems indifferent, mostly but our newest pit recently started sleeping in between me and my husband and lick my stomach the other day (still trying to figure that out).”
Let’s not forget that dogs are pack animals. They are highly attuned to anything they might change the pecking order in the household. So, when a dog senses a change in the “power ladder,” they may try to get more attention in order to keep their status. Dogs can be just as protective of attention as they are of their owner’s well being. They may need a little extra loving from you while you’re pregnant. Sometimes we take for granted that our pets can sense our moods. When we get upset, overwhelmed, or sad, for example, they know. Our heart beat increases and our body temperature rises. They can tell.
Our pets are true friends in every sense of the word. They are there for all the ups and downs of life, including your pregnancy. Even the way a dog looks at you can be soothing. You dog might, for example, wait patiently for you while you waddle at a slower-than-normal pace. Allow them to comfort and protect you and do their “job.”
Paying Attention to Your Pet’s Needs During Pregnancy
Animal behaviorist Nikole Gipps gives these tips for preparing your pet for a new baby in your home:
Tip #1. To help prevent problem behaviors, try to stick to your pre-pregnancy routine as much as you can, and ask family members and friends to help when you’re not up for a run in the park or a long brushing session. I advise clients to develop a plan for their pet while they’re in the hospital, just like they’d develop a birth plan. Line up a caretaker for your pets and write down your pets’ schedules for that person.
Tip #2. To help your dog understand that you still love him, be careful of the messages you send through your body language. Pregnant women often unconsciously place their hands over their stomachs, and dogs read this closed-arm posture as saying “I’m unavailable” or “step back.” Open-armed postures, on the other hand, send dogs the message to “come here.”
Tip #3. If you stay on top of any potential behavior problems, having pets during your pregnancy and afterward can be a wonderful thing for you and your baby. Studies have shown that spending time with a pet can improve mood, reduce depression, lower blood pressure, and help you live longer. This is true during pregnancy, too.
Other sources: Baby Gaga
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