Do other mammals know a baby is coming when they are pregnant?

My wife is 38 weeks pregnant, and we are eagerly anticipating the impending birth. Because she’s 40, and we utilized IUI to conceive, we’ve been intimately monitoring the pregnancy since it began. She has made it a point to carefully watch her diet, and new physical experiences (like baby kicking) are well received.

Do other pregnant mammals (this question specifically came up when referring to our dogs) similarly anticipate the impending birth of their litter? Or does a dog, living in the moment, only know that it feels ill, or odd, without any sense that puppies are on the way? Do they ever consciously change their diet when expecting?

I think the “nesting instinct”, where the mother-to-be is driven to improve her environment when pregnant to prepare for the young’uns, is widespread among mammals and birds. I don’t know whether you’d consider that “conscious”, though.

Even if a pregnant dog (or a rat or a kangaroo or an ox) did change their diet and act differently in other ways, it wouldn’t necessarily be evidence that the animal knew they were pregnant. Indeed, imagine an intelligent alien race watching you and your wife: all your behavior could be explained without reference to anyone’s knowing they were pregnant.

Really, it’s the Problem of Other Minds. How would we ever know dogs know anything? How do we know other people know anything?

And, occasionally we hear of humans who do not know. Several year ago a neighbor of mine, a large woman with four kids, the youngest was 14, went to the doctor for some reason and they removed a large tumor and a full term daughter. She had not menstruated in several years and had no clue.

There is an entire T.V. show (much beloved of Joel McHale of The Soup) devoted to this phenomenon.

I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant