Recognizing Signs of Stage 1 Labor in Dogs

Recognizing Signs of Stage 1 Labor in Dogs

Mar 18, 2024

As responsible dog breeders and veterinary health professionals, understanding the signs of stage 1 labor in dogs is essential for providing optimal care during the birthing process. Stage 1 labor marks the onset of whelping, signaling the beginning of the birthing journey for both the mother and her puppies. We delve into the key indicators of stage 1 labor, offering insights and recommendations to support breeders and veterinarians in their management of canine pregnancies.


Understanding Stage 1 Labor:

Stage 1 labor in dogs, also known as the preparatory phase, encompasses the period leading up to active labor and delivery. During this phase, the dog's body undergoes physiological changes in preparation for the birthing process. Recognizing the signs of stage 1 labor is crucial for timely intervention and preparation.

Key Signs of Stage 1 Labor:

  • Nesting Behavior: Pregnant dogs may exhibit nesting behavior, such as seeking out secluded areas, rearranging bedding, and showing restlessness. This nesting instinct indicates that the dog is preparing her whelping area for the imminent arrival of her puppies.
  • Temperature Drop: A significant drop in body temperature, typically below 37°C / 98,5 F, is a reliable indicator that labor is imminent. Monitoring the dog's temperature using a rectal thermometer can help breeders and veterinarians anticipate the onset of stage 1 labor.
  • Decreased Appetite: As labor approaches, some dogs may experience a decrease in appetite or refuse food altogether. This loss of interest in eating is a common sign of impending labor and is attributed to hormonal changes and increased abdominal pressure.
  • Restlessness and Anxiety: Pregnant dogs may exhibit restlessness, pacing, or anxiety as they sense the onset of labor. This behavior may be accompanied by panting, whining, or seeking attention from their owners.
  • Vulvar Discharge: A clear or slightly cloudy vaginal discharge may be present during stage 1 labor, signaling the onset of cervical dilation and uterine contractions. However, excessive or foul-smelling discharge may indicate complications and should prompt immediate veterinary attention.


Bellylabs: Facilitating Pregnancy Detection and Management

Accurate detection of pregnancy is essential for monitoring the progression of labor and ensuring timely intervention when necessary. Bellylabs offers a convenient and stress-free solution with the first-ever at-home dog pregnancy test. By detecting pregnancy-specific relaxin hormones – produced by placenta – Bellylabs provides dog breeders professionals with early confirmation of pregnancy, allowing for proactive management and personalized care throughout the birthing process. With the convenience and accuracy of at-home testing, breeders can monitor stage 1 labor in dogs more effectively, enabling timely intervention and support for expectant mothers.


Scientific Insights:

Recent scientific studies have shed light on the physiological changes that occur during stage 1 labor in dogs. Research has shown that hormonal fluctuations, including increases in oxytocin and prostaglandin levels, play a crucial role in initiating uterine contractions and cervical dilation. Additionally, advances in veterinary obstetrics have led to improved methods for monitoring labor progression and managing complications, resulting in better outcomes for both mothers and puppies.


Recognizing the signs of stage 1 labor in dogs is essential for breeders and veterinary professionals alike. By understanding the key indicators of impending labor and utilizing innovative solutions like Bellylabs for early pregnancy detection, breeders can provide optimal care and support to expectant mothers throughout the birthing process. With proactive management and timely intervention, we can ensure the health and well-being of both mother and puppies, contributing to successful outcomes in canine reproduction.

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The test is intended to determine pregnancy in a bitch as well as to distinguish between pseudopregnancy and a real gestation. The test measures relaxin hormone which is a reliable indication of pregnancy. For the best accuracy 96 %* we recommend testing after 28 days has passed from ovulation**. There is no harm in testing earlier, but there might not be enough of the hormone for a reliable detection yet. 

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