Signs And Stages of Dog Labor

Signs And Stages of Dog Labor

February 27, 2023

My dog is about to give birth, what to expect and how to prepare?

Dog gestation length is, on average 63 days, or 9 weeks, from ovulation to labor. After the 9 weeks most dogs have uneventful easy deliveries. There is no need to panic but there are a few things that will help you prepare and keep an eye out for. Towards the end of the dog gestation period prepare a safe and calm whelping box or a whelping area early on for the mother-to-be to get comfortable in.

If this is your first canine birthing experience try and have someone with experience give you a hand. Consult a veterinarian early on in case there is need for medical intervention, and have a plan set in place. A car with a filled up tank and a safe way to transport mother and puppies already set up in your vehicle. A whelping kit with all essentials. During the days before whelping try to get plenty of rest yourself. There might be a few sleepless nights with the puppies and a rested, relaxed breeder is essential.


What are the signs that dog’s labor has begun?


Drop in temperature

The female dog’s temperature will drop below 37°C / 98,5 F – the labor usually begins around 12-24 hours after that drop. It is recommended that you take her temperature twice a day with a rectal thermometer during the final week (day 55 onwards) of her pregnancy. 

Restlessness is very common in the last week of pregnancy. Loss of appetite is also common as is nausea and vomiting.

Shivering, panting and digging are signs that labor has begun.


Stage 1 of Canine Labor

This stage can last from a few hours to over 24 hours. Some dogs have a very noticeable opening stage, and with some it can go by with them mostly resting. 

During the first stage of labor, dogs may be very restless and unsettled and mum may pant, shiver, nest and dig – this is all perfectly normal and a part of preparing for the actual delivery.


Stage 2 of Canine Labor - Delivering the Puppies

The second stage is the passing of puppies ( birthing ) which usually takes between 3-12 hours but can take up to 24 hours.

Rectal temperature will rise back to normal when active labor begins.

You will usually see strong and regular contractions, followed by a clear fluid from your dog’s vulva – a puppy should follow within the next 20-30 minutes.

Puppies are usually born within 20 minutes of each other, but it’s quite normal for some mums to have a rest during delivery, and may not strain at all for up to two hours between pups. Watch your dog giving birth closely and contact your vet if she rests for longer than two hours between puppies. 

It’s normal for some of the litter to be born tail-first, so don’t be alarmed if this happens. Usually half of puppies are born tail first and it is not dangerous. 

Mum should bite through the puppy’s sacs and umbilical cords before cleaning them herself. If you notice she is trying to chew the cords too close to the puppy, or is clumsy with it, stop her and do it yourself.

If labor lasts a long time, mum may need to go to the toilet in between deliveries. Keep a close eye on her in case she starts giving birth to the next pup at the same time. Always take a clean towel and a flashlight with you and never let the female go out if she is not in a lead. 

A greenish/brown discharge may suggest a placenta has separated. If you see this, before the birth of the first puppy, and a puppy is not delivered very shortly after, contact your vet as she may need medical assistance. Between puppies it might be normal to see this.


Stage 3 of Canine Labor

Placentas should pass after each puppy has been born.

Keep track of how many placentas have passed (note if she eats any), so you will know if any are left inside mom. If you think this has happened, contact your vet as they may need to intervene.

During this stage of labor, dogs may be very restless and unsettled. You can offer your female help and support, especially if she is a first time mum. Make sure to remain calm and allow her to get a hang of it in her own time. 


Warning Signs of Dog Labor

Most dogs have easy and non-dramatic labors. Here are some situations in which it is important to act and contact your vet:

  • Your dog fails to go into labor within 24 hours of her temperature dropping. The lowered temperature is usually a sign that the puppies are on their way, so if they don’t come, there might be something wrong.

  • Despite having strong contractions for 20-30 minutes, your female has failed to deliver a puppy. Contact your vet, and be prepared to take any puppies already born with you and mom to the vet.

  • No puppy is born within three hours of your bitch passing a green or red/brown vaginal discharge (after two hours, be prepared to call the vet).

  • More than two hours pass with your dog resting or having only weak contractions between pups, and you know there are more inside. 

  • You can see a puppy in the birth canal but although your bitch is straining, it fails to deliver.

  • Your dog has been in the second stage labor for more than 12 hours (second stage is when puppies are being born).


Signs and stages of dog labor


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