How to Tell If Your Dog Is In Labor

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors  | 

Because your dog can't talk, it's difficult for her to tell you when she's about to go into labor. A dog's body undergoes a lot of changes throughout the pregnancy that may cause you to be alarmed. Dogs display specific symptoms that will allow you to know when the time has come for the puppies to be born. Read the tips listed below and learn about how to tell if your dog is in labor.

  • Time The normal gestation period for a dog is 63 days. Consult with your veterinarian to see when your dog became pregnant and approximately when she is scheduled to give birth.
  • Temperature According to the schedule that your vet provided, begin to take your dog's temperature throughout the last week of her pregnancy by inserting a thermometer in her anus. Between 12 and 24 hours before the birth, your dog's body temperature will drop from 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit (38.5 degrees Celsius) to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) [source: Purina].
  • Other symptoms Leading up to the birth, your dog will display a range of symptoms to let you know that her puppies are on their way. Your dog will create a nesting area for the puppies, where she will go when she's ready to give birth [source: Jones]. The onset of labor is often signaled by the dog becoming restless [source: Baum].
  • Vaginal discharge The final symptom to show you that your dog is about to give birth is vaginal discharge. The liquid will turn from clear to dark green. This is a sign that the placenta has become detached from the puppies [source: Purina].

Keep in mind that female dogs take their time giving birth. There is usually a 20 minute break between each puppy. If you see that your dog is straining to push the puppies out for over an hour and nothing is happening, call your vet [source: Purina].

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Originally Published: Jun 6, 2011

Dog In Labor FAQ

How long does the first stage of dog labor last?
The first stage of dog labor can last anywhere between six and 12 hours. In this stage, the uterus contracts, causing the cervix to dilate. Signs of this stage in the dog include pacing, panting, and restlessness.
How long can a dog be in labor before giving birth?
Depending on the breed, labor can last for several hours in dogs. Dogs having slim heads, such as Dobermans, can deliver all their puppies in less than three hours. .
How do I know if my dog is having trouble giving birth?
When strong contractions continue for 30 minutes without your pet delivering a pup, it may be having problems. If more pups are to be delivered, a prolonged resting phase of more than four hours might signal an issue. Other signs include a bloody or foul-smelling vaginal discharge.
Can a dog stop her labor?
Contractions can stop for 24 hours without harming a dog and sometimes even for as long as 48 hours. This pause is a natural event in dog labor.
Do some dogs die when they give birth?
Generally, they don’t. Most dogs don’t even feel pain. However, a number of complications can arise in some scenarios, putting their lives at risk.

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