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Stages of Labor

Most breeders hope for an uneventful canine pregnancy that results in a smooth delivery of a healthy, full-sized litter. Recognizing the signs and stages of labor can help avert any problems that could sideline those expectations.

Knowing how to assist when puppies are born during stage II labor is helpful. After a puppy is delivered, remove the membrane covering, clean the face, and suction mucus from the mouth and nose. Use a clean towel to gently dry and rub the puppy to stimulate its breathing. In a few minutes, the pup will begin to cry loudly,”

Being prepared to have puppies doesn’t mean things won’t go wrong. “If at any time during whelping breeders notice black vulvar discharge, moderate to large amounts of fresh blood or are concerned, they should not hesitate to call their veterinarian,”                              Importantly, breeders should understand normal whelping to help them recognize a problem. Every pregnancy is unique. Should an uneventful pregnancy turn into an eventful labor and delivery, be sure you are prepared to ensure the best possible outcome.

10 signs of dog labor to look out for

When your dog is in labor , you’ll likely notice a drop in their temperature, restlessness, panting, nesting behaviour, shivering and more. There are different stages to their labour but we have more details on this below to help you out.

Signs of Labor.

1. Drop in temperature

Your dog’s temperature is one of the early signs of labor to pay attention to. One of the first signs of impending labor in dogs is a drop in mum’s body temperature from 38.5°C to 37°C – labour usually begins around 12-24 hours after that.

To know when this happens, take your dog’s temperature twice a day with a rectal thermometer throughout the final week of pregnancy. If you’re unsure how, ask your vet to show you. If you find that taking her temperature is causing your dog stress, then stop. You need to help your dog to stay as calm as possible at this time.

2. Restlessness

During the final week of dog pregnancy, moms-to-be may be a little restless and seclude themselves in a quiet area. A loss of appetite and digging in her bedding is common in the 12-24 hours before they go into labor .

3. Changes in nesting behavior

Very occasionally, your dog may move the nest that you made for them to another area of the house. If this happens, try not to move it from the preferred location if possible.

4. Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting in dogs are other labor signs you might notice. Make sure your pet has plenty of water available to avoid dehydration.

5. Loss of appetite

A lack of interest in their food might also point to an imminent labor .If there are no other reasons why your dog might lose their appetite.

6. Shivering

Shivering can be a sign your dog is in pain and the labour has started. This is normal and you should do your best to comfort the pet during this time.

7. Panting

Panting is another way a dog in labor will let you know they are in pain and the contractions have started.

8. Tiredness

Pregnant dogs can be more lethargic than usual, but you will notice a drop in their energy levels close to the time they will get into labor .

9. Contractions

You will know your dog is in labor as soon as contractions begin. Look out for a hardened abdomen. You might even be able to feel the contraction by placing your hands gently on their stomach.

10. The start of milk production

Some dogs will start producing milk before they give birth. If their breasts have become hardened, this is another indication that they will get into labor soon.

How long are dogs in labor ?

Dog labor should take about 3-12 hours from the start of the contractions. Dogs will usually give birth to all of the litter within 6 -12 hours and usually never take longer than 24 hours. See more below on this for more information.

The 3 stages of dog labor and delivery

In general, dog births are normally straightforward and don’t often involve complications. Although you should interfere as little as possible, it’s still important to be with your dog giving birth so that you can support her and step in if there are any problems. Labor normally lasts 6-12 hours, and happens in three stages.

Stage one: your dog will start to have contractions

  • The cervix and uterus prepare for delivery with smaller contractions that may not be visible to you.

  • Your dog’s vulva will begin to swell in preparation for delivery.

  • During this stage of labor , dogs may be very restless and unsettled and mom may pant and shiver – this is all perfectly normal, so don’t worry.

Stage two: the part of dog labour when the puppies are delivered

  • The second stage is the passing of puppies which usually takes between 6-12 hours but can take up to 24 hours.

  • Mom's rectal temperature will return to normal as she gets ready to deliver her puppies.

  • You will see strong 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 mom 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 you may want to contact your vet if she rests for longer than four hours.

  • It’s normal for some of the litter to be born tail-first, so don’t be alarmed if this happens. You may need to gently encourage mom to deliver puppies that are tail-first, but be very careful not to tug.

  • Mom 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, stop her and do it yourself. (I always do this part, along with drying them & weighing them)

  • If labor lasts a long time, mom may need to go out to potty in between deliveries. Keep a close eye on her in case she starts giving birth to the next pup at the same time.

  • A greenish/brown discharge may suggest a placenta has separated. If you see this, a puppy should be born within the next 2-4 hours. (If it isn’t then contact your vet, as there may be a complication with your dog giving birth.)

Stage three: : your dog delivers the placentas

  • The placentas should pass after each puppy has been born.

  • Try to check how many placentas have been 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 and mom may pant and shiver – this is all perfectly normal, so don’t worry.

What to do I do after labor and delivery?

When you are sure that labor has finished, and that everyone is healthy and happy, get mom something to eat and drink. Give your dog the normal puppy food they have had throughout pregnancy, as they’ll need something that’s gentle on their stomach.

Try to help your dog go outside for fresh air and to go potty – this might be tough to do straight away. Remove and replace anything that has been soiled during delivery, and then give the new family some quiet, quality time together.

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