Signs Dog In Labor

6 Signs of a Dog in Labor

Dr. Sam Kent

Feb 3, 2023

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Do you have a pregnant dog? Do you know how to tell when she goes into labor? Gestation in dogs lasts 63 days. If your dog is expecting a litter of puppies, you need to know how to recognize the signs of labor in dogs.

Read through the article below to learn more about the six most common signs of labor in dogs. By keeping this information in mind, you’ll be able to tell when it’s time for your dog to give birth to her puppies, and you’ll know when you need to become more active in helping her through her labor, too.

Signs to Look Out For if Your Dog is in Labor 

Listed below are the 6 signs of a dog in labor:

1. Temperature Drop

A dog’s normal body temperature stays around 101 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. During labor, however, it is normal for a dog’s temperature to drop to 98 or 99 degrees Fahrenheit instead. This typically happens about 24 hours before the actual labor begins and can be a great indicator that you have puppies on the way.

This temperature drop happens when your dog’s progesterone levels suddenly lower. It may only last for a few hours in some instances, so twice-daily monitoring of her body temperature can help alert you to the impending birth. Ask your veterinarian to show you how.

2. Nesting

Nesting behaviors can happen any time during a dog’s pregnancy. However, they are a lot more common during the last few days leading up to labor. If you notice your dog trying to build her “nest” or collecting items from around the home to take to her favorite spot, upcoming labor could be the reason. You may want to make a whelping box to provide a safe and clean area for your dog to deliver.

Nesting may also occur when a dog is in heat. Some dogs, even when they have been spayed, continue to practice nesting habits throughout their lives as well. Nesting on its own does not indicate labor, but with other signs on this list, it can help you determine the start of your dog’s labor.

3. Refusal of Food and Vomiting 

By itself, upset stomach is not necessarily a sign of labor beginning in your dog. However, when you see it in conjunction with other items on this list, or when it occurs around her due date, it can let you know the puppies are coming soon.

Many dogs will vomit during labor, and may also have diarrhea. Make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh drinking water to prevent her from becoming dehydrated during this crucial part of her pregnancy and delivery.

4. Licking the Genitals

Excessive licking of the genitals near her due date is a good sign that your dog is going into labor. However, if you are unsure whether or not your dog is pregnant, excessive genital licking may indicate a health problem instead. Consider your dog’s overall health and wellness, as well as her expected due date, to figure out if this is a sign of labor or not.

Along with genital licking, your dog may also excessively lick her nipples in preparation for giving birth. Both behaviors are completely normal in the context of canine labor and are nothing to worry about.

5. Nipple Enlargement and a Hardened Abdomen 

As your dog reaches her due date, her nipples will enlarge as her milk comes in. When you notice your dog’s mammary glands growing larger, this means she is about to go into labor within the next few days, in most instances.

At the same time, you may notice your dog’s abdomen feeling much firmer and harder to the touch than it has previously. Both a firm abdomen and enlarged nipples together mean labor is just around the corner, and you should be expecting puppies any day.

6. Behavioral Changes

Finally, your dog will undergo behavioral changes during labor. It is normal for your dog to become restless and anxious or irritable and defensive, and she may want to run off and hide while she gives birth to her puppies. Alternately, some dogs become especially clingy and want to be near their owners constantly when labor is near, instead.

Either way, you can help your dog stay calmer during labor by providing her with a birthing space. Set up a private, quiet part of your home for your dog to use for giving birth.  Try to have your dog accustomed to the whelping box prior to labor. She will feel much more comfortable, and she and the puppies will all be safer in this area, as well.

Prepare for Your Dog’s Labor

Labor typically goes smoothly for dogs, but it’s necessary to be ready for just about anything when helping your dog through labor, too. Be sure to talk with your vet in the weeks leading up to your dog’s labor to find out what to expect during labor and in the weeks after.

At 30 days of pregnancy bring your dog to the veterinarian for a wellness check up and to possibly confirm the pregnancy with an ultrasound or blood test. Mineralization of the fetal skeleton takes place around day 45 and thereafter can be seen on radiographs. Taking x-rays to determine how many puppies to expect can help you know when she is finished delivering.

Call VEG if Your Dog is Having Difficulty with Labor

If you notice signs of labor in your dog, it’s time to get involved. If you’ve had experience with helping dogs deliver puppies before, you should be able to handle the process yourself. If not, however, you may want to take your pet to the vet or contact your vet for advice throughout the experience.

Signs that may indicate concern:

  • No puppy within 30 minutes of green discharge
  • 30 to 60 minutes of strong contractions occur with no puppy being produced
  • More than 4 hours pass between pups and you know there are more inside.
  • She fails to go into labor within 24 hours of her temperature drop
  • She is obviously in extreme pain
  • Puppies are stillborn or alive but they seem too weak
  • Greater than 70 days of gestation have passed

At all of our VEG locations, we have teams of compassionate, experienced emergency veterinarians and staff who are dedicated to helping your pet in any situation. If your dog is in labor or having difficulty with this, bring her to any of our locations. We’re available 24/7 to make sure your pet receives the proper care she needs.