Within 24 hours of the impending birth, your dogs body temperature will drop from above 100 degrees Fahrenheit to below. So, during what should be the last week or two of her pregnancy, take her temperature daily to help you predict the onset of labor. When labor finally begins, her cervix will dilate and contractions will begin. While she cant tell you herself that its time, her actions do all the talking for her — shell be restless and may pace or shiver. She may pant heavily or whimper, as the contractions are painful. When all of this happens, you know shes about to give birth.
About the Author Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with “The Pitt News” and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
When your dog goes into labor, she doesnt exhibit the traditional symptom of “water breaking” that a human does — she will, however, show other symptoms indicating its time to whelp. By paying attention to your dogs behavior during the last two weeks or so of her pregnancy, you can determine when labor is about to begin, and when it finally does.
The first stage of labor can last 24 hours, and can go totally unnoticed. Do NOT give calcium during this stage of dilating. Calcium can only be given when contractions are a minute apart, and she is constantly pushing.
The second stage usually begins with a rather clear or mucous-like discharge from the vulva. In the second stage of labor contractions should start. There will be more discharge, and the presentation of a round, golf-ball size membrane sac of water. This sac is still the 2nd stage of labor and dilating. Do not give calcium. She is not ready to push. This is usually just the horn sac. Pup can follow in 20 minutes to a few hours. Some vets recommend not letting her puncture this sac. This is the protective sac that the puppies are in. But do not fret if she pops it. This is Her water breaking. After presentation of this sac, the puppy could be out in about 30 minutes, but it can take a couple of hours. If the dam continues to strain hard for longer than 45 minutes on a single puppy, it is wise to call your vet. (Remember there should never be time limits, as every situation is different.) It is always best to call your vet and do what he/she recommends.
The normal rectal temperature of a dog is 99.5° to 102.5°F. The normal temperature of a puppy at birth is 96-97°F. The temperature gradually increases with age until it is 100°F at 4 weeks of age.
If two of these sacs present themselves at the same time (especially if they are different colors), call your vet. This could mean that two puppies are trying to come out at the same time, another medical alert requiring professional help.
What does a normal labour in dogs look like? In the first stage of labour the body is getting ready to start passing out puppies. Your dog’s uterus will be causing some discomfort by contracting although you won’t be able to see it. The first stage usually lasts for 6-12 hours. Your dog may be seen to be restless, panting, shivering, pacing, nesting and wanting to go to a quiet area. Some dogs do not show any behavioural changes in the first stage. The second stage of labour is the fun part – giving birth to puppies! It usually lasts 3 to 12 hours. In this stage abdominal contractions can be seen. Your dog’s waters may break, which will be seen as clear fluid. In normal labour, your dog may show weak and infrequent straining for up to 2 hours (or at the most 4 hours) before giving birth to her first puppy. Normally the mother will break the membrane that still covers the puppy, lick the puppy all over and chew through the umbilical cord. Sometimes the mother might need help to open the membranes so that the puppy can breathe. The next puppies are usually delivered every 30 to 60 minutes, although up to 3 hours between puppies can be normal. A green-black discharge is normal once the first puppy has been delivered. The third stage of labour involves passing of the placentas. This often occurs during the second stage, with each puppy’s placenta usually passing out within 15 minutes of each puppy being delivered. It is important to allow your dog to give birth to her puppies in a quiet area without being stressed by her surroundings. You should be observing your dog enough to know that she is safe and that her labour appears normal, without adding to her stress, as this may cause her labour to stop.
The ideal treatment for difficulties in birth differs depending on why your dog is unable to deliver all her puppies normally. Examination of the patient, blood tests, ultrasound and x-rays can be used to help determine what is the best course of action for the individual patient. In some situations, giving medications to help labour along may be enough to allow your dog to continue to deliver puppies. Sometimes a puppy that is stuck in the birth canal can be removed to allow labour to continue normally. In other situations, we are risking the safety of both the mum and the puppies if we even attempt treatment medically, and a Caesarian Section surgery is required. In certain circumstances it may be safe to see if medical treatment is enough to labour to continue normally, and if this is not effective to then perform a Caesarian surgery. If you do need to take your dog to see a vet, bring any puppies that have been born along too, and make sure they are kept really nice and warm as they are not able to regulate their own body heat properly as newborns.
Dr Caroline Romeo has been with AREC since 2014. Her interests include diagnostic imaging, and she has done extended study in both ultrasound and radiology. We love her gentle and thorough approach to animal care. Below she guides us through the things to be aware of when dogs are in labour.
Although giving birth is a natural process, it is common for dogs to have problems with labour. It is helpful for dog owners to know what is considered to be a normal birthing process in dogs, as well as some guidelines regarding when veterinary assistance may be required. Of course these are guidelines only, and if you have any concerns about your dog during her labour then please contact a vet. If your dog is experiencing problems giving birth, it is safest for mum and her puppies to seek veterinary assistance as soon as possible.
There are many reasons why problems can occur in the birthing process. These include a uterus that is not contracting enough to be able to pass puppies out, and puppies that are too big to pass out of the mother’s pelvis. Problems may occur after the first few puppies have been delivered, with more still requiring to come. If your dog is having problems with labour, or you are uncertain whether things are progressing normally, it is important to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.
What does it look like when my dog’s water breaks?
How long after a dog’s water breaks do puppies come?
What happens when a dog’s water breaks?