Is my Dog about to Give Birth? Symptoms of Labor

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: November 14, 2019
Is my Dog about to Give Birth? Symptoms of Labor

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As long as you take a responsible attitude towards the mother and her puppies, to witness the birth of a litter at home is an amazing and very formative event. However, before your dog gives birth to puppies, it is essential that you learn about pregnancy in dogs and the necessary care you must provide during this period.

It's also extremely important to know about the symptoms of labor in dogs so that you can recognize signs of dog labor and address them correctly. Nesting behavior is usually the main sign, but there are other ways to if a dog is going into labor. Are you wondering whether your dog is about to give birth? Keep reading here at AnimalWised to find out!

You may also be interested in: My Dog is Aggressive After Giving Birth
  1. How long are dogs pregnant?
  2. Signs of dog labor - dog ‘nesting’ and agitation
  3. Signs of dog labor - loss of appetite and lowered temperature
  4. Genital and uterine symptoms of dog labor
  5. Possible complications in dog labor

How long are dogs pregnant?

A dog's pregnancy lasts about 9 weeks. In fact, a dog can go into labor anytime during the ninth and final week of it’s pregnancy. But how do you know when a dog is in labor? Before labor, a dog will show clear signs that she is going to give birth. If your dog going to give birth at home, be alert during the ninth week and make sure she has everything everything she needs to comfortable give birth.

While a bitch instinctively knows that her body has all the resources necessary to undergo labor and deliver without intervention, it is still important that she knows that her human family is by her side. Pregnancy and labor can be stressful for your dog, so help her to know that you are there to help and support her. Keep reading to find out how to know if your dog is about to give birth.

If you want to know more about the different phases of dog pregnancy, take a look at our article on dog pregnancy - week by week.

Is my Dog about to Give Birth? Symptoms of Labor - How long are dogs pregnant?

Signs of dog labor - dog ‘nesting’ and agitation

The main sign that your dog is about to give birth is commonly referred to as ‘nesting’ behavior. This is the way a dog prepares a space for the arrival of her puppies. Your dog will start this nesting behavior a couple of days before labor, as nesting normally occurs in a dog’s final week of pregnancy. When you notice you dog is trying to make her ‘nest’, know that that she will give probably give birth in a few days.

Nesting is driven by hormones that let the dog know the puppies will soon be born. Therefore, she will look for a sheltered and comfortable space in which to give birth to her puppies. She may tear newspapers or rags to help make this space more comfortable. If she has her own bed and it is placed in a good location, the dog may choose this as her nesting location and for labor and delivery. You can also prepare a special bed or box for the dog's delivery, lining it with soft rags or newspapers yourself. If you are worried about where your dog might choose to give birth, introduce her to the whelping box or bed in the last few weeks, so that she knows this is a good place to give birth.

Another sign that your dog is near labor is that she will become more restless and agitated. You should not worry if she appears irritated, as this is a normal symptom in a dog that is about to give birth. A very obvious sign that your dog is going into labor is that she lays down in the prepared bed, but appears to be uncomfortable. A dog that is going into labor will move a lot and keep changing position, trying to find a comfortable position for delivery.

Signs of dog labor - loss of appetite and lowered temperature

Is your pregnant dog not eating? This is another common symptom of a dog that is going into labor. Loss of appetite in dogs, although not always, can sometimes occur when a dog is about to give birth. If your pregnant dog seems to lose her appetite before the final week, you should consult the vet to rule out any complications with the pregnancy.

Another important sign that a dog is going into labor, is a change in her body temperature. A dog that is close to labor may experience a slight decrease in body temperature. Under normal conditions dogs have a body temperature of about 38 °C (100.5 ºF), but approximately 12 hours before delivery it decreases to between 36 and 37 °C (96.5 to 98.5 ºF). If other signs such as nesting, restlessness or loss of appetite make you suspect that your dog is going to give birth, you can take her temperature to see if she may be close to labor.

Genital and uterine symptoms of dog labor

The most obvious and clear symptom of labor in dogs are manifested through the dog’s reproductive system. Before giving birth, your dog will secrete a mucous-like fluid that is yellowish-white color through her vulva[1]. This type of vaginal discharge signals the ejection of the plug which is protecting the entrance to a dog’s uterus. Once this expulsion has occurred, the first puppy can take between 30 minutes to 12 hours to be birthed. These birthing times will depend on each individual dog.

Nearing a puppy’s birth, the dog will constantly lick her genital area to keep it clean. She does this to clear the area allowing for a better better exit for the puppies, as well as to calm the inflammation and pain that she may feeling in this area.

Finally, another decisive symptom of dog labor are uterine contractions which allow for a puppy's exit. These uterine contractions in dogs are easy to observe. Pay attention to your dog's belly, and you should notice rhythmic movement. Your dog in labor may also show signs of pain or discomfort during the contractions, which is completely normal.

Possible complications in dog labor

There are complications that may occur during a dog's labor which will require urgent veterinary care. Some of the problems your dog might show during labor and delivery include:

  • Not going into labor after 9 weeks have passed
  • Extreme pain or discomfort
  • Trembling or shaking which can be a sign that the puppies are stuck in the birth canal
  • Difficulties cutting the umbilical cord removing the placental membrane
  • Damage to your dog’s uterus structure.

It is extremely important that during your dog’s labor period, that you have your veterinarian’s number at hand. If you notice any symptoms that may indicate that there might be a problem or complication during your dog's labor, contact the veterinarian immediately.

In addition, poor sanitary conditions after a dog gives birth may lead to mastitis or other labor-related infections and diseases. Therefore, once the puppies have been born, make sure to call your vet for advice on proper after-birth dog hygiene and for a thorough check-up.

For a more detailed explanation of the possible complications during dog labor, look at our article on complications in dog labor.

Is my Dog about to Give Birth? Symptoms of Labor - Possible complications in dog labor

If you want to read similar articles to Is my Dog about to Give Birth? Symptoms of Labor, we recommend you visit our Gestation category.

  1. Chandra, S., et al. (2012). Physiological Changes in Hematological Parameters During Pregnancy. Indian Journal Of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, 28(3), 144-146.
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My yorkie is pregnant this will be her 3rd litter her due date is around the 7th of may the last few days she has been really clinging today i let outside with the other 2 yorkies i have my pregnant girl didnt come back the other 2 yorkies did we found her under my front steps now she is in her bed could this be a sign she is in labor
My girl is a Boston terrier/mini pinch. I believe she is 57 days along. 64 days will be 4/10/22 approximately. She is so restless and The puppies are consistently moving. She won't rest long before she repositions. Its been several sleepless nights in a row now and i keep thinking it's time but nothing yet. I have little experience with female dogs. Can anyone throw some knowledge my way.
S Nicks
My German Shepherd is at 62 days, 2nd litter and restless I noticed around her pupils (normally white) are not red, is that ok? My local vet tells me not to worry, frustrated.
Joyce Hubbard
My grandson has a Rottie he brought I take care of her she is having puppies her 63days are up today can this breed to over 63days .I've had the pleasure to help with 10 births but not with Rottie .all of mine were little ones ..I'm not a breeder most of puppies just happen but I do have five generation and I always got them forever home. One momma was at a store my husband brought her home one week latera she gave birth to five beautiful babies .And there was a storm that up rooted tree all around our home .I'm so thankful she came across my husband and wouldn't get out of the front of our truck. I learn a lot on your web site .
Administrador AnimalWised
Thank you for sharing Joyce!
Katelyn Hawthorne
My lab was whelping anf whining yesterday night and now she is miserable like she wants is to be petted. I think she is close to giving birth and she is pacing and panting sometimes too. And got pregnant in like the middle of February. Hips are swollen. What should i do...?
Administrador AnimalWised

If they became pregnant in the middle of February, it is possible they are ready to give birth. Prepare a nest and ensure they are comfortable. Don't overcrowd them and observe for any issues (see article below). Call your veterinarian if there are any issues.
My Chihuahua is pregnant and I think she in her 8 week not sure but she hardly eats all she does is sleep and just lays there. I haven't seen her scratch her bed or looking for a a place but all she does is lay down and hardly eats. She grooms herself and then sleeps
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Rebecca,

Has she been showing any other signs?
Maria Rios
I think my dog is about to give birth what to do?
My dog is around 64 days pregnant! Her first litter and she will be 9 in November. I have never had a pregnant dog or one to go into lab or! Yesterday she played down alot. I just woke up to her on my bed but their is a very dark green discharge coming out of her vagina. It's on my bed. What is this? Is it normal? Someone please help!
Administrador AnimalWised

This article details some of the complications of dog labor:

However, you will need the services of a qualified veterinarian to confirm the problem.
Joanne Taylor
My girl is 8 weeks, Iv seen puppies move but when I was sorting her bed I seen there was dry discharge, can't be sure of colour bit there was a hit of pink in there. She's eating and no other problems. Could this be her mucus plug slowly coming away
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Joanna
Has this discharge stopped or is it still present?
I have a healer I just adopted that is expecting puppies the people I rescued her from said she is about 7 weeks along but I believe this is wrong. She is nesting off and on and has a poor apitite my vet is miles away what should I do if she starts labor early.
Administrador AnimalWised

Due to nesting behavior and increase in appetite, it does sound like your dog may be about to give birth. If she starts labor early, the best you might be able to do is let nature take its course. Even first time mothers should have the instinct to birth their puppies and begin caring for the immediately. The problem comes when there are complications. This article will be able to help you if these occur, at least until the vet can arrive:
I think my dogs in labor she's been nesting but now she's just laying there but no babies yet she just wants to be by my side .
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Lynn,

Good luck, let us know how it goes!
my pug is doing the same thing just wants to be near me she lost her plug about 4 days ago still waiting on pups she's at day 68
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Valerie,

If your Pug doesn't give birth soon, you should take them to the veterinarian in case there is a blockage. Good luck!
My girl is due any day now (Rottweiler)
She has been on and off food for a week and not drinking much either had small amounts of mucus for a few days! Her temperature been under a hubdred for 4 days and now looks like her belly dropped! No nesting yet though
My dog is close to having her puppies and rite now shes been walking and wont sit then she lays for a bit and gets up again and she has a runny nose would that be a symptom of going into labor?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Kristine,

A runny nose shouldn't be a symptom of going into labor. When a dog is ready to give birth, they generally start to go into nesting mode rather than walking around a lot, so you may have some more time before they give birth. However, we can't be sure and the dog would need a medical exam from a vet to look at all the symptoms in case there are any complications.
Shirley Burnett
Our chihuahua is pregnant with her first litter. Yesterday I picked her up by her dudes and she hollered. I'm worried sick that I hurt her and her puppies. My vet is out of office this week. She acts like she is ok but I'm worried. Did I hurt the puppies?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Shirley,

It is impossible for us to say whether you hurt the puppies. Without a proper scan, a veterinary professional will not be able to tell anything either. Even a scan will only be able to provide limited information. You will need to keep an eye out for signs of a miscarriage, but it will depend on the stage of the pregnancy. In early stages, the fetuses will likely be reabsorbed by the body. But, if you know that your Chihuahua is pregnant already, it's likely they are at a later stage.

We will say that your dog is probably more robust than you give her credit for, even if she is a small dog like a Chihuahua. You would have to have caused sufficient enough damage to hurt mother and/or puppies. It seems unlikely that simply picking her up would cause such damage. It is possible she hollered out of fear or for a variety of different reasons. Again, we cannot say. She will need a medical examination. If your vet is away and you are still concerned, then you should take them to a veterinary hospital.
my dog is near labour but her stomic is hard and she is just lying. i dont feel the baby
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Vicky,

Our articles are there to provide general information. Unfortunately, we cannot provide specific diagnoses, so if you are concerned, then you should seek veterinary assistance. Good luck and we wish the puppies all the best when they come!
She was bred three times in April after the 11th ,around the 15th and the 30th what do you think she due
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Nena,

The normal gestation period for pregnant canines is around 63 days. There is no way we could know the actual date of conception, so you'll have to bear in mind it could be 63 days from any of them. Also, this is not an exact number, it could be a little less or a little more.

Also, we should ask, do you have experience breeding dogs? If you do not, please go to your vet and speak to them about what you will need practically and what precautions you should take in bringing a new litter into the world.
Susan wallace
My dog is breathing hard and fast and i think she is about to have her babies but i am not for sure tho
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Is my Dog about to Give Birth? Symptoms of Labor