Is my Dog about to Give Birth? Symptoms of Labor

Is my Dog about to Give Birth? Symptoms of Labor

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!

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.

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.

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.