My Pregnant Dog Is Shaking
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If your pregnant dog is shaking, it is common to think of the possibility she is going into labor. How far along the dog is into her pregnancy will determine whether this is a joyful occasion or a serious cause for concern. A dog's pregnancy will last an average of around 9 weeks, although this will vary according to certain factors such as size. Shaking during pregnancy can be one of the signs a dog is about to go into labor, but it will depend on the context and the type of shaking the dog exhibits. In other cases, it is possible the dog shaking is a pregnancy complication.
At AnimalWised, we find out why my pregnant dog is shaking. We help determine whether she is in labor or whether her pregnancy and overall health is at risk.
How long is a dog's pregnancy?
If we do not know when our dog has mated, it can be difficult to determine when they are expected to go into labor. Dogs will get stuck together when mating to better ensure fertilization. This is known as the dogs becoming ‘tied’ and it can last for around 5-15 minutes. It can be even longer in some cases.
For intact female dogs that do not have regular contact with unsterilized males, mating is unlikely. However, if we keep a dog outside or we lose contact with them for a while when out walking, it is possible they have mated without us knowing. Of course, if we have intentionally bred the dog, we should have a better idea of a possible dog pregnancy.
Dogs are pregnant for around 9 weeks, a gestation which is much faster than a human pregnancy. Larger dogs tend to gestate for longer, although this may only be as little as a few days. They will start showing behavioral and physical signs of pregnancy afer around the first month, i.e. the halfway mark.
If you think your dog may be pregnant, you will need to take them to a veterinarian. They will confirm the pregnancy and also help prepare for the arrival. This is very important since some dogs will need additional support during different stages of the pregnancy. This is the case with breeds such as the French Bulldog which usually require a cesarean section for birth.
Learn more about what to expect in a dog's pregnancy with our guide on what to feed a pregnant dog.
How to tell if a dog is pregnant
If you think your dog has mated successfully, you will need to observe them for signs of pregnancy. These will include physical changes such as the following:
- Enlarged breasts: swelling is normal after a few weeks, although it may be hard to tell at first.
- Pink nipples: it will depend on the dog's coloration, but dog nipples often become more pink during pregnancy.
- Vaginal discharge: whether clear or light pink, this fluid is part of the dog's protection from pathogens.
Generally speaking, a dog won't change dramatically when they are pregnant until closer to the time of labor. They will still be able to exercise and interact with other members of the family. However, certain behavioral changes occur closer to the time of delivery. They include:
- Diet: the dog will eat normally at the beginning of the pregnancy, but she will likely eat more after a few weeks. This is both to provide for the fetuses, as well as to prepare herself for delivery. About 48 hours before labor, she will likely stop eating altogether.
- Security: since pregnancy can make them feel vulnerable, it is common for a pregnant dog to stay closer to their guardians. They may seek out more affection and comfort, especially when they are closer to labor. However, this will depend on the individual and other dogs may distance themselves more.
- Energy: especially closer to delivery, it is common for pregnant dogs to become lethargic and expend less energy. We should still offer opportunities to exercise a pregnant dog, but we should not push them or take them out for overly long walks.
As you can see, shaking is not a sign of pregnancy in dogs. Once the fetuses have become sufficiently large, the dog may change her gait and she won't be able to move as before. This may mean she trembles a little when getting up or has some sort of difficulty in doing so. We may also be able to see some movement of the fetuses inside the dog's abdomen. This is not the same as trembling and shaking abnormally.
Reasons why a pregnant dog is shaking
Caring for a pregnant dog will require us to be observant of any physical or behavioral changes. Such changes will be as a result of one of two possibilities. Either the dog is about to go into labor or there are complications in the dog's pregnancy.
A dog's pregnancy will last around 63 days, with some variation either side depending on certain factors. One of the key signs a dog is about to go into labor is something known as nesting. This is when the dog looks for a comfortable and safe space in which she can deliver her pups. This will happen about 48 hours before birth during which time she will also stop eating.
If your dog has started nesting at the appropriate time for her to go into labor and starts shaking, it is likely a sign she is about to give birth. This can be both a physiological and a psychological reaction. Especially if it is her first labor, she may be a little confused about the process and be understandably nervous. Also, the physical delivery of birth will require pushing and strain which can mean the dog shakes.
Complications in a dog's pregnancy are more difficult to determine, although they will be obvious once sufficiently progressed. Some of these dog pregnancy complications can include:
- Pre-eclampsia: eclampsia and pre-eclampsia are disorders which relate to the amount of calcium in the mother's blood. Pregnancy puts more strain on the dog's calcium reserves, so when she is running low it can have a very detrimental effect on the dog. We can know this because her blood pressure will raise significantly and she will manifest physical signs such as shaking. It is very serious and needs immediate attention.
- Dystocia: another reason your pregnant dog is shaking may be obstructed labor, also known as dystocia. This is a very serious problem where the newborn is stuck somewhere between the uterus and the vagina. It can be due to morphological issues or simply the puppy being twisted in the birth canal.
- Infection: if they have a systemic disease such as an infection, it is possible the pregnant dog will start shaking. This could be due to their already vulnerable organism being overloaded trying to fight the pathogens. If it has reached the stage they are shaking due to fever, it means the infection has progressed significantly.
- Trauma: if a pregnant dog has experienced physical trauma, it can damage the amniotic sac, uterus or other reproductive tissues. In these cases, the dog may be shaking as a result and further complications are likely.
- Diabetes: another potential complication of a dog's pregnancy is diabetes, even if they have not been diagnosed with the problem before. When the dog's blood-glucose levels are low, they can go into shock and they may start shaking.
A pregnant dog can suffer from the same health problems a non-pregnant dog may experience. Although they may not be directly related to the pregnancy, they will have repercussions which affect the puppies. Other issues may be more directly pregnancy related.
What to do if my pregnant dog is shaking
If you see your pregnant dog is shaking abnormally and for a prolonged period of time, it is vital you contact a veterinarian. If the dog has entered labor already, it is best if you do not move them. Phone an emergency veterinary clinic and explain the situation. They may be able to guide you through the problem, send someone out to help or explain what to do in an emergency situation.
For dogs that are not about to go into labor, you may be able to take them to the veterinary clinic directly. Regardless, a pregnant dog shaking is a serious situation which requires the expertise of a professional. They will need to be stabilized by the veterinarian before the problem can be diagnosed.
Shaking is not the only potential sign of dog labor complications. Learn about another potential issue with our article on why a pregnant dog is panting, but not pushing.
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