Pregnancy problems

What Is the Longest Time Between Puppies Being Born?

Matthew Nesbitt
By Matthew Nesbitt, Journalist specialized in animal research. April 2, 2023
What Is the Longest Time Between Puppies Being Born?

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The time which elapses between each puppy's birth will depend on various factors, including breed and the mother dog's health. Generally speaking, the longest time between puppies is around two hours, even if it is possible for a healthy puppy to be born after this time. The average litter contains around 5-6 individual puppies, but the time between each delivery can vary during the same whelping. One may be born only a few seconds after another, but the next in line can take much longer.

At AnimalWised, we ask what is the longest time between puppies being born? We discover the whelping timeline to know whether our dog's labor is proceeding normally or when we should consider calling the veterinarian.

You may also be interested in: Why Do Dogs Eat Their Puppies?
  1. Is my dog going into labor?
  2. Whelping timeline
  3. How long does it take for each puppy to be born?
  4. Causes of stalled labor in dogs
  5. What to do with stalled labor in dogs
  6. Treatment of stalled labor in dogs
  7. Is my dog done having puppies?

Is my dog going into labor?

Before we find out the longest time between puppies being born, we need to know a little about canine pregnancy. If you have a sexually intact female dog, you will need to consider the possibility they will become pregnant. Whether they live with male dogs or they encounter them while out walking, females are receptive to mating when they enter their heat cycle. If copulation takes place, we will need to confirm pregnancy with our veterinarian.

Once we know our dog is pregnant, we will need to prepare for their labor. Labor is known as whelping in dogs. With a gestation period of between 58 to 68 days, we should prepare for whelping when this time approaches. To be ready to care for our dog during this time, we need to look out for the signs of labor in dogs. They include:

  • Nesting: the mother dog will look for somewhere safe, clean and warm to give birth. This is known as nesting and we can help by providing access to somewhere suitable, as well as blankets or other comforts. We should not interfere too much, otherwise it can cause the dog stress. This will usually occur a few days before she gives birth.

  • Stop eating: while she should still eat while she is pregnant, the dog may stop eating in the 24 hours before delivery.

  • Lower body temperature: just as she is about to give birth, the mother dog's body temperature decreases.

  • Mucus plug: before whelping, the dog will discharge a yellowish-white substance from her vagina known as the mucus plug. This needs to be removed for the puppies to be birthed. After the mucus plug is ejected, the puppies can be born between 30 minutes to 12 hours later.

  • Genital licking: the dog will keep licking her privates to ensure it is clean and to relieve any frustration she may feel.

During the entire pregnancy and whelping, we need to be observant for any signs of complications. If we see our dog starts to go into labor early, they have bloody discharge or even lose consciousness, we need to contact a veterinarian immediately.

Whelping timeline

Taking the above into context, we can establish a basic whelping timeline for when a dog goes into labor. There are three basic stages of whelping in dogs during which different actions take place. They are the following:

  • Stage 1: in the 48 hours before whelping, the dog will start nesting and create a safe space for herself to deliver. She will likely refuse food and move very little. During the 24 hours before delivery, the dog's body temperature drops. She is lining up her puppies for birth. Some clear vaginal discharge may be observed.

  • Stage 2: this is the actual birthing of the puppies. Begins with the dog starting contractions. Puppies will start to be born 1-2 hours after contractions begin. When each puppy is born, they will be inside an amniotic membrane which is opened by the mother.

  • Stage 3: after each puppy is born, the mother will delivery their placenta, one for each puppy. The mother will then eat this placenta and tend to her newborns by licking them.

Although there are three stages of whelping, the period between each puppy can vary considerably. Some may be born immediately after, others can take much longer. We look into this in more detail to find out the longest time between puppies being born.

What Is the Longest Time Between Puppies Being Born? - Whelping timeline

How long does it take for each puppy to be born?

Once we know labor is approaching, we should observe the dog, but not interfere unless necessary. A mother will feel vulnerable when she is giving birth, so picking up the newborn dogs or crowding her while she is birthing can cause her to feel insecure. Although we can look out for complications, if the labor is proceeding normally, we can let her care for the newborns.

From around 30 minutes after the mucus plug is ejected, the dog will start to birth her puppies. The length of time between each puppy being born is affected by the size of the dog. Smaller dogs such as the Chihuahua will give birth to smaller litters with around 15-20 minutes between each delivery. Large dogs such as the Great Dane will have larger litters with a longer duration of about 45-60 minutes between deliveries.

The longest time between puppies being born is around 2 hours. It is possible for a dog to have a longer gap between deliveries, but if a dog is still in labor after 3 hours, it means there is likely a complication. Since size is a factor, it is generally more concerning if a smaller dog has longer gaps between deliveries.

Causes of stalled labor in dogs

If we are concerned about a dog's whelping not going well, we need to be aware there are potential complications. These can cause the dog to have a prolonged period between each puppy delivery. It can also cause stillbirth and even put the mother dog's life in jeopardy. This could be due to the following reasons:

  • Obstructed labor (dystocia): one of the most serious complications of dog pregnancy is obstructed labor. This can occur when the puppy is very large, but it is also possible a health problem is causing the puppy to not be born. Difficulty in labor is known as dystocia. We can see the dog has contractions and is trying to give birth, but is unable to do so. They can experience severe discomfort during this process.

  • Tiredness and weakness: another reason for a long duration between delivery is tiredness. If the litter is particularly large, the mother may need to build strength before she can have more contractions. The causes of this tiredness may be normal and she will soon regain strength to deliver the next puppy. However, weak contractions can be due to hormonal imbalances, infections or other health issues which require veterinary attention. When the contractions are too weak to birth the pup, it is known as uterine inertia.

  • Malformations: if the fetus develops with malformations, it can affect whelping. When the puppy has a malformation such as hydrocephalus, their enlarged head means they can become stuck in the birthing canal.

  • General health: the mother's dog's weight and general health are possible contributing factors to dystocia. If they have a systemic disease at the time of whelping, it can cause the dog to have complications, even being too weak to push. Obesity, diabetes and other health concerns can negatively affect pregnancy.

  • Breed: many dog breeds have morphological traits which can make birthing difficult. This is particularly seen in brachycephalic dog breeds such as the French Bulldog and Boston Terrier. In many cases, the veterinarian will schedule a cesarean section for the dog to avoid complications.

What to do with stalled labor in dogs

If the dog's normal whelping timeline has been changed, it is important to take action. Stalled labor can threaten the lives of mother and puppies. If 2-3 hours have passed and the dog is still in labor, speaking to a veterinarian can help determine if there is a problem. They may require you to take the dog to a clinic or they might be able to make a home visit in an emergency.

We need to look out for other clinical signs if much time has elapsed between puppies. Although it is normal for a dog to be tired during labor, it is not normal for them to lose consciousness, bleed excessively or show acute signs of pain. These can help us to see why complications are occurring, but we will need to let the veterinarian confirm a diagnosis.

Treatment of stalled labor in dogs

When the dog has stalled labor for whatever reason, the main focus will be to try to deliver the puppies safely. Any underlying health problem will need specific treatment, but the following are the most common ways to help a dog deliver:

  • Manual manipulation: if the puppy is not being born due to obstructed labor, it may be possible for a veterinarian to manually remove the obstruction. We should only let a qualified veterinarian do this since they will be able to do it safely and hygienically.

  • Drugs: some medications may be used to help induce labor. These can work by stimulating contractions and allow the dog to birth the puppy normally. Drugs like oxytocin can help stimulate uterine contractions for delivery.

  • Cesarean section: in some cases, it may be necessary for the dog to have a C-section. This is when an incision is made in the abdomen and the puppies are removed directly from the uterus.

In cases where the mother's life is at risk, it is possible the veterinarian may carry out an ovariohysterectomy, a procedure known as spaying in dogs. This will likely result in the death of the puppies. It is only carried out in emergency situations.

Taking the dog to a veterinary clinic is important. The veterinarian will be able to provide supportive therapies such as fluid IV treatment to keep the dog hydrated and improve chances of delivery. They will also be able to make the decision whether surgical or other types of intervention are required to complete whelping.

If a dog has complications and the whelping has not gone well, it is common for the veterinarian to recommend spaying at some stage. Learn more with our article on complications after spaying or neutering a dog.

What Is the Longest Time Between Puppies Being Born? - Treatment of stalled labor in dogs

Is my dog done having puppies?

One of the reasons we may want to know the longest time between puppies is to determine if the dog is done giving birth. If the right time has elapsed after the last puppy to be birthed, it should be fairly obvious that the whelping is over. The mother dog may be very tired, but she will attend to her newborn puppies as necessary and begin feeding almost immediately.

We can tell if the mother dog is done giving birth by palpating her lower abdomen where the uterus is located. We should be able to feel the presence of any remaining puppies, although this is more or less difficult depending on the dog's morphology. If you feel a hard presence which may seem like a puppy, wait a minute and palpate again. If the hardness is due to tensed muscle, you will be able to feel the area relax.

If the mother dog appears to still be in labor, but more than 2-3 hours have passed since the last birth, we need to take the steps detailed above. Contact the veterinarian and they can help determine if whelping is finished.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to What Is the Longest Time Between Puppies Being Born?, we recommend you visit our Pregnancy problems category.

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What Is the Longest Time Between Puppies Being Born?