Recognizing signs a dog is going into labor soon is important. Your dog has three stages of labor in dogs with specific signs that help you know when your dog is in labor.
A dog’s gestation period—the length of time your dog is pregnant—is 63 days. Be aware, however, that it is not the breeding date that determines the 63 days. It is whenever the female dog ovulates, which can be several days away from the breeding date, making it difficult to pinpoint an exact due date.
When your dog is getting close to her approximate due date, start taking her temperature with a rectal thermometer every day, at the same time every day. Normal temperature in dogs is 101 to 102 degrees. At about 24 hours before she goes into labor, her temperature will drop below 100 degrees. This is the best way to know it’s time to get ready for the big event!
Stage One Labor: This is when your dog’s uterine contractions are starting, even though you can’t see them. The mom will show signs of restlessness, panting, trembling, digging like trying to make a nest, lack of appetite, and maybe even vomiting. Be patient and supportive. This stage of labor can last a long time—up to 12 hours.
Stage Two Labor: This is when a puppy comes out. You will see the mom actively pushing, and there will be some clear discharge from the vulva. Active contractions/pushing usually only lasts about 30 minutes or so before a puppy is expelled.
Stage Three Labor: This is when the mom pushes the puppy’s placenta out. It could take 15 minutes after the puppy is born for the placenta to come out. Each puppy has its own placenta, so expect one per pup.
Your dog will alternate between Stages Two and Three until all the puppies are born. Sometimes the mom will rest between puppies. This rest period can last up to four hours between pups, so relax and try to stay calm.
Signs that your dog may be in trouble, and you should seek veterinary intervention include:
- Active contractions lasting longer than 30 minutes with no puppy
- More than four hours between pups
- The mom appears to be in worsening pain with no pups coming
Believe it or not, most of the time everything goes just fine. Try to relax and enjoy this wonderful experience but stay alert and don’t hesitate to seek help if things aren’t going according to plan.