When you find out your dog is pregnant, it can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking time. We know how complicated human pregnancy can become, so we assume that pregnancy and labor for dogs is just as complicated.
If you’re starting to get nervous about your dog giving birth, we have good news for you…98% of dogs give birth by themselves with zero complications.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for the birth. Dogs give very clear signs that they are soon going into labor. It’s important to watch for these signs so you don’t leave your dog alone during the birthing process.
Here’s a quick list of the signs a dog is going into labor soon.
- Drop in Body Temperature
- Loss of Appetite
- Mammary Gland Enlargement
- Hardened Abdomen
Canine pregnancy typically lasts 56-69 days. You should begin looking for signs of labor around day 49 (7 weeks).
The Top Signs Your Dog Will Soon Go Into Labor
There are three stages to canine labor. This article is all about the first stage, which involves the body getting ready to give birth.
Below are the common signs of the first stage. These signs indicate that real labor is about to start within 24-48 hours.
Yes, dogs nest just like humans. They do this for two reasons.
- Survival Instinct – Dogs out in the wild know that they’ll be “easy prey” during the birthing process, so they need to find a quiet, secluded place where they can safely give birth.
- Maternal Instinct – Giving birth in a dirty area puts her puppies at risk, so she’ll begin cleaning the secluded are.
Because of these instincts, you’ll notice that she begins looking for a quiet place in the house. She’ll likely bring her bed with her and start scratching at her bed in an attempt to clean the surface. She will do this about 24-48 hours before labor starts.
You may also notice she changes nesting locations throughout labor. Don’t try to stop her, let her instincts take over and let her lead the way. It’s ok to help her move wherever she wants, but don’t try to force her into the location you desire. She will choose the place she feels the safest in, if you try to force a different location on her, it will add to her stress levels.
Body Temperature Drops Below 100
Dogs run much hotter than humans, with an average body temperature is 101.3. When the body temperature drops below 100, that’s one of the most accurate indications that a dog is about to go into labor within the next 24 hours. In fact, 85% of dogs give birth within 24 hours after their body temperature drops below 100 degrees. You should begin checking your dog’s body temperature using a rectal thermometer every day starting at the 50 day mark (7 weeks).
Refuse To Eat
Many dogs don’t want to eat before going into labor. Don’t try to force her to eat, she knows what she’s doing. Be sure to give her plenty of water during this time. She should have a water bowl next to her at all times, that way she doesn’t have to continually get and walk over to her bowl while in labor.
This goes back to the first survival instinct we discussed above. Momma is trying to seclude herself in order to be safe while giving birth. It’s an exciting time when your dog is about to have puppies, but don’t call all your friends over to watch. This will cause her to feel unsafe and raise stress levels.
On the other hand, some dogs become clingy when they’re about to go into labor. Again, this is a survival instinct. She wants someone she trusts near her to protect her while she gives birth. If you notice your dog is becoming clingy and won’t leave your side, it’s likely she’s about to give birth and wants to make sure you’re there. Try to cancel any plans you have within the next 24-48 hours so you can stick by her side when the time comes.
It’s no surprise that her hormones are going crazy when getting ready to go into labor. Nausea can be a result of these hormonal swings. If you notice your dog vomiting during labor, clean it up as soon as possible, and then provide her with plenty of water. The last thing you want is for her to become dehydrated when giving birth.
Although dogs might not be in as much pain as humans during birth, it’s still a painful process. Dogs handle pain in various ways, sometimes they’ll shake/shiver. If you notice your dog is shaking, be sure to pet her softly and try to calm her down.
Enlargement of the Mammary Glands
A few days before she goes into labor, her mammary glands will begin to enlarge. Her body is getting ready to feed her new puppies.
Contractions in female dogs typically start about 48-72 hours before she delivers her puppies. Keep on eye on her stomach. If it feels harder than usual, that means she is having contractions and her body is getting ready to deliver.
Constant Licking of Genital Area
As dirty as we think dogs are, they actually do an excellent job of keeping themselves clean. When your dog is getting ready to give birth, fluid begins to come out of the genital area. Momma will constantly be licking down there to stay clean. So if you see her licking down there more than usual, that’s a sign that labor is right around the corner.
Should You Help With The Labor Process?
One of the main questions we are asked when people notice their dog is about to go into labor is whether or not they should help. It’s normal to want to jump in and help, she’s your dog and you hate seeing her in pain! However, sometimes, when we try to help, we end up doing things that cause more stress and frustration for her.
Below we will talk about a few things you shouldn’t do when your dog is going into labor, followed by a few things you should do.
What you SHOULDN’T Do
Don’t Force Her to a Specific Area
Birth can get messy, and because of that, you might prefer your dog to give birth in an area that’s easy for you to clean. Maybe one you’ve already prepared with newspaper on the ground. It’s ok to encourage her to give birth in that location by moving her bed, water bowl, and other belongings near the area, but if she decides she wants to change locations, don’t stop her. Remember, she’s looking for a place where she feels safe.
Don’t Leave Her Alone
When you know labor is close (you should know based on the signs given earlier), don’t leave her alone. Make sure at least one person is home with her at all times. Most births go smoothly, but you want to be there just in case something goes wrong.
Don’t Let Strangers Watch
Sure, it’s an exciting time. You might be tempted to call your best friend and tell them to come watch the puppies being born. That’s the last thing your dog wants. Remember, momma’s primary focus is on protecting herself during birth and protecting the puppies after birth. If strangers are gathering around while she gives birth, this will make her feel very uneasy.
What You SHOULD Do
The list of what you should do is straightforward. The truth is, when she goes into labor, instinct will take over. There’s really no need for you to get involved. Still, there are some things you can do to make her more comfortable during the process
Be By Her Side
If you notice your dog becomes clingy when she’s about to give birth, you must stick to her side the whole time. Not only will you be there to make sure everything goes smoothly, but you’ll be able to keep her calm during the process.
Isolate Her if She Wants to Be Isolated
If you have other dogs or animals in the house and it seems like your dog is getting annoyed with these other animals, keep them away from her a few days before she gives birth. You can accomplish this by either keeping the other dogs outside or putting a doggy gate up to separate the animals.
Observe The Birth
When the puppies are being delivered, your only job is to observe to make sure everything is going smoothly. Here are a few things to watch for.
- Your vet should have already told you how many puppies she will be giving birth to. Count each puppy as they come out to make sure she gives birth to all of them.
- Momma will be in pain, but if it seems excessive and the puppies aren’t coming out, call the vet.
- Make sure momma does her job. When the puppy is born, it will still be in the sack. The mother will break apart the sac and bite off the cord.
As you can tell, your job is fairly straightforward. Chances are good you won’t have to do anything except enjoy the moment and pet your dog to keep her calm.
Remember, the vet is always just a phone call away. If you suspect something might be wrong but aren’t sure, it’s always best to give your vet a call.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.