How To Know When Your Dog Is In Labor: What’s Normal and What’s Not

There are many things that you should be aware of if you’re thinking of breeding your dog. You should know your breed’s specific health requirements, as well as your own responsibilities in producing healthy puppies.

For both the dog and the owner, giving birth can be a stressful and confusing experience. Understanding necessary pregnancy, labor, and delivery care can help the process go more smoothly. It’s important to know what’s normal and when it’s time to consult a veterinarian.

If you ever find yourself in the position of having to oversee the delivery of a litter of puppies, here’s what you need to know to help. This article will help you understand how to know when your dog is in labor and what to do about it.

How to Know When Your Dog is in Labor

How To Know When Your Dog Is In Labor

Watch for these signs and symptoms:

Contractions And Shivering

Shivering typically signals that the female’s body temperature is increasing. Early contractions may cause her abdomen to tighten up or ripple at this point. Place your hands on each side of her abdomen when you see these signals. Her stomach will be firm during a contraction, but it’ll soften after the contraction.

Milk Production

Some dogs may start milk production before delivery. The first thing you’ll notice is that your dog’s breasts and nipples swell. You may then observe a few droplets of liquid leaking. This is a signal that the labor will most likely start soon. However, it isn’t a reliable predictor of how long it’ll take.


When your dog knows that delivery time is approaching, she may look anxious. You might notice her brows furrowing and her eyes watering. She could also cling to your side and refuse to allow you out of her sight if she suspects labor is about to start. Simply being present with love and encouragement when your dog is giving birth is one of the most effective ways to assist her.


During the final week of pregnancy, keeping a daily track of your dog’s rectal temperature might help you figure out when labor will start. The typical body temperature of a dog is 100 to 101 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it decreases to around 97 degrees Fahrenheit before the labor.

Other brief temperature dips may occur. However,watch for two consecutive measurements with a lower temperature. Labor might begin within 24 hours of this happening. This is the most reliable indication that your dog’s about to give birth.

Amniotic Sac Emerges

As the pup pushes its way out of the birth canal, you’ll notice a big, fluid-filled sack emerging from your dog. You can expect delivery in minutes, if not seconds, after this occurs. When the puppy is still in the sac after birth, the mother will chew it open with her teeth.

The fluid is subsequently released, and the mother cleans the pup’s face and stimulates it to start breathing. It’s normal for the dog to bleed a little at this stage.


Since dogs automatically search for a safe place to deliver their puppies, nesting behavior is another sign that labor may soon begin. You may assist the dog by providing a low-sided box with newspaper and/or blankets.

In preparation for whelping, your dog will rumple this bedding into a temporary nest. This behavior generally starts around a week before the due date, but your dog will begin nesting a day or two before the date.

Repeat Arrivals

Dogs give birth to litters rather than single puppies. However, there’s no way to know how many pups your dog will have. As a result, you must be on the lookout for any extra puppies when your dog is giving birth.

The entire birth process will repeat with each one, including the panting and pushing activity. Between deliveries, your dog may relax for a few minutes or even an hour, and you’ll know the next pup is close when she starts panting and pushing again.

Loss Of Appetite

Many dogs stop eating just 24-48 hours before giving birth. If the dog does eat, it’ll almost certainly vomit everything. As the puppies shift into a birthing position within your dog, pressure is applied to various internal organs, causing your dog to produce bowel movements in the 24 hours leading up to labor.

Read More: Can Dogs Have Nightmares? What To Do When Your Dog Has A Bad Dream

Signs Of Complications

Since your dog may experience problems while giving birth, you’ll need to keep an eye out for any of the following:

  • No puppy is born after more than 45 minutes of contractions. The puppy might be trapped in the birth canal or halfway out. In such cases, the mother won’t be able to push it out.
  • She doesn’t give birth, but her temperature drops below 100 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 24 hours.
  • Keep track of the gestation period, which is now 70 days long.
  • Look out for signs of severe discomfort.
  • It’s usual for dogs to produce a dark green or red fluid following the birth of their first puppy. However, if this occurs before the first puppy, consult a veterinarian.

How Do You Help?

Your dog will need your support during the entire birthing process. Here’s what you can do:

Make A Nest

Build a ‘nest’ within the last two weeks of your dog’s labor so that she can relax and give birth to the pups in peace. A big cardboard box filled with clean sheets, towels, and blankets is a perfect nest for giving birth. Ensure that the space is sufficient for both mother and the litter to fit comfortably inside, including some room for Mom to stretch out, if she wants to.

Have Backup

It’s a good idea to have some support on hand to keep your dog safe if anything goes wrong. Before your dog gives birth, get your vet’s after-hours contact number, as deliveries frequently happen at night.

If Mom has trouble delivering the pups, you’ll have to take them to the veterinarian, so make sure you have transportation. Have scissors and plenty of clean, dry towels on hand during the delivery if mom needs assistance. If the puppies are big, you may need an additional basket to provide enough space.

Know The Warning Signals

Make sure you’re aware of the indications of dog labor,like fever, restlessness, and other symptoms. Make sure to prepare an emergency kit with an aspiration bulb, a whelping box, a digital thermometer, and other essentials.

What Is the Average Time It Takes for a Dog to Give Birth?

Dog labor is divided into three phases. The initial stage of contractions might last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. Puppies are typically born 45-60 minutes apart, although the mother dog may take a four-hour break between litters. Here’s what happens at each stage:

Phase 1

The pups line up inside the mother at this point, ready to come out. This phase generally lasts 12 to 24 hours, but nothing is visible from the outside, even if the uterus is starting to contract. At this time, she’ll be securely settled in her nest, refusing nourishment, and there may be a watery vaginal discharge when her cervix opens.

You can also notice restlessness, shivering, a lack of appetite, rapid breathing, and even vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms are connected to uterine contractions and hormonal changes, but the mother shouldn’t be straining in any way. If this phase lasts more than 24 hours, see your veterinarian right away.

Phase 2

The contractions are forceful, and there’ll be a lot of straining during this period. Within an hour after the commencement of this period, the first pup will be born. You should seek the assistance of your vet if the mother strains for more than an hour without giving birth.

Phase 2 vaginal discharge ranges from transparent to red to green – all of which are probably normal. These contractions are often weak and sporadic at first, but they gradually become stronger.

Phase 3

The placentas expel during this period. Since dogs have multiple puppies, several placentas will be present. It’s critical to count the placentas as they emerge and ensure each pup has one placenta that connects to the pups’ umbilical cords. When two puppies are born simultaneously, their placentas may also emerge at the same time. If there are fewer placentas than puppies, the placenta may have been retained. Avoid allowing the mother to eat the placenta since this may cause her to vomit or cause diarrhea.


Pregnancy doesn’t have to be a difficult process for dogs and their owners. You’ll be better prepared to care for your dog if you learn more about dog pregnancy ahead of time. The mother’s and pups’ health and well-being are of the utmost importance throughout the pregnancy.

Make sure your pregnant dog’s eating a balanced diet. Consult your veterinarian for suggestions. Also, learn how to know when your dog is in labor and be on the lookout for warning signals or red flags so you can intervene quickly.

And as always, Live, Love, Laugh, and Scratch our bellies often!

Love you guys,


P.S. If you’re new to this world, you may want to check out my Ultimate Guide for First Time Dog Parents. It’s a great reference to get you started on this journey.


This article has been reviewed by our Editorial Board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our Editorial Policies.

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