How To Tell If Dog Is Going Into Labor

Reviewed By Kim •  Updated: 07/11/22 •  8 min read
Care » Puppy
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How To Tell If Dog Is Going Into Labor

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Nothing is more exciting than having a litter of puppies other than your dog going into labor to give birth to the puppies! When you’re a pet parent of a pregnant momma dog, it’s imperative to know and recognize the signs when she goes into labor.

It’s also important to know what to do if something goes wrong. Most dogs give birth without any problems; however, they can develop certain issues when giving birth that may lead to serious issues for the momma dog and her puppies.

We’ve put together some information about how to tell if a dog is doing into labor and signs there’s something wrong. Let’s get started!

How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?

Each dog breed is a little different when it comes to the length of their pregnancies; however, most dogs are pregnant for about 62 to 64 days. That’s just over two months. That’s helpful information to know! You probably know about when your dog was in heat last and when she became pregnant.

However, it’s not easy to predict the exact date your fur baby will give birth. The delivery date doesn’t always match up with the breeding date. This is the case because the date of conception may be slightly later than the date of breeding. In dogs, sperm may take up to several days to fertilize the eggs. For this reason, it can be difficult to determine the exact delivery date of the litter.

This is why it’s important to know the signs that your dog is in labor near her due date. However, the vet may be able to help to determine a more accurate due date. They may do an ultrasound or x-rays to see what stage the developing puppies are at. This information helps the vet determine a potential due date.

Signs Your Dog is in Labor

Here are the signs to watch for that indicate your dog is going into labor.

1. Drop in Body Temperature

During the final week of pregnancy, it’s good practice to take your dog’s temperature every day with a rectal thermometer. Most dogs have a normal temperature of 100-101 F.

However, when a dog goes into labor, her body temperature changes. Right before she goes into labor, her temperature may go to about 98 F. In this case, she will maintain this body temperature for at least two days. When the second reading is 98 F, you’re about 24 hours from your canine companion giving birth.

This is one of the most accurate signs that a dog is going into labor.

2. Loss of Appetite & Vomiting

About 24 to 48 hours before giving birth, female dogs may stop eating. So, don’t be surprised if your fur baby stops eating. Chances are, if she eats, she will vomit the food right back up.

In addition, as the puppies move into the birthing position (inside your fur baby), this removes some of the pressure off some internal organs, leading to a large poop. This can happen about 24 hours before giving birth.

3. Excessive Panting

Dogs pant as a normal part of being a dog. This is the way dogs regulate their body temperature and cool themselves off when they’re hot from exercise or during warm weather. Panting is completely normal in dogs and may be quite heavy or light, depending on how hot the dog is or how hard they’ve worked out.

When it comes to a pregnant dog (near her due date), she may not pant until her labor has started. You may notice that she pants for a little bit and has a short pause before panting again. This is a sign that a dog is in labor.

4. Anxious & Restless

Another sign that a dog is in labor is if she appears to be anxious and restless. This is a normal part of your dog giving birth; however, if you’re concerned, it’s a good idea to call the vet for their advice.

5. Milk Production

As your dog progresses in her pregnancy, you’ll notice her nipples and breasts are starting to swell. This is a normal part of pregnancy. It’s the way a dog’s body prepares to produce milk for her puppies.

Over time, as she gets closer to her due date, your dog may start to leak small drops of milk from her nipples. This is a normal sign that your fur baby is probably in labor and she will give birth soon. However, you can’t depend on this sign, as it’s not an accurate indication of when labor will take place.

6. Nesting

Pregnant mother dogs usually start to look for a place to build a nest. The nest will be the home she creates for her puppies. This is the place where the puppies will be born and stay for their first weeks of life.

The mother dog looks for a nesting place that offers security and privacy. So, when you notice your fur baby is nesting, this may mean she’s going to give birth soon.

7. Shivering

When your dog’s temperature drops about 2 days before giving birth, her temperature will increase right before labor starts. When this happens, some momma dogs may shiver because they are cold. This may cause her to shiver.

When you notice your canine companion is shivering, it may mean she’s very close to starting the first part of labor.

8. Contractions

Dogs, just like humans, go into contractions when giving birth. These contractions help the muscles push the puppies out of the dog’s belly.

When your dog is having contractions, you may notice her stomach tenses and ripples. You can put your hands on either side of her belly and feel the muscles tense and relax. Contractions are a sign that labor has definitely begun!

9. Dog Starts Pushing

When labor starts, it will take some time before the puppies are born. During this time, the momma dog works to push the puppies out. This may look as if she’s trying to poop. But what she’s doing is trying to get her puppies out.

10. The Amniotic Sac is Showing

Finally, when your dog is far into labor, you may notice the amniotic sac is coming out of your dog’s behind. Then you know for sure your fur baby is giving birth.

The sac is large and filled with fluid; it will protrude from the dog as the puppy inside works to be born.

Several Puppies

Dogs carry more than one puppy when pregnant. So, once the first puppy has been born, your dog may have a period of rest before the next puppy is born. This process continues until all the puppies have been born.

Your fur baby may have a break as long as an hour in between the birth of each puppy. This is normal. Let your dog rest, and don’t make her anxious. She knows what she’s doing.

Common Complications in Dog Birthing

Just like humans, dogs can also experience complications when giving birth. One of the most common problems is a puppy getting stuck on the way out. In this instance, your fur baby may need some help. It’s necessary to have a towel in your hands and then gently grab the puppy. Pull the puppy out during the next contraction. If the puppy’s head is the last part to come out, it may be necessary to call the vet. This can be dangerous for the puppy, and it needs help immediately.

Another common problem is that labor stops completely, even when not all the puppies have been born. There’s not much you can do to help. In this case, it’s best to call the vet. They may be able to give your dog medicine to help get contracts started again. If that doesn’t work, the vet may need to deliver the puppies via C-section.

Summing It Up

There’s no question that pregnancy and labor take time and patience. However, when you know the signs your dog is in labor, you’ll be ready to give her help if she needs it. You’ll also be prepared in case of any complications.

The good news is that most dogs are able to have problem-free deliveries. When you see the signs of labor, you know soon your canine companion will give birth to those adorable little puppies you’ve been waiting for!

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Kim is a talented author, who loves animals especially dogs. She engaged in writing books and articles relating to animals a decade ago. Kim resides in Chicago with her husband and son. The family is the proud owner of a dog and a parrot (Jack and Lily). Kim wanted more than these two pets, but her husband put his foot down... She often visits elementary schools to talk to the kids about what she learned about pets and how they could learn from them.