A dog is pregnant for 63 days or 9 weeks. Sometimes the gestation period is a little bit shorter or longer than the expected due date. Our girl Piper had hers at 62 days.
As the delivery stage grows near, you will need to be able to recognize the signs your dogs in labor.
The physical signs your dogs in labor can include:
Body Temperature Drop
The most accurate way to tell if a dog is in labor is by taking her temperature rectally. The normal range for a dog is between 100-102 degrees Farenheight (37-38 degrees Celcius).
When she begins the first stages of labor, her temperature will drop 1-2 degrees, to 99 or lower.
It is important to be gentle when taking her temperature. Use a little bit of lube and insert the thermometer into her bottom gently. By the time she is in labor you most likely will have taken it several times over the previous days.
You don’t want her to be sore, especially considering the pain that will be coming in the following 3-24 hours.
Loss Of Appetite
It is common for a pregnant dog to lose her appetite 24 hours before giving birth to her litter. Encourage her to eat if you can, but don’t force her. She will need her strength but might feel nauseous and not want to eat anything.
Our girl Piper wasn’t hungry for 20 hours before delivering her puppies and even vomited twice.
This is also normal. She was carrying a large litter (14) and they were putting pressure on her stomach.
Don’t worry if this happens to your female, she will eat once she has finished with the birth and is nursing the puppies comfortably.
Extra Cuddly Or Distant
Every dog is different. Some seek reassurance, (especially first-time mothers) and others want to be left alone.
It is always nice to be needed, and of course, you want to support her by rubbing her tummy or giving her cuddles.
The hard part is when she wants to be left alone. It is difficult to be turned away, but honor her wishes if you can, as this is her way of coping with the birth.
One of the signs that she is nearing delivery is your female may disappear. Keep a close watch on where she goes, as you will need to locate her as soon as possible. She is finding what she thinks is an acceptable place to have her little ones.
In the wild, dogs dig a hole in the earth and give birth and raise them in it. This is natural, but not ideal.
When you find her, show her the whelping box and encourage her to stay there. Ideally, you will have taken her into it regularly during the week prior, to spread her scent throughout.
If she wants to have her litter elsewhere, on a bed, or in a cupboard, for example, let her, as this is where she feels safe. Once all the puppies have been born, quickly move them back to the whelping box. She is going to be upset when you touch them, so the faster you can get them there, the better it is for her peace of mind. Labor is tough on a dog and showing her how much you care can help a lot.
Tell her she is a good girl, she will need all the stability she can get, especially if this is her first litter.
Your female will be noticeably uncomfortable. She will constantly change positions. She will lay down, then stand up and walk around before lying down again. She may even groan.
As labor begins she will start to pace. Pacing helps her deal with the pain of contractions.
If the birth is taking a long time to start, you can encourage her to slowly walk around.
Gentle short walks are a good way to hurry things along. Short distances are best, she has a very physical time coming and you don’t want to exhaust her before she whelps.
The quicker she can begin the process, the sooner she will be out of pain.
One of the behavioral changes you will notice in your dog in the last stages of her pregnancy is nesting. It is triggered by powerful hormones.
She may gather blankets, toys or other items that make her feel safe. This is her “nest” and the place she has chosen to have her litter. It is important to keep watching her closely and bring her back to the whelping box where you want her to deliver the puppies.
In the prepared area, avoid putting towels, rags or newspaper as the base of the whelping box. This can be dangerous to the newborn pups. If the bedding is loose, the mother will ruck it up causing it to bunch in places.
As a result, the puppies can easily be squashed or suffocated. Blankets are ok as long as they are tucked in tightly.
You can find out more on whelping boxes for puppies here.
As the contractions increase in frequency and severity, she will pant to breathe through the pain. The closer it is to the birth, the more she will pant. You will be able to see her stomach rippling as the contractions hit.
If the labor is taking a long time or she is panting excessively, call your veterinarian for advice.
Once your female is actively pushing and whelping a puppy, try to keep calm. She will look to you for direction. If you are agitated she will think something is wrong and become worried herself.
Use a soothing voice and constantly encourage her to make her feel loved and safe.
It will make the process easier for her.
Just like humans, her water will break. Unlike humans, she will expel mucus that is thick and clear. This is normal, she is releasing the “plug” that kept her puppies inside.
Once her water has broken, the first puppy should emerge within 20-30 minutes.
If it takes more than an hour for the first one to be born, call your vet for advice. She may be having difficulties.
In saying that, every dog is different and sometimes take a little longer. Our girl was in labor for 17 hours and the first puppy was born an hour after the mucus discharge.
Now You Are Prepared
It is important to keep a close eye on your pregnant dog as her time for delivery approaches. While you can roughly time it with the gestation guide of 63 days, being able to recognize when her labor begins by using these 9 signs will make the process much simpler.