All medications that induce labour in a dog are available only by prescription, and most are given only in a veterinary clinic. Inducing labour is rarely necessary unless you want to abort the puppies. There are steps you can take to help facilitate your bitch's healthy pregnancy such as good nutrition, mild exercise and a stress-free, safe whelping area. Some things may help at the expected time of labour, but all medical interventions require a veterinarian. Knowing when to ask the vet to induce will help you and your bitch.
Know when your bitch is expected to whelp. Write down when the breeding occurred and get an X-ray around 45 to 52 days after breeding, as it will help show how many puppies are present. Calcification of the bones will indicate development and when you can expect delivery.
Monitor your bitch's temperature. Beginning 10 days prior to expected delivery day, take a rectal thermometer, lubricate it with petroleum jelly, insert into the rectum no more than one inch, and record your dog's temperature. Chart the temperature daily. Most bitches drop two degrees from their normal temperature —39ºC to 38ºC (102ºF to 100.5ºF) — before labour begins. Most bitches whelp by day 63 to 65, although it can be 58 to 68 days.
Check for milk production by gently squeezing two or three nipples for milk drops. Milk may come in between nine days to the day before whelping. Check your bitch's vulva for any abnormal discharge (clumps, either brown, green or bloody) by wiping the area with a clean tissue or a baby wipe.
If your bitch has milk and her temperature has dropped, you can help naturally induce labour by taking her on short walks and doing gentle massage of stomach. Massage should not be strong enough to move or disrupt puppy placement, as that can cause problems.
If the bitch shows signs of distress, but is not producing puppies, or if it is past 65 days of pregnancy, take her to the veterinarian. Your veterinarian may induce labour by giving oxytocin injections, which cause uterine contractions. This drug can also be given even if in labour to help strengthen labour contractions to assist in expelling puppies. If oxytocin does not work, a caesarean section may be necessary.
If termination of your bitch's pregnancy is desired, consult with your veterinarian on what the best method is for your dog. Spaying your dog aborts the puppies and prevents future pregnancies.
After discussing options with your vet, take your dog in on the date requested. The preferred method of ending a bitch's pregnancy (other than spaying) is done during the second stage of pregnancy---after it is possible to be sure there are puppies, but before the size of the puppies presents increased risks. The drugs used at this stage cause the dog to generally reabsorb the puppies, and do not induce labour.
If you miss the earlier period, labour induction can be done with several drugs such as prostaglandins and prolactin at least 30 to 35 days after mating. Some drugs may require hospitalisation of your bitch for two to three days until the abortion is over so that any side effects can be managed.
Herbs and home medications to induce labour are dangerous for your bitch, whether attempting to abort the pregnancy or hurry normal labour. Always consult with a veterinarian before inducing labour in your dog.