Approximating the date of delivery, and recognising the signs of labour in a pregnant dog are fairly easy when you have partnered with your dog's veterinarian during the pregnancy. Knowing the steps to monitor your pregnant dog's progress is the key to a less stressful experience for both you and your dog. Nature takes its course in its own time, and most often a dog's labour and delivery will proceed without incident or emergency. But knowing when to expect labour can help assure that you will be ready, just in case your dog needs assistance.
Take your dog to your veterinarian early in her pregnancy. The vet may palpate the puppies by hand, or decide to perform an ultrasound to determine how many puppies your dog will have. The vet will assist you in determining the approximate due date, which will be 56 to 69 days from conception, depending on the breed and size of your dog.
Take your pregnant dog's temperature rectally each day at noon, beginning 2 weeks prior to her due date, according to Ron Hines, DVM, Ph.D. Lubricate the thermometer with K-Y Jelly and gently insert it about one inch. Hold the thermometer in place for three minutes. The dog's temperature should be between 38.3 and 39.1 degrees Celsius. A temperature reading below 37.8C is an indication that delivery will occur within 24 hours.
Watch your dog for signs of the first stage of labour. You may notice that she is whining, pacing, and cannot seem to get comfortable. She may also begin shivering and panting. She may refuse food, and may vomit anything that she has previously eaten. Provide her with a safe, cosy, low-lit, quiet area, and give her a bed or blankets so she can make a nest, if she desires. The first stage of labour lasts from 6 to 18 hours on average, until the dog's cervix has completely dilated.
Check your dog for signs of the second stage of labour. She will be experiencing strong uterine contractions at this time. Observe the area provided, looking for indications that her water has broken. You may see a light yellow fluid on the floor, bedding, or on the dog herself. Watch for her to begin straining forcefully; the puppies should begin to appear once she has been doing this for 15 to 30 minutes.
Though puppies are often delivered about every 30 minutes or so, the dog may rest for periods up to 4 hours between puppies. If no more puppies have appeared for more than 4 hours, contact your veterinarian. If you notice the dog straining hard for more than 1 hour and no puppy has been delivered, contact your veterinarian. Your dog may be experiencing incomplete labour, or a puppy may be too large to pass through the birth canal naturally.