Once your dog has been bred, you are likely watching her and the calendar, wondering when she will have the puppies. Just like a pregnant woman, there isn't any sure way to determine the exact date that your dog will go into labour. Instead, you have to know when to start watching for signs of labour. Once she is in labour, you will have to watch your dog to ensure that she has all of the puppies.
Most dogs deliver puppies around the 63rd day after the date of breeding. Some dogs can deliver as soon as 56 days or as late as 69 days, depending on the breed of dog. The smaller the breed of dog, the shorter the gestation. So, large breed dogs like pit bulls or mastiffs usually have a longer gestation than toy dogs like chihuahuas. Around day 55 or 56 of gestation, the female dog should be taken to a veterinarian for an ultrasound or X-ray so that you can confirm the pregnancy, estimated due date and number of puppies.
Signs of Early Labor
As the due date approaches, you have to watch the dog to determine when she is in labour. The first stage of labour can last up to 24 hours and may not be obvious. This is the time she may begin nesting, or preparing a place to birth her litter. She may not want to eat and may seem irritable or restless. She may vomit, and she may urinate frequently. One way to determine when labour will begin is to take her temperature rectally once a day starting a week before her due date. Her temperature will fall to below 37.8 degrees C just before labour begins. Normal temperature for a dog is 38.3 to 39.1 degrees C.
Signs of Active Labor
During the second stage of labour, or the active stage, the dog's contractions will be noticeable. Generally, once the contractions are noticeable, the first puppy will be delivered in 20 minutes to four hours. After the first puppy is born, the female dog may take a break, but no more than two hours should elapse between puppies. As each puppy descends down the birth canal, the female dog will start to strain and push for up to an hour before the puppy is born.
If the dog has been in noticeable labour for more than four hours and hasn't delivered the first puppy, emergency veterinary care is needed. Other situations that require emergency care include the female dog pushing for more than an hour without delivering a puppy, contractions that stop while the dog still has puppies in her uterus, and a puppy stuck in the birth canal, which is common in small litters. If two puppies try to descend down the birth canal at the same time or if a puppy is a breech, you will need to call for medical help. Additionally, passage of lochia, which is a dark green fluid, without a puppy delivered within 15 minutes despite the female pushing requires emergency care.