Signs of canine labour

Updated May 25, 2017

An owner of a pregnant dog needs to be aware of the physical and behavioural signs that become apparent as the animal goes into labour. About 63 days after breeding, the animal's behaviour will change as her body begins to prepare for delivery. During delivery, the physical signs of labour become visible and an owner will witness the mother vacillating between easy and hard labour as she births each puppy.

Behavioural signs

Your dog will begin to show signs of restlessness around day 62 or 63 of her pregnancy. She may begin to moan or whimper and will pace, move towels and fabric into mounds and lie down on them. Your dog may start panting; she probably will not want to eat and she may vomit. The mother will want a quiet, safe spot to have her puppies so she may start looking for places to hide -- she may lie behind furniture or make a bed in a closet. Her cervix is softening and dilating at this point and contractions are not visible.

Physical signs

Your dog's rectal temperature will drop from about 38.3 degrees Celsius (101 degrees Fahrenheit) to 36.7 or 37.2 degrees Celsius ( 98 or 99 degrees Fahrenheit) about 24 hours before labour begins, You can monitor her temperature to help determine when she is fully in labour. Her contractions will become visible about 12 to 18 hours after labour starts. The dog can become very vocal, particularly if this is her first litter, and she may attempt different birthing positions to become more comfortable. Most dogs will either lie on their sides or sit on one side of the haunches to expose the vulva. You should see the abdomen of your dog begin to contract and relax and she may start nosing and licking at her vulva. A bubble of fluid (the amniotic sac) will appear in her vulva and a puppy should be in the birthing canal right behind it. A full, large contraction will push the sac and the puppy out. The mother should begin licking and cleaning the amniotic sac away from the puppy within seconds so the puppy can breathe.

Latter signs

The placenta (the organ that provides nutrients to each foetus) should be delivered with each individual puppy. Your dog will eat the placentas as she is cleaning her puppies; they provide nutrients to the mother, and the hormones in the placentas force her colostrum to flow to feed the litter. Your dog will go back and forth showing signs of easy and hard labour as each puppy enters the birth canal and is born.

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