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Answers from vets about your dog:

What to Expect When Your Dog’s in Labor

Posted June 09, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

(Editor's Note, Dr. Peter Kintzer: Given the large number of homeless dogs available for adoption that would be wonderful pets and companions, very careful thought and serious deliberation should be undertaken before electing to breed your dog. Please consider adoption and click here for more information>)

In the first part — of this two part series — we talked about supporting your dog during her pregnancy including trying to have a clear idea of her due date and how many puppies are on the way. Now we will talk about helping her through the big event itself.

How do you know your dog is in labor?
As we discussed in part one, towards the end of your dog’s pregnancy you should be taking her rectal temperature every day, and waiting for the sudden drop below 99-100 degrees Fahrenheit that signals that labor is close. 

When labor begins, most dogs start to become restless, want to be alone and start nesting. They also tend to stop eating and may even vomit. (Of course some dogs continue eating and remain sociable.) According to UCDavis, uterine contractions start and occur at progressively more frequent intervals though they still may be hard for you to appreciate. Any vaginal discharge that you see should still look like clear mucus.

In the second stage of labor the dog’s contractions are more visible and stronger as she uses her abdominal muscles to expel puppies. She may get into a squatting position to accomplish this, but she also may just remain lying down. It is also perfectly normalPuppies lined up for almost half of all puppies to be born back end first (or breech delivery). That is not a concern.

A normal delivery should occur within 10 to 60 minutes of strong, stage two, labor contractions.

Third stage labor involves the expulsion of the placenta. Be aware and count to be sure your dog delivers the same number of placentas as she does puppies. She does NOT, however, need to (nor is there any benefit to) eating the placentas. Feel free to take them away to dispose of them.

Note: Most dogs instinctively know to lick the puppy to remove the membranes, to stimulate breathing and to care for their newborns, but not all of them will. Puppy care is beyond the scope of this posting but by all means familiarize yourself with the procedures in case you

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.