9 Signs that a Dog Is About to Give Birth

Find out the symptoms that announce labor in female dogs Among them are her need for the company and the support of her owner.
9 Signs that a Dog Is About to Give Birth

Last update: 13 February, 2022

Owners must be attentive if they have a pregnant dog at home, because there are certain labor signs that clearly announce that she is about to give birth. Understanding how animals act before and during labor allows owners to help the pet prepare for what it needs.

Witnessing the moment when your pet gives birth is something that will remain in your memory forever. If there are children at home, it will be a great experience and it can motivate you to talk about this biological event and the bonds between parents and children. Here are 9 signs to tell you that a dog is about to give birth.

1. Signs your dog is about to give birth: gestation time

The first of the signs that announce the birth in bitches is the gestation time. According to studies, pregnancy in bitches varies in length from 57 to 70 days. The precise time depends on the biology of the gametes and embryos, taking into account that this is measured from fertilization to delivery.

However, when it’s possible to determine the exact date of fertilization, it’s much easier to establish the gestation time, because the margin is reduced to about 62 or 64 days. If a person has adopted a pregnant dog and doesn’t know how long she’s been pregnant and the condition of the babies, it’s recommended to perform an ultrasonography.

How long does labor last in a dog?

Regarding how long labor lasts in a dog, it must be said that this also varies according to the number of puppies and the health condition of each dog. It’s also influenced by whether the mother is a first-time mom or not and her breed.

The duration of labor can vary between 2 and 12 hours from the time the first puppy is born until the mother evacuates the last placenta, which can occur up to 12 hours after the last baby is expelled. If this process takes too long, you should seek urgent veterinary help.

A dog is about to give birth.

2. She seeks your company

When there’s a trusting connection between the dog and her owner, she’ll seek their company. In fact, this is one of the symptoms of imminent labor in bitches that should be taken very seriously. Because the animal can’t speak, she’ll start to insistently call for attention.

You’ll notice increased vocalization and panting, and the dog is trying to make her owner understand that they should go with her to a certain place. However, this means that she needs company, not labor intervention.

By instinct, bitches know what’s going on in their bodies and what to do, so master intervention is unnecessary, unless something is wrong, in which case you need to call a veterinarian.

3. Choosing a “nest”

When a bitch prepares to give birth, she starts by choosing a “nest”, that is, the place where she feels comfortable to begin labor. You’ll notice that she prefers to spend time in a hidden, warm area, as this is how she feels protected and where she’ll keep her puppies safe.

If she already has her bedding in a place she considers safe to have and raise her babies, you’ll notice that she’ll begin to spend much more time there. Even if the owner doesn’t feel comfortable with the nest chosen by the dog, it’s important to respect her decision and not try to take her to another place, as this may stress her.

4. Contractions

Another symptom of labor in dogs is the presence of contractions. You’ll notice that the pet lies on her side, that her breathing becomes more agitated, and that her thorax and abdomen move much faster. In addition, you’ll be able to perceive that the dog is trying to push in readiness for the puppies to come out.

You can even try to measure the time between contractions, so you can keep track of labor.

5. Cleanliness

Cleanliness is one of the warning signs that labor is about to begin in bitches. Her genitals begin to secrete fluids, so the pet tends to clean herself excessively. This behavior helps to relieve the pain in the area and facilitates the exit of the puppies.

The owner shouldn’t be alarmed by the continuous secretion of liquids from the dog’s vulva, as long as they aren’t bloody or foul-smelling. It’s a normal process and you shouldn’t intervene, as it isn’t necessary to help her to clean herself.

6. Nervousness

When a female dog goes into labor, the contractions and discomfort of the moment make her nervous. It’s normal for her to move away from strangers, even from other pets in the house. She’ll prefer to be with the member of the household she trusts the most.

This state of nervousness will be easily noticed and will remain until some time after the birth. That’s right, once the puppies are born, the dog will be distrustful and somewhat aggressive with strangers. It’s necessary to respect her emotions.

7. Body temperature

The decrease in temperature is one of the most complex symptoms of labor signs in female dogs, because it isn’t always easy to detect. However, physically, the pet’s body temperature drops between 1 and 2 degrees when the time of delivery approaches.

The normal temperature of a bitch is 38 degrees Centigrade (100 Fahrenheit) days before delivery. The decrease occurs because progesterone levels also drop sharply during the process.

8. Loss of appetite

Loss of appetite in bitches that are about to give birth is normal and is another symptom that she’s about to give birth. This loss of appetite occurs between 12 and 24 hours before delivery, although it must be said that not all dogs exhibit this behavior.

9. Mucus

Hours before the onset of labor, the bitch will expel the mucus plug, which has the function of protecting the uterus and the puppies during the entire gestation. It’s a natural mechanism that keeps infections and bacteria at bay.

The owner shouldn’t be alarmed by the color of this mucus, which is usually yellow or white and very dense. Once the pet expels the plug, it will take a maximum of 12 hours for it to start working, as articles have shown. So, this is one of the clearest labor symptoms in female dogs.

Warning symptoms during labor

Although it isn’t recommended for the owner to intervene during labor, there are certain symptoms that can occur in the birth of bitches that indicate that something isn’t right, in which case it’s necessary to seek the help of a veterinarian. These warning signs include the following:

  • Gestation time that’s longer than the time established by the veterinarian.
  • Contractions without births for more than half an hour. This is usually a sign of an obstruction that could put the mother or the puppies at risk.
  • Mucus with a foul odor or a greenish color indicating a possible infection.
  • Fever, seizures, or rejection of puppies.
  • Mastitis or mammary gland problems.

Postpartum care of a bitch

Once birth has taken place, it’s time to begin special postpartum care. These are basic and are focused on the mother’s welfare, because the puppies will depend exclusively on her during the first 2 months. These are some of the most important:

  • Change sheets, blankets or towels regularly
  • Clean up feces and urine
  • Offer quality food to the mother.
  • Check body temperature, especially a couple of hours after delivery.
  • Clean the mother’s breasts from time to time to avoid infections and relieve some of her pain.
  • Go for veterinary attention when something isn’t right with the mother or the puppies.
A dog with her puppies.

As with humans, animals can show clear signs that they’re about to give birth. In the case of dogs, we’ve discussed many of the main signs that show the time is near. The best thing an owner can do is to accompany their pet and make sure she’s comfortable as she prepares to welcome her puppies into the world.

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  • Sánchez Riquelme, Alfonso, & Arias Ruiz, Francisco. (2017). Biología gestacional y predicción del parto en la perra. Revista de Investigaciones Veterinarias del Perú, 28(4), 771-783. https://dx.doi.org/10.15381/rivep.v28i4.13865
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