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Signs A Dog Is Going Into Labor: A Timeline For Dogs About To Give Birth

signs a dog is going into labor

As a breeder, it is essential to be aware of the signs that indicate that your pregnant dog will go into labor. Knowing what to expect during the final stages of pregnancy and labor can help you prepare for the delivery and ensure the health and safety of your dog and her puppies.

Of course, it’s vital to prepare long before the birth with a whelping box and a soothing dog bed. Make sure the temperature is regulated with a heat lamp and thermostat, as puppies cannot regulate their own body temperatures. Do not put down blankets as puppies can easily get stuck in them and be smothered.

 Also be sure to visit your vet regularly, especially one month after the mating to know how many puppies to expect and to get a due date. Knowing this in advance can help you anticipate issues like premature births or if there is a problem with all the puppies being delivered.In this article, we will discuss the signs a pregnant dog will go into labor and the timeline of events that typically occur during labor and delivery.

Be sure to also read our articles on how many litters a dog can have and if dogs can get pregnant when not in heat.  Check out this article if your dog is leaking clear liquid.

Signs a pregnant dog is going into labor soon with 

The signs that a pregnant dog will go into labor can vary from dog to dog, and some dogs may not show any obvious signs at all. However, here are some common signs that indicate your dog is about to go into labor:

Average time before given birth Sign dog is about to give labor Description
2 weeks before labor Significantly swollen abdomen and teats Dogs will look the most pregnant the last two weeks of their pregnancy. It is important that they get regular, small meals at this time as they will find it difficult to eat too much at once.  Food should be specially formulated for pregnant and lactating mothers. Do not feed anything that is not specifically formulated as nutritional imbalances can be dangerous to mother and pups (including calcium excesses.)
7 to 3 days before delivery Dog starts producing milk At this point, squeezing the nipples should show milk production
Within 48 hours Nesting behavior:  Your dog may start to search for a place to give birth and begin to prepare her nest by digging and scratching at blankets or other soft surfaces. Make sure to remove blankets that your puppies can be smothered in. Provide a quiet, temperature-regulated environment with a proper whelping box made to prevent a female from lying on her puppies.
7 to 1 day before deliver Dog will lose mucus plug Most owners will not see this. However, the cervix will release the mucus plug (sometimes dry and sometimes with a clear, “egg-white” consistency, in the final week of pregnancy
6 hours or less before first puppy is born allantoic membrane ruptures (the “water breaks”)  This looks like a rush of clear fluid and signifies that birth is imminent. If the first puppy is not born in 4 to 6 hours, see a vet immediately. 
48 to 24 hours before delivery Loss of appetite As labor approaches, your dog may lose interest in food and water.
12 to 24 hours before delivery Drop of temperature Your dog’s body temperature may drop to around 98-100 (38.5°C to 37°C)  degrees Fahrenheit, which is a sign that labor is imminent. Take your dog’s temperature twice daily to be sure to catch when this happens.
4 days to right before  delivery Restlessness Your dog may become restless and start to pace, whine, or pant.

Stages of  labor and delivery in dogs

Labor and delivery in dogs typically occur in three stages. Here’s what you can expect during each stage:

Stage 1: Early labor

The first stage of labor usually lasts 12 to 24 hours and can be divided into two phases. During this stage, your dog may exhibit some of the signs mentioned above, such as nesting behavior, restlessness, and a drop in body temperature. You may also notice that your dog is panting or breathing heavily.

Stage 2: Active labor

Active labor is when the actual delivery of the puppies begins. This stage can last between 30 minutes to 4 hours, depending on the size of the litter. During this stage, your dog will begin to have strong, visible contractions that push the puppies out of the birth canal. You may also notice that your dog is pushing and straining, and you may see the amniotic sac protruding from her vulva. As each puppy is born, your dog will lick and clean them, severing the umbilical cord with her teeth.

Stage 3: Delivery of the placenta

After all the puppies have been born, your dog will enter the third stage of labor, which is the delivery of the placenta. This stage usually lasts between 5 and 15 minutes, during which time your dog will expel the placenta, which may look like a bloody mass. It’s important to make sure that all of the placentas are delivered, as retained placentas can cause infection and other complications.

What to do when your dog is going into labor:

What to do when your dog is going into labor:

If your dog is about to go into labor, there are several things you can do to help ensure a safe and successful delivery. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Prepare a safe and comfortable space for your dog: Before your dog goes into labor, you should prepare a quiet, warm, and comfortable space for her to give birth. This area should be away from any distractions and other pets. You can use a large box or a whelping bed to create a cozy nesting area for your dog.
  2. Monitor your dog closely: Keep a close eye on your dog during the labor process. Look for signs of discomfort or distress, such as excessive panting, whining, or restlessness. Also, keep track of how long it takes for each puppy to be born.
  3. Be prepared for emergencies: It’s always a good idea to have an emergency vet’s phone number and address readily available, just in case there are complications during the delivery. You should also have a clean towel, scissors, and string or dental floss on hand in case you need to help with the delivery.
  4. Allow your dog to give birth naturally: It’s best to let your dog give birth naturally, without interfering too much. However, if your dog seems to be having trouble delivering a puppy or if a puppy is stuck in the birth canal for too long, you may need to intervene.
  5. Care for the puppies: After each puppy is born, you should gently clean off any fluids and place the puppy near the mother’s teats so it can start nursing. Keep an eye on the puppies to make sure they are nursing regularly and gaining weight.
  6. Keep your dog and puppies healthy: After the delivery, make sure to take your dog and her puppies to the vet for a checkup. Your vet can provide guidance on how to care for your dog and her puppies and make sure they are healthy.

Overall, it’s important to remain calm and patient during the labor process. Your dog will likely be anxious and in pain, so it’s important to provide comfort and support throughout the delivery.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, being aware of the signs that indicate that your pregnant dog will go into labor can help you prepare for the delivery and ensure the health and safety of your dog and her puppies. Remember to keep a close eye on your dog during the final stages of pregnancy and contact your veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions. With proper care and attention, you can help ensure a safe and successful delivery for your furry friend.


Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.

Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

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