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Will My Dog's Water Break? Understanding the Signs of Labor in Dogs - PawSafe

Will My Dog’s Water Break? Understanding the Signs of Labor in Dogs

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

will my dog's water break

Congrats on your pregnant pup! Now I know you’re racking your brains wondering, “Will my dog’s water break? While water breaking is a common occurrence in humans, it does not happen in the same way for dogs.

The first thing to understand is what water breaking is, which is basically the bursting of the amniotic sac. While human babies have one huge fluid-filled membrane, dogs are vastly different, with each puppy having their own mini sacs. 

Therefore, you won’t have one cinematic water breaking like in pregnant women. Instead, you’ll have “mini water breaks” as each puppy breaks away from their amniotic sac at any point in labor. We have amassed the help of research by Dr. Aly Cohen, DVM, and guidelines from the MSD vet manual, for a complete guide on dogs breaking their water.

Your dog mated, got pregnant, and is now about to deliver. While it’s tempting to draw guidance from a loved one’s delivery experience, remember that dogs and humans are two very different species.

When expounding on this phenomenon, it’s important to define the parameters of what you consider to be their “water breaking.” Does any fluid leaking out of your dam (mother dog) qualify as water breaking? 

Because if so, the passage of dark amber allantoic fluids and even the expulsion of the mucous plug (a thick, jelly-like substance that seals the cervix during pregnancy) can technically qualify as a dog’s water breaking. This is not the correct definition of dogs breaking their water, but you catch the drift.

It is important to note that not all dogs will have their water break before giving birth. Some dogs may have a gradual leakage of fluid, while others may not have any noticeable discharge at all. This is why monitoring your dog closely during labor and delivery is essential to ensure that everything is progressing normally.

If you are concerned about your dog’s water breaking, it is best to consult with your veterinarian. They can provide more information on what to expect during the birthing process and help you prepare for any potential complications.

This is an example of a delivering dog that has still not experienced water breaking:

How long after a dog’s water breaks do puppies come?

As stated earlier, a dog’s water can break during or after a puppy is delivered. So, you can’t tell when a puppy will be born based on water breaking because sometimes delivery has already happened prior to the breaking. However, if the water sac is still intact before delivery, it generally takes about 1 hour for the puppy to come out after the sac presents. Call your vet if your puppy exceeds 4 hours to come out after you see the amniotic sac.

Note: While a dog’s water can break before giving birth, it is not a reliable indicator of the start of labor. 

It is important to note that not all dogs will experience a noticeable water break. Some dogs may have a slow leak of amniotic fluid, while others may not have any noticeable discharge at all. In these cases, it may be more difficult to determine when the puppies will be born.

It is also essential to keep an eye on the dog’s behavior and physical signs, such as nesting behavior, restlessness, and contractions. These signs can indicate that the dog is in labor and that the puppies will be born soon.

Signs Your Dog’s Water Is About to Break

As a responsible dog owner, it is important to be aware of the signs that your dog’s water is about to break, as well as the other signs of labor. This can help you prepare for the upcoming delivery and ensure that your dog is comfortable and safe during the process and even prepare for the nursing stage that follows.

  • Pre-labor: You’ll start to notice that your dog is nesting or preparing a comfortable spot for delivery. This may include digging or scratching at the ground, rearranging blankets or bedding, or seeking out a secluded area.
  • One of the most obvious signs that your dog’s water is about to break is the appearance of a clear, odorless discharge from the vulva. This discharge may be accompanied by some mild contractions or discomfort in your dog.
  • Early labor: As labor approaches, your dog may have reduced appetite, appear anxious, and have slight contractions. Panting and restlessness are common at this stage (pre-labor), like in this dog:
https://youtu.be/XxZzEC2dgJ4?si=kJNwCcDsTBwPrbiD
  • Active labor: Here, the contractions intensify, and your dog visibly struggles. The water can break at this point before delivery.
  • Delivery and rest between puppies, where intact amniotic sacs break after a puppy is born.

It is important to note that not all dogs will exhibit these signs before their water breaks. Some dogs may enter labor without warning signs, while others may display more subtle symptoms.

Understanding What Happens When A Dog’s Water Breaks?

When a dog’s water breaks, it means that the sac surrounding the puppies has ruptured, and the amniotic fluid is being released. 

How much water comes out when a dog’s water breaks?

The amount of fluid that comes out when a dog’s water breaks can vary. Some dogs may only release a small amount of fluid, while others may release a significant amount. It is essential to monitor your dog closely and make sure that the fluid continues to flow. If the fluid stops flowing, it could be a sign of a problem, and you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Behavioral Changes

When a dog’s water breaks, they may become restless, anxious, and start to pace. They may also start to lick their genital area and may even try to dig a nest. These are all signs that your dog is preparing for the birth of her puppies.

Appetite Changes

It is common for dogs to lose their appetite when they are in labor. This is because their body is focused on the birthing process, and they may not have the energy to eat. It is essential to ensure your dog stays hydrated during this time, and you can offer her small, frequent meals to keep her energy levels up.

Remember, every dog is different, and the birthing process can vary from dog to dog. If you have any concerns about your dog’s labor or delivery, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Physical Changes in Your Dog

As a dog owner, it is important to understand the physical changes that your dog may experience during pregnancy. These changes can vary depending on the breed and size of your dog, but there are a few common changes that you should be aware of.

One of the most noticeable changes is weight gain. As the puppies develop, your dog’s weight will increase. This weight gain can be gradual or sudden, and it is important to monitor your dog’s weight to ensure that she is not becoming overweight or obese.

Another physical change you may notice is an increased appetite early on in the pregnancy. Your dog may begin to eat more as her body works to nourish the developing puppies. It is important to provide your dog with a well-balanced diet high in protein and nutrients to support her and her puppies’ needs.

As your dog’s pregnancy progresses, you may also notice changes in her behavior. She may become more protective of her space and her puppies and become less active as she approaches the end of her pregnancy.

In addition to these physical changes, your dog may also experience a change in her vaginal discharge. As the pregnancy progresses, the discharge may become thicker and more mucous-like. This is a normal part of the pregnancy process, but if you notice any unusual discharge or a foul odor, it is essential to contact your veterinarian.

What to Do When Your Dog’s Water Breaks

Here are some steps you can take to help your dog through this part of the birthing process:

1. Keep an Eye on Her

Once your dog’s water breaks, you should watch her closely. Labor can last several hours, and you want to ensure she is comfortable and safe throughout the process. You may notice that she starts to pant or pace, and she may even start to push.

2. Create a Comfortable Space

Make sure your dog has a comfortable space to give birth. This should be a quiet, warm area where she can relax and feel safe. You can use blankets or towels to create a cozy nest for her.

3. Call Your Vet

If this is your dog’s first litter, or you notice any signs of distress, call your vet. They can advise you on what to do next, and they may even want to examine your dog to ensure everything is going smoothly.

4. Be Prepared to Assist

Sometimes, you may need to assist your dog during the birthing process. This could involve helping to break the sac around a puppy or gently pulling on the puppy if it is stuck. However, it is important to remember that you should never force a puppy out.

Potential Complications

While most dogs give birth without any complications, some potential risks are associated with the birthing process. It’s important for dog owners to be aware of these potential complications and to seek veterinary attention if necessary.

One potential complication is dystocia, which refers to difficult or prolonged labor. This can occur if the puppy is too large to pass through the birth canal or if the mother is unable to effectively push the puppies out. Signs of dystocia include prolonged straining without producing a puppy, weak contractions, or a puppy that is stuck in the birth canal.

Another potential complication is eclampsia, which is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a nursing mother dog’s calcium levels drop too low. Signs of eclampsia include restlessness, muscle tremors, and seizures.

In some cases, a mother dog may reject her puppies or be unable to produce enough milk to feed them. This can lead to malnourishment and dehydration in the puppies, which can be life-threatening if not addressed promptly.

It’s important for dog owners to monitor their dogs closely during the birthing process and to seek veterinary attention if they notice any signs of complications. With proper care and attention, most dogs can give birth safely and without any complications.

When to Contact a Vet

If a dog is pregnant and the owner is concerned about the health of their dog and the puppies, it is important to know when to contact a veterinarian. While it is normal for a dog to have discharge during pregnancy, certain signs could indicate a problem.

If the dog has been pregnant for over 65 days and has not gone into labor, it is important to contact a veterinarian. This could indicate a problem with the pregnancy, and the veterinarian will be able to perform an ultrasound to check on the puppies and the mother’s health.

If the dog’s water breaks and she does not enter labor within 24 hours, it is vital to contact a veterinarian. This could indicate that the puppies are not positioned correctly, and the veterinarian must perform a C-section to deliver the puppies.

If the dog is experiencing heavy discharge, has a fever, or is not eating, it is important to contact a veterinarian. These could be signs of an infection or other problem, and the veterinarian will be able to diagnose and treat the issue.

Post-Birth Care for Your Dog

After your dog has given birth, it is essential to provide proper care to ensure her and her puppies’ health. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Keep the Area Clean

Make sure the area where your dog gave birth is clean and sanitized. This will help prevent infections and keep your dog and her puppies healthy. You can use a disinfectant solution to clean the area and keep it free of bacteria.

Monitor the Puppies

It is important to monitor the puppies closely to make sure they are nursing and gaining weight. If any of the puppies are not nursing or are not gaining weight, you should consult your veterinarian. Additionally, you should keep an eye out for any signs of illness in the puppies, such as lethargy or diarrhea.

Feed Your Dog a Nutritious Diet

Your dog will need extra nutrition while nursing her puppies. Make sure to provide her with a high-quality, nutritious diet that meets her needs. You may also want to supplement her diet with vitamins and minerals to ensure she is getting all the nutrients she needs.

Provide Plenty of Water

Your dog will need plenty of water to stay hydrated while nursing her puppies. Make sure to provide her with fresh, clean water at all times. Consider adding electrolytes to her water to help her stay hydrated.

Watch for Signs of Infection

After giving birth, your dog is at risk for developing an infection. Watch for signs of infection, such as fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your veterinarian immediately.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your dog and her puppies stay healthy and happy after giving birth.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the signs of a dog going into labor?

When a dog is about to give birth, there are several signs to look out for. These include restlessness, panting, loss of appetite, nesting behavior, and a decrease in body temperature. Additionally, some dogs may start to lick their genital area excessively or have a clear discharge from their vulva.

How long is a dog in labor before pushing?

The length of the labor process can vary greatly between dogs. However, it is common for dogs to be in labor for 6-12 hours before they start pushing. If you notice that your dog has been in labor for longer than 12 hours without any signs of progression, it is important to contact your veterinarian.

Can a dog in labor drink water?

Yes, a dog in labor needs to stay hydrated. Offer your dog small amounts of water frequently throughout the labor process. However, it is important to note that some dogs may not want to drink water during labor.

How long does stage 1 of dog labor last?

Stage 1 of labor is the period of time when the cervix is dilating, and the dog is preparing for delivery. This stage can last anywhere from 6-24 hours. If you notice that your dog has been in stage 1 of labor for longer than 24 hours, it is important to contact your veterinarian.

Final Thoughts

It is important to understand that not all dogs’ water breaks before labor. Some dogs may have a slow leak or no visible water break at all. It is also important to note that if a dog’s water breaks and she does not go into labor within 24 hours, it is important to seek veterinary attention.

If a dog’s water does break, it is essential to monitor her closely for any signs of labor, such as contractions or nesting behaviors. It is also important to provide her with a clean and comfortable area to give birth.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

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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.

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.