How to Tell if Your Canine Is Going Into Labor

Choose a nesting spot for your dog when she's expecting.
i hundemutti image by N. Mellenthin from

Although you don’t necessarily need to play an active role in delivering your dog’s puppies, you should be aware of when your dog will likely go into labor. That way, you can help your dog prepare and be there for her if she does need you.

Step 1

Notice whether your dog’s appetite diminishes. This typically occurs several days before labor. She will also begin to act restless and become more sedentary a few days before.

Step 2

Look at your dog’s belly. A few days before labor it will become more distended, and you won’t be able to detect fetal movement as much.

Step 3

Take your dog’s temperature. Do this by inserting a thermometer into the rectum about 1 inch. Wait one to two minutes for a reading. Do this three times a day -- at the same time each day -- and record the results. About 12 hours to 24 hours before productive labor begins, the dog’s temperature will drop from 101.5 F, which is normal, to between 98 F and 100 F. If your dog doesn’t go into labor within 24 hours after the temperature drop, call your veterinarian.

Step 4

Look for a green vaginal discharge called lochia. This means contractions have begun. The first pup could arrive in a few hours.

Step 5

Watch your dog to see how she acts at her nesting site. If she scratches and digs, turns around, lies down and repeats the routine, labor is nearing. About all you can do at this point is be there and provide water in case she wants it.

Step 6

Notice whether she is panting, pacing, whining and licking her genitals. The time is almost here. You might also see the mucus plug, which is a clear vaginal discharge, escape.

Step 7

Watch as your dog lies on her side or squats as if she is trying to defecate. The puppies will soon be born. The delivery process can take one hour to 24 hours to complete; a usual delivery takes four to six hours to complete. But if labor takes place for four hours with no puppies born, call your veterinarian. It typically takes 45 minutes to 60 minutes to birth one pup, with 10 to 30 minutes of straining. If she strains for more than an hour, call your vet.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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