How To Tell If Your Dog Is In Labor For A Healthy Delivery

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how to tell if your dog is in labor
A dog gives birth.

If you were like me when I had my first experience of watching a dog go through labor, then I guess it would have been a horrific, confusing and maybe frightening experience for you as it was for me. Well, it happened so because the dog wasn’t mine as I had to stand in for the owner who had to run off to get some supplies for the about to deliver mom.

But I was able to handle the situation as my friend was on his way back and only needed 15 minutes to get there. He said all I needed to do was to ensure the dog is in its box and watch. Since then I have seen a dog about to deliver her puppies not less than 12 times. So, to know how to tell if your dog is in labor, then hitch a ride with me, let’s go there!

Ok, so the first thing I must say is this when your dog is about to deliver, there is no course to panic or be confused as research shows that over 90% of dogs deliver safely without complications or any human assistance; guess that’s comforting enough for a start!

Things You Must Do Before Labor Sets In

Now, the delivery process begins before the expected delivery day, and it is always the best to beforehand make the process easier on your dog. Let’s look at some of the things you need to do before the delivery day:

Plan Early Enough

A dog carries her pregnancy for two months, precisely between 56 to 69 days. So you need to take your dog to a veterinary doctor for observation and to help you identify when the likely due date should be. Of course, the chances are it is already gone one to three weeks before you discover, depending on how observant you are. For large breeds, they usually deliver slightly later than the expected date so you must check in with your vet regularly then. Toy breeds, however, can give birth a week earlier than the scheduled date.

Get A Birthing Box

​The birthing-box is the same as a whelping box. It is a box designed for your dog to deliver her puppies in without much ado. The essence of the box is to provide some level of privacy, comfort and a clean environment for the dog to deliver her puppies. It also helps to confine the pups in an area, though it is small enough for the mom to step out. A thick cardboard could very well serve as a birthing box not necessarily anything of fancy or expensiveness.

first day newborn puppy in the box
First day newborn puppy in the box.

​The birthing-box should be laid with thick clothing to give warmth to the mom and puppies when they arrive. It should have enough space to allow ample movement for the mom even if she sometimes feels like creating some distance between herself and the puppies after they’ve arrived. The ample space helps to ensure the dog does not lie on her puppies as was the experience with my first female dog (not my relatives) who killed 3 of her puppies by sleeping on them. Locate the box in a place that is serene and relaxing enough to avoid noise and disturbance. The mom should start living in the box early to get accustomed to the box.

​Be Your Dog’s Vet’s Best Friend

​It is crucial you build a steady relationship with the veterinary doctor as most dog deliveries occur at night and in case things become a bit out of hand you can quickly reach the vet doctor on the next step to take.

​It is always advisable that you have a car, so if there are any complications, you can easily contact the vet doctor and possibly move her to the clinic.

​I also recommend you get nail scissors, clean towel, and extra basket ready before the delivery date. The nail scissors are useful if you need to cut the placenta. The extra basket would only be required if there is a bountiful harvest of puppies and the birthing box becomes too small to accommodate both mom and all the babies.

​Check Temperature

Female veterinarian checking temperature of dog
Female veterinarian checking temperature of dog

​To check dog’s temperature is one critical thing you must do. You need to purchase a rectal or oral thermometer to test the dog’s temperature daily. Whether it is a rectal or oral thermometer, it is still to be used rectally and not orally.

To check mom’s temperature, do this advisable at noon every day. Get a little quantity of jelly or margarine to serve as lubrication and apply the thermometer to take the temperature reading through the rectal. Insert the thermometer one inch deep and leave for three minutes before removing. The temperature should normally be around 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit which is 38.5 degrees Celsius. Also, note that this should be commenced two weeks before the delivery date.

Alright, with the preparations in place, let’s get into the core issues on how to tell if your dog is in labor.

The Expected Labor Day Is Finally Here!

​Step 1: Check For The Difference In Temperature

​Now, if you are committed to monitoring your dog’s temperature at the same time at noon every day, you should notice once there is a drop in temperature. With a drop in temperature to below 100 Fahrenheit which is below 37 degrees Celsius, it means labor should occur within the next 12 to 24 hours maximum.

​You can decide to take the reading twice a day as the lower the reading the closer the delivery time is.

​Right now all remaining preparations for delivery should be made. It should include keeping your vet doctor abreast on the development.

​Step 2: Check For Signs Of Restlessness And Loss Of Appetite

​In most cases one week to delivery the dog becomes restless and loses appetite. However, when labor is like 24 hours or less away the dog becomes more anxious, pants, pacing and even remove the towels in the birthing box. When heavy breathing and others occur, it won’t take long for contraction to begin gradually leading to the dog been shaky.

​At this point you need to be your dog’s best friend, giving it all the necessary support and assistance to keep it calm. She might also relocate the birthing box to a more conducive area she feels more conducive for her and the puppies before they arrive.

​Step 3: Vaginal Discharge

​Vaginal discharge occurs when it is almost time for the puppies to begin their descent. When the vaginal discharge turns to green/ brownish, it means the placenta should have started disengaging from the puppies. So, here comes the real deal!

​Step 4: The Real Deal: Here Come The Puppies!

​Usually delivery occurs in three stages:

  • First Stage: Preparing for dilation

The dog either lies down or squats when the cervix begins to open, and the very painful uterine contraction begins. The dog most times whines out of pain, showing signs of restlessness. This stage might take another 6 to 18 hours before the dog becomes dilated and the puppies start rolling out.

  • Stage Two: Puppies starts rolling out

This stage can last for anything between 3 to 12 hours depending on the number of puppies to be delivered and other delays. First, the placenta sack ruptures releasing greenish/ brownish colored fluid. After this, within 20 to 30 minutes interval the puppies start coming out. Once the placenta is out with the liquid, then another puppy follows. The mom usually cuts the umbilical cord with her canine and cleans the baby with her tongue. It allows puppies breathe properly and remove fluids that can obstruct breathing.

Moms could sometimes take a rest for like 3 to 4 hours after delivering one before pushing again. However, if there is a longer delay than 3 hours, it is best to seek the help of a veterinary doctor to avoid complications. In the process of severing the umbilical cord if it becomes necessary, you can assist the mom cut off the Cord. If mom is pushing another puppy out and licking the other, if need be you can support by cleaning up the puppy. It is best left for the mom to cut the umbilical cord and clean puppy herself as it helps her bond with her puppies. If a puppy comes out with legs first, you can assist by gently pulling the leg downwards in an arch format to bring the puppy out. I will, however, suggest you call in the professionals immediately to avoid further complications. It is a better thing to do when you are not sure of how to do this.

  • Stage Three: Release of blood, fluid, and remaining placenta

At this juncture, the mom contracts the uterus, releasing any remaining blood and placenta. You need to be vigilant all through the delivery to ensure that the number of placentae aligns with the number of puppies delivered. If you suspect that there are still placenta left in the mom, you need to seek the help of a veterinary doctor immediately to get it out.

So What Next

I sure hope you find this tutorial on how to tell if your dog is in labor quite educative and easy to use. I also wish you can be a part of the thrill of helping these lovely angels to be born into the world. Please do not forget to give the mom her natural pet food and water to help her recover fast. You can take her out for fresh air and then clean out the entire delivery area.

I have always found everything about dogs and their labor process fascinating and you will if you give it a shot someday!

If you find this article helpful in any way, please leave a comment in the space provided underneath and also share this article with your friends.

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