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Signs a Dog Is Going Into Labor Soon – Do This Now

Veterinary reviewed by Dr. Linda Simon.

You can never be too prepared when it comes to your dog going into labor.

It’s both exciting and exhausting to have a new litter of puppies in your home.

However, if you are aware of the potential problems and the ways to avoid or fix them – all of this can turn out to be an exciting experience.

Before explaining the signs of the actual labor, here’s a little recap regarding prenatal care to make sure you get to that final point.

Around the 25th day of the pregnancy, the heart of the embryos can be seen.

Ultrasound examination won’t reveal the exact number of puppies though.

Your female dog’s diet is adjusted by now and exercise is restricted since she’s around 5 weeks into the pregnancy.

Assuming you know the exact date of your dog’s mating, around the 45th day of the pregnancy the mother should be seen by a vet.

Around this period the skeletons of the pups are mineralized enough to be seen on x-ray.

X-ray imaging is a fast, non-invasive, and easy-to-perform procedure to count how many puppies to expect.

This can very helpful because when the labor ends you will know how many puppies are supposed to be there.

If the numbers don’t match, that means one or more puppies have been retained.

Important: To go into labor, every pregnant dog must have a place (whelping box) where she will feel comfortable enough to give birth and raise the puppies.

Sometimes she picks the place herself and starts preparing it a few days before going into labor but you can always assist her.

The area should be designed in a way to let the mother go back and forth from it as she needs while keeping the puppies confined.

Dog is looking shocked while laying on the belly.
Photo by Barna Tanko on Shutterstock

During the second half of the pregnancy and one month after the mother shouldn’t be in contact with other dogs; the main reason for the social distancing is herpes virus infections spread between dogs with mutual licking.

Although harmless for adult individuals, the virus is lethal for unborn puppies and newborn puppies.

The average gestation period for a dog is 63 days, but you can expect new puppies anywhere between 58 and 68 days.

Pregnant Dog Belly Dropped

The mother’s body won’t change its appearance or metabolic requirements much before the 35th day of pregnancy.

At this point, the caloric requirements of the dog will significantly increase.

Generally speaking, you should offer your pregnant pet twice as much food starting from day 36.

Nursing moms spend a lot of energy producing milk so they require three times more than the usual amount.

A smart nutritional step is to switch the regular adult dog food to puppy dog food or switch your dog’s raw diet according to her weight.

This type of food is intended for growing pups and has enough vitamins, minerals, and calories to support the well-being of the mom and the babies inside her womb.

If you feed your dog quality puppy food during the second half of the pregnancy there is no real need to add supplements to the diet.

Always be careful with supplementation because excess calcium and vitamins are known to cause metabolic imbalances that can harm the puppies.

During the pregnancy, you will surely notice how the mom’s abdomen gets bigger and bigger.

What happens when the pregnant dog’s belly drops?

Watch the belly closely because a few days before the whelping it will become distended without the usual fetal movements.

What are The First Signs of a Dog Going Into Labor?

About a week to 4-5 days before going into labor the mother starts nesting.

This means she has already chosen the place where she will be giving birth and starts arranging the space to her liking.

One week before the dog just lies in the place a lot without showing any other signs.

A few days later she may bring blankets, cardboard, and newspapers to make sure the floor is dry and soft enough.

2-3 days before the event, it’s normal for the mother to lose her interest in food, but not completely. The next day there is a significant change in her body temperature.

This is the moment when your good parenting skills come into play.

If you carefully and regularly measured your dog’s rectal temperature you will surely notice the sudden drop.

The normal body temperature for dogs is 101.0-102.5 F (38.3-39.2 C); when it drops below 100 F (37.8 C) the mother will go into labor within the next 24 hours.

Female Beagle is outside nursing her little puppies.
Photo by Chokniti-Studio on Shutterstock

The labor itself begins when the uterine contractions begin – stage one of labor.

This is painful for the dogs and they become restless.

Some of them might start shivering, panting digging, and even vomiting.

The owners consider this behavior as a sign of going into labor instead of labor itself because the contractions are not easily visible.

Stage one is really long and lasts between 6 and 12 hours.

There is nothing an owner can do during this time except for providing fresh water at all times and a stress-free environment for the mother.

At the end of this stage, the cervix dilates, letting the puppies expel one by one.

Do Dogs’ Waters Break?

The second stage of labor is when the contractions are clearly visible on the abdominal wall and the puppies start coming out.

During the second stage, the dog’s water may break.

If it does you may notice a clear fluid running out of the vagina.

As a diagnostic sign of labor, the water-breakage in pregnant dogs has a small prediction value.

In humans is very important, but in dogs when it happens it’s already evident that the mother is already pushing the babies out. 

Do Dogs Have Discharge Before Labor?

2 to 3 days before the labor there may be thick and clear mucus coming out of the female.

This happens at the same time her appetite drops and it’s completely normal.

What’s not normal is for the dog to pass small or significant quantities of bloody, black, green, or foul-smelling discharge during any time of the pregnancy.

If this type of discharge is accompanied by depression, lack of energy, or pain it’s an emergency situation.

During labor, the placenta separates from the womb and a green and dark discharge is passed along with the puppies.

This is normal except in a situation when after the fluid leaks there is no puppy coming out for more than 4 hours.

Do Dogs Leak Before Giving Birth?

The discharge starts 2 days before the dog starts whelping and appears as a clear non-smelly gelatinous discharge.

This can hardly be characterized as leaking because the amount of the fluid is not that big.

Do Dogs Usually Give Birth at Night?

Puppies can be born day or night, whenever they are ready.

It’s true that most animals go into labor at night, especially in the wilderness.

This comes as no surprise because in the dark the threat of lurking predators is smaller so it’s safer to give birth.

However, dogs are a domesticated animal species and they do not have natural predators, thus momma dog doesn’t mind if the sun is high up or down below.

How Can I Induce Labor in My Dog Naturally?

Difficult pregnancies can end up with the induction of labor or a c-section.

The latter is an emergency procedure performed when there is no other way to save the mother and the puppies.

Consulting the vet is, of course, crucial.

Malinois puppy reaches for his mother's snout.
Photo by cynoclub on Shutterstock

Induction is achieved with Oxytocin injections.

The treatment can be costly so some owners decide to turn to a more natural and budget-friendly approach.

However, a good breeding program should factor in these costs.

One of the things that can be done is to rub the mother’s nipples. Gentle rubbing stimulates the production of the inducing hormones.

Walking the dog frequently for short periods of time and massaging the stomach muscles when resting can help in non-critical situations.

Can a Dog Stop Labor?

A dog can unwillingly stop labor for a number of reasons.

In medical terms, the condition is called dystocia and refers to a difficult birth.

Difficult birth is a result of the absence of uterine contractions, narrow birth canal, wrong positioning of the babies in the birth canal, large fetuses, etc.

All cases of dystocia should be checked by a veterinarian.

Ideally, the dog should give birth to a new puppy every 20-30 minutes.

A pause between puppies of more than 1 hour can already be treated as dystocia.

How to Help Your Dog During Labor? 

Theoretically, a mother can go through the whole process all by themselves and doesn’t need any assistance even though it can be helpful.

Being able to take her to the vet in an emergency situation is essential.

Taking care of the puppies is required if the mother isn’t interested in it.

This includes removing the membrane of a newborn puppy, rubbing the pup with a towel, and cutting the umbilical cord.

After the last puppy enriches the world with his presence, get the mother outside to urinate and bring her back to feed and keep her babies warm.

The period of raising the puppies starts now, with all that it entails like socialization, adjusting the puppies’ diet, and so on.

Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

Equipped with 5+ years of expertise as a Rottweiler owner, I partner with licensed veterinarians and trainers to share research-backed and actionable advice for you and your furry friend.

Joe Rivera

Monday 24th of January 2022

I found the information from your site extremely informative and easy to understand. Thanks for your information. My dog actually had 11 puppies she’s a Blu Heeler. Thanks.

K Hill

Sunday 20th of November 2022

@Joe Rivera,

I have a blue heeler that is about 4 to 5 weeks into gestation. I am worried sick due to her age but vet said everything is looking good so far. I will be keeping this article where I can find it quickly.

Veronica Gonzales

Thursday 11th of November 2021

Thank you this helps a great deal. We have another and daughter the daughter has possibly 2-3 days he is discharging a thick mucous element and still is always very hungry. She is 2 and a half yes old but seems very scared on what's going on she is very clingy to myself and partner and is panting heavy. Sleeping a lot. So I believe it is almost time. We had our dog stolen and got her back exactly 30 days after. We noticed she was pregnant about 2 weeks ago. So we don't know exactly when she'll be having the puppies the mother is 85% wolf so the traits are a bit different so if you may have insight on hybrids that would be helpful. Thank you,


Saturday 27th of November 2021

Hey Veronica, if your dog was stolen and came back pregnant, I'd suggest you consult your veterinarian (and perhaps the authorities since your dog was stolen). Not sure what kind of hybrid your dog will be but if it's truly an 85% wolfdog that's a very very high-content wolf hybrid and you'd have to make sure about the legality in your country/state.

There are plenty of resources on raising puppies including socialization. I'd suggest you consult a professional to help.