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Signs of Dog Labor: What to Look for & Care Tips (2024)

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dog labor signsAre you worried about your dog’s impending labor? Don’t stress! Around 78 million dogs in the US are owned as pets, and lots of them go through this process successfully every year. Knowing the signs and preparing for it ahead of time can make all the difference.

Being able to recognize the signs of a dog in labor is essential so that you’ll be prepared if something unexpected happens or if you have questions for your vet. Here, we’ll cover what items should be on hand during delivery, when to contact a veterinarian, and more information regarding proper care during pregnancy including confirmation tests, nutritional needs in the last trimester, etc.

Get ready—it won’t be long before those puppies enter into their new home!

Key Takeaways

  • Nesting behavior and refusal to eat are signs that a dog is in labor.
  • Enlarged mammary glands and increased abdominal size are physical changes during dog pregnancy.
  • Labor consists of contractions, resting phases, and the delivery of puppies.
  • Hardened abdomen, incessant licking, and vomiting are signs that a dog is in labor.

Signs of Dog Labor

dog labor signs 1
You may notice your pup developing nesting behavior, shivering, or refusing to eat – all of which could be signs that labor is imminent. Proper prenatal care and a healthy diet during puppy development are important for the puppies’ health in utero.

As the fetus develops over the last few weeks before birth, you will likely begin to see physical changes in your dog. These changes include enlargement of mammary glands or an increase in abdominal size due to fetal growth.

Once labor has begun, there will typically be several stages. These stages include the onset of contractions, a resting phase between each stage, and hours until delivery when puppies arrive one by one.

After each individual puppy’s arrival, there will be postnatal care from their mother.

Signs like a hardened abdomen accompanied by incessant licking around the genital area, along with vomiting, should also alert owners that labor has started. To ensure a smooth process, it is important for pet parents to understand the normal signals associated with dog labor.

This way, they can recognize any complications requiring veterinary consultation immediately upon occurrence.

What Are the Signs of a Dog in Labor?

What Are the Signs of a Dog in Labor?
As your pup nears the end of their pregnancy, it’s important to know the signs of labor so you can be prepared for this special moment. Nesting behavior, a drop in body temperature, an increased desire for human presence or solitude, and vomiting are all key indicators that labor is about to begin.


Nest-building is one of the first signs that labor is imminent, so keep an eye out for this behavior in your pup. Nesting dogs are preparing for their puppies by creating a warm and safe environment to regulate temperature while they progress through labor.

Puppy care and maternal health are paramount during this period, so it’s important to be prepared with essential items as well as contact information for veterinary assistance when needed.

Common signs like nesting may indicate labor but can also signify false pregnancy or pseudocyesis.

Your dog knows best – trust their way of showing you they need help.

Body Temperature Drop

As labor nears, your pup’s body temperature may drop noticeably. Don’t panic – it’s just nature taking its course! Monitor changes in her average body temperature and pay attention to any dips that occur.

False pregnancy or pseudocyesis can also cause a decrease, so be prepared for birthing problems if needed. Ensure preventative care is taken with growth food and vaccinations prior to delivery, as well as cutting the umbilical cord soon after birth according to your dog’s preference.

Desire for Human Presence or Solitude

As labor approaches, your pup may start to express a desire for human presence or solitude. This could be due to their sense of control over the birthing process and survival instinct. Monitor any changes in socializing habits with puppies and provide a whelping box that is escape-proof but easily accessed by the mother dog.

Ensure proper canine nutrition, maternal healthcare, vaccinations before delivery, and prompt removal of placentas post-birth as per the female dog’s preference – this will help reduce pain during labor complications.


Vomiting is often one of the signs to watch out for as your pup approaches labor. It could be an indication that something isn’t right or it could just be a dog’s way to help expel any fluid buildup in their stomachs during the beginning stages.

It may also indicate a false pregnancy, so you should monitor this and other signs closely as the time for delivery approaches.

Be sure to have all essential items ready, such as a whelping box, blanket, heat lamp, etc., and keep track of how many placentas are passed after each puppy. This will help identify complications if they arise quickly before the mother and puppies get into further distress or danger.

Essential Items for Dog Labor

Essential Items for Dog Labor
When it comes to preparing for your pup’s labor, there are certain essential items you’ll need to have on hand. A whelping box and blanket will provide a comfortable environment for the mother and her new puppies.

To ensure safety, keep a heat lamp nearby, in addition to useful tools like bulb syringes, baby scales, canine milk replacements, and bottle feeders.

Whelping Box

Preparing a whelping box is essential for a pup’s labor journey. Items such as a heat lamp, canine milk replacement, a blanket, and a bulb syringe help create a safe and comfortable environment to experience this momentous occasion.

Monitor body temperature throughout the labor stages; proper pregnant care can prevent birth defects.


A cozy blanket in the whelping box is a must-have for your pup’s labor journey, providing comfort and security during this momentous occasion. It serves as an extra heat source and insulation to keep puppies warm after birth.

Place blankets or newspapers on the floor of the box if desired. The temperature should be monitored closely by you with a thermometer; contact your vet if it drops too low or rises above normal levels.

Having canine milk replacement and a bottle available ensures that even weak pups can get their supply of nutrition without mom having to do all the work! The whelping box blanket provides a safe space for open giving birth, allowing her dog’s way of birthing puppies free from interference or danger.

Heat Lamp

You’ll want to have a heat lamp ready for your pup’s labor journey, providing extra warmth and comfort during the birthing process. Heat retention is essential for successful delivery of puppies, as well as recognizing any signs of emergency care that may be needed.

Bulb Syringe

Having a bulb syringe during labor is key – it helps the birthing process run smoother. Use it to express excess fluid from puppies’ mouths and noses, or feed them with canine milk replacement if needed.

Keep in mind that whelping box supplies such as heat lamp, baby scale and thermometer are essential items too! Be prepared for signs like hardened abdomen or contractions; have all these items ready before your dog’s due date.

Baby Scale

It’s important to have a baby scale on hand during labor, so you can easily weigh puppies and monitor progress.

  1. Prolonged labor
  2. False pregnancy
  3. Weight gain
  4. Vitamin supplements & dog labor signs at the end of pregnancy!
    Monitor normal stages of delivery with an escape-proof whelping box and baby scale in place; vital for a smooth birthing process!

Canine Milk Replacement

In the event of labor complications or a prolonged birthing process, canine milk replacement is essential for puppy nutrition. Feeding habits should be monitored and adjusted with a growth-type diet. A whelping box and daily monitoring of the genital area fluid are also important during labor pain.

Canine Bottle Feeder

You’ll need a canine bottle feeder to properly nourish puppies during the birthing process, as it is estimated that up to 60% of newborn pups require supplementary feeding due to difficulty nursing.

Feeding frequency should be adjusted depending on the dog’s way of nursing her puppies and their consistent straining at her mammary glands – they must have a safe place at all times of day!

  • Bottle cleaning
  • Temperature control
  • Feeding frequency
  • Milk storage

The puppy nursery should be well stocked with these essentials; nothing can replace mother’s warmth but having them close by increases chances for survival significantly.


Having a thermometer on hand during labor is essential for recognizing any abnormal temperature changes, which could signal potential complications. Canine milk stored at the right temperature helps ensure proper nourishment of puppies and can be monitored with the thermometer in a whelping box.

Fluctuations in your dog’s stomach area should also be checked to confirm false pregnancy or pseudocyesis. Veterinary care is paramount during birthing – monitoring the bitch’s body temperature with a thermometer facilitates accurate diagnosis within theriogenology.

Veterinarian’s Phone Number

Be sure to store your vet’s phone number in a readily accessible spot before labor. In case of birthing complications, such as false pregnancy, puppy health concerns, or labor signs like enlargement of mammary glands and incessant licking, you can quickly contact them for help.

When to Contact a Veterinarian During Labor

When to Contact a Veterinarian During Labor
As you prepare for your pup’s labor, it is important to know when to contact a veterinarian. Unusual behavior, past birthing problems, prolonged labor, and no puppies after three hours should all be cause for concern.

Additionally, consistent straining with no puppies being born or labor stopping before all the puppies have been birthed could indicate an emergency situation that requires the attention of a vet. If there are weak or stillborn puppies present or if your pup is experiencing severe distress or pain, then immediate veterinary assistance should be sought out.

Unusual Behavior

It is important to be aware of any unusual behavior your pup may exhibit during labor, such as excessive straining or refusal to eat. Overbreeding, emergency care, false pregnancy, and vaccine avoidance are key considerations for a successful delivery.

Nutritional balance should also be maintained throughout the process for optimal health.

Past Birthing Problems

If you have experienced birthing problems in the past with your pup, it’s important to contact a veterinarian for any labor signs. Vaccinations, physical exam and visible contractions should be monitored closely.

Be aware of pseudocyesis and weight gain risks when providing vitamins or supplements.

Prolonged Labor

If labor goes on for longer than normal, it is important to contact the veterinarian. Prolonged labor can be dangerous; studies suggest a 50% increased puppy mortality after 8 hours. Fetal monitoring, canine nutrition, and pseudocyesis prevention reduce false labor and pain.

No Puppies After 3 Hours

If you have been monitoring your dog’s labor and there are no puppies after three hours, it is important to contact the vet right away. Fading placentas, birthing problems, weight gain, and false pregnancy can all be causes of concern.

Have a whelping box set up with a heat lamp in case of distress; also, make sure that canine bottles and syringes, as well as baby scales, are ready for use.

1 Hour Between Puppies

It is important to be watchful if more than an hour passes between puppies during labor. Have the vet’s number handy, as time is of the essence! Proper breeding preparation, temperature tracking, and dietary changes can help avoid false pregnancies.

Be prepared for your dog’s way of giving birth by having a whelping box with the veterinarian’s number on hand and signs of pregnancy observed.

Consistent Straining With No Puppies

Watching for consistent straining with no puppies is key during labor. Early warning signs like these require quick action: 1) Veterinary care; 2) Whelping box, blanket & heat lamp; 3) Lactation issues & puppy health; 4) Stress management & vet’s phone number.

Labor complications can lead to severe distress or even stillborn pups, so having proper equipment and knowing when to contact the vet is essential! Timely intervention helps avoid further problems and ensures a safe delivery for all involved.

Labor Stopping Before All Puppies Are Born

If labor stops before all puppies are born, it’s vital to contact a vet immediately. Birth can be frightening – proper care, confirmation of pregnancy, and special treatments ensure a smoother process.

A heat lamp and canine milk should be ready; have the veterinarian’s number handy for impending birth and complications like pseudocyesis or weight gain.

Severe Distress or Pain

Be alert for signs of severe distress or pain in your dog during labor. Veterinary care is essential to ensure a smooth process and prevent complications like false pregnancy. Have the whelping box, heat lamp bulb, baby scale, and veterinarian’s number ready just in case! Monitor closely for any distress signals from your pregnant pooch.

Weak or Stillborn Puppies

It is important to be aware of weak or stillborn puppies during labor. Blood loss, puppy size, stress levels, and a temperature drop can all indicate this. Have the veterinarian’s number ready in case labor pain becomes severe or prolonged.

Importance of Veterinary Consultation During Labor

Importance of Veterinary Consultation During Labor
Calling your vet to discuss any complications during labor is an important step in ensuring a safe and successful delivery. It’s essential that you have the veterinarian’s phone number handy, as their advice can help prevent or resolve birthing problems.

Vaccinations and deworming should not be done during pregnancy, as this could harm both the mother and her puppies. False pregnancies (pseudocyesis) may also occur, so it is best to confirm with your veterinarian if necessary.

Feeding high-calorie food before the last trimester can lead to weight gain, which will complicate labor.

Having all of the necessary items on hand, such as a whelping box, blanket, heat lamp bulb, syringe, baby scale, canine milk replacement, canine bottle feeder, and thermometer, are also must-haves when preparing for dog labor.

Taking all of these steps prior ensures that everything runs smoothly, allowing you both peace of mind throughout this special time!

Importance of Having Veterinarian’s Number Handy

Importance of Having Veterinarian
Having your vet’s number on hand is essential to ensure a safe and successful delivery, so don’t wait until the last minute to store it away! By doing this ahead of time, you can avoid any potential stress or delays if an unexpected complication arises.

Vaccinations and deworming should be avoided during pregnancy as they may harm both the mother and puppies, while false pregnancies (pseudocyesis) need confirmation from a veterinarian.

Feeding higher calorie food before the last trimester could lead to weight gain, which will complicate labor.

Having all necessary items, such as whelping boxes, blankets, heat lamp bulbs, syringes, etc.

Preparing growth foods in advance also ensures that when new puppies arrive, there are no nutritional deficiencies for them either!

Knowing that you have your vet’s phone number readily available can provide peace of mind during this special time, knowing help is just a call away if needed!

General Practice and Preventative Medicine in Theriogenology

General Practice and Preventative Medicine in Theriogenology
Now that you have your veterinarian’s number handy, it’s important to understand the basics of general practice and preventative medicine in theriogenology.

Breeding cycles and heat cycles are key elements of this field. Ultrasound diagnosis is used for pregnancy confirmation or false pregnancy detection. It’s important to prevent calcium deficiency by ensuring adequate building material in a bitch’s diet during gestation.

Just avoid overfeeding high-calorie food before her last trimester to avoid weight gain complications.

In addition, proper vaccinations and deworming should be avoided during pregnancy but resumed once puppies are weaned.

Finally, remember that having all essential items ready prior to labor will help reduce pre-labor jitters too.

Proper Care During Pregnancy

Proper Care During Pregnancy
Confirmation of pregnancy, nutritional needs in the last trimester, preparation of a whelping box, and monitoring body temperature are all important steps when it comes to proper care for dogs during pregnancy.

Knowing your dog’s signs of labor is essential to ensure that she and her puppies get off on the right paw. Ultrasound diagnosis can help confirm if a false or true pregnancy exists, while dietary changes should be made throughout gestation for optimal health benefits.

Confirmation of Pregnancy

Confirming your dog’s pregnancy is key to understanding when labor will start and what signs you should look out for. So don’t hesitate to schedule an ultrasound or X-ray. Vaccination risk increases in the later weeks of gestation, as does pseudocyesis risk if dietary changes aren’t made.

Switching from regular food to growth food helps prepare for delivery; a heat lamp and a large whelping box are essential too! Monitoring the bitch’s mammary glands during the late stages can help ensure a proper diet while allowing enough space in a clean area around her for the puppies’ arrival.

Nutritional Needs in Last Trimester

You should gradually transition your pup’s diet to a growth or pregnant/lactating dog food in the last trimester of their pregnancy. Too much weight gain can lead to pseudocyesis, so avoid excessive vitamins and supplements.

Monitoring the dog’s mammary glands helps ensure they receive essential nutrients while allowing enough space for puppies at delivery time. A lactating bitch experiences a significant nutritional drain, which requires her diet to be adjusted accordingly.

Preparing Whelping Box

To ensure a smooth birthing process, prepare an escape-proof whelping box with items like blankets and heat lamps to provide comfort for your pup. Include bedding such as towels or old clothing that can be changed easily between puppies.

Avoid vaccinations and other treatments during the last trimester of pregnancy, as well as any food changes unless absolutely necessary.

Monitor your dog’s mammary glands regularly so you know when labor will begin – then get ready with that trusty bulb syringe at hand!

Monitoring Body Temperature

Monitoring your pup’s body temperature is important to predict labor. Keep a thermometer handy and check for any drop in temperature, especially if false pregnancy occurs. Look out for signs of weight gain and vaginal wall dilation. Veterinary consultation is recommended when the abdomen tenses or falls below 99 degrees Fahrenheit.

Labor and Delivery Stages and Care

Labor and Delivery Stages and Care
Understanding the stages of labor and delivery can help you ensure your pet has a safe, healthy birthing experience. Gestation usually takes between 58 to 70 days, though false pregnancy or pseudocyesis symptoms may arise before that timeline is up.

Signs such as hardening of the abdomen and enlargement of mammary glands should be closely monitored throughout this period for proper care.

Vaccination precautions should also be taken during pregnancy, with no vaccinations given until after puppy extraction is complete.

It’s important to create an escape-proof whelping box for delivery day with plenty of soft bedding like blankets, towels, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the average length of gestation for dogs?

Gestation for dogs typically lasts between 58-70 days. It is important to understand the process and take steps to ensure a smooth delivery. Monitor your dog’s body temperature, provide proper nutrition, and prepare a whelping box before labor begins.

What are the signs of a false pregnancy in a dog?

Signs of a false pregnancy in dogs include swollen and sensitive mammary glands, nest-building behavior, lactation without giving birth, producing milk, or increased appetite. She may also exhibit signs of motherhood such as carrying around toys as if they were puppies.

What nutritional considerations should be taken into account during a dog’s pregnancy?

During pregnancy, feed your dog high-quality food that meets their nutritional needs. Avoid giving vitamins and supplements, and gradually transition their diet to growth or pregnant/lactating formulas.

Monitor caloric intake to ensure weight gain is gradual; sudden increases can lead to complications during birth.

Are there any necessary vaccinations during a dog’s pregnancy?

No vaccinations are necessary during a dog’s pregnancy. Instead, focus on providing adequate nutrition and comfort for your pup to ensure the best birthing experience.

What is the best way to prepare a whelping box for a dog’s labor?

Prepare a whelping box for your dog’s labor by providing plenty of space, keeping the area warm, using soft bedding, and adding items like heat lamps and blankets for comfort.


From the signs of nesting to the essential items needed for a successful labor, it was discussed in this article what owners need to look for when it comes to their dog’s labor. Knowing the signs of labor can help owners prepare for the big day and make sure their dog is comfortable.

It’s important to be aware of any unusual behavior, prolonged labor, and other complications that may arise. If owners are prepared for the labor process, they can ensure their dog has a safe and successful delivery.

Veterinary consultation is highly recommended during labor to help manage any potential issues, and having the veterinarian’s number handy is essential.

By understanding the stages of labor and taking the necessary precautions, owners can make sure their dog’s labor is as stress-free as possible.

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Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is the founder and editor-in-chief with a team of qualified veterinarians, their goal? Simple. Break the jargon and help you make the right decisions for your furry four-legged friends.