The Signs of Imminent Labor in Dogs

If you have a pregnant dog, you may be wondering how to tell when she is about to give birth. Recognizing the signs of imminent labor in dogs can help you be prepared and ensure a smooth delivery. In this article, we will cover the key signs that your dog is ready to welcome her puppies into the world.

signs of imminent labor in dogs

The typical gestation period for dogs is around 63 days, but this can vary depending on the breed and the size of the litter. Some dogs may go into labor earlier or later than the average. Therefore, it is important to monitor your dog’s behavior and physical changes as she approaches her due date.

Behavioral Changes

One of the first signs of imminent labor in dogs is a change in their behavior. Your dog may exhibit some or all of the following behavioral changes as she gets ready to deliver:

  • Restlessness and pacing: Your dog may become restless and pace around the house, looking for a comfortable place to settle. She may also pant, breathe heavily, or lick her vulva frequently.
  • Nesting behavior: Your dog may seek out secluded areas, such as closets, under the bed, or in a crate, and scratch at the bedding to make a nest for her puppies. She may also gather toys, blankets, or other items to bring to her nest.
  • Increased clinginess or need for attention: Your dog may become more affectionate and want to be near you at all times. She may also seek reassurance and comfort from you, especially if she is a first-time mother.
  • Loss of appetite: Your dog may lose interest in food and water as she gets closer to labor. This is normal and not a cause for concern, as long as she stays hydrated and does not show signs of dehydration, such as dry gums or sunken eyes.
  • Vocalization: Your dog may whine, whimper, or bark more than usual as she experiences contractions and discomfort. She may also groan or grunt during the pushing stage of labor.

Physical Signs

Another sign of imminent labor in dogs is a change in their physical appearance and condition. Your dog may show some or all of the following physical signs as she prepares to give birth:

  • Discharge from the vulva: Your dog may have a clear, bloody, or straw-colored discharge from her vulva, which indicates that her cervix is dilating and her mucus plug is loosening. This is normal and not a sign of infection, unless the discharge is foul-smelling, green, or black.
  • Swollen abdomen: Your dog’s abdomen may become more swollen and tight as the puppies move into position for delivery. You may also be able to feel the puppies’ movements or see them kicking through the skin.
  • Lowering of the abdomen: Your dog’s abdomen may lower or drop as the puppies descend into the birth canal. This may make your dog look thinner or more streamlined from the side.
  • Milk production: Your dog’s nipples may enlarge and produce milk, which is also called colostrum. This is the first milk that provides the puppies with antibodies and nutrients. You may be able to express some milk from the nipples by gently squeezing them.
  • Vulva relaxation: Your dog’s vulva may become more relaxed and swollen as she gets ready to push out the puppies. You may also see some bulging or protrusion of the vulva as the puppies’ heads emerge.
  • Shivering or tremors: Your dog may shiver or tremble as she goes into labor, which is a normal response to the hormonal changes and the stress of delivery. This does not mean that your dog is cold or in pain, unless she also shows signs of distress, such as excessive panting, drooling, or crying.
signs of imminent labor in dogs

When to Contact Your Veterinarian

While most dogs can deliver their puppies without any complications, some may need veterinary assistance or intervention. You should contact your veterinarian if:

  • Your dog is in distress or showing any unusual signs, such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or seizures.
  • Your dog’s water breaks but no puppies are delivered within 24 hours. This may indicate a uterine infection or a stuck puppy.
  • Your dog has signs of infection, such as foul-smelling discharge, fever, or inflammation.
  • Your dog has been in labor for more than four hours without delivering any puppies, or more than two hours between delivering each puppy. This may indicate a difficult or obstructed labor, which can be life-threatening for both the mother and the puppies.
  • Your dog delivers fewer puppies than expected, based on the ultrasound or X-ray results. This may indicate that some puppies are still inside the uterus and need to be removed.
  • Your dog delivers more than six puppies, which can increase the risk of complications, such as bleeding, infection, or exhaustion.

If you have any doubts or concerns about your dog’s labor, do not hesitate to call your veterinarian for advice or emergency care.

signs of imminent labor in dogs


Knowing the signs of imminent labor in dogs can help you be ready for your dog’s delivery and ensure a smooth and safe birth. You should also have a whelping kit handy, which contains essential items such as towels, gloves, scissors, thread, thermometer, and scale. You should also have your veterinarian’s contact information and the nearest emergency clinic’s address and phone number.

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