When a dog is reaching the end of her pregnancy, an owner may wonder what signs to watch for as she gets ready to go into labor. The dog’s pregnancy will last approximately a few months, although smaller dogs sometimes tend to give birth sooner, while larger dogs may go beyond the average time. At least two weeks prior to the approximate due date, owners should begin preparing for the puppies arrival.
The dog should deliver her puppies in an area that is clean, warm, comfortable, and makes her feel safe. Special whelping boxes can be built to ensure that a dog does not inadvertently lie on her puppies. These boxes are typically set up similar to that of a baby’s playpen but with pieces of PVC piping in place to prevent mom from accidentally squishing a pup. There is an opening in the front with a barrier that remains high enough to keep puppies in, but low enough for mom to get out. In lieu of a specially built whelping box, a large cardboard box with an appropriately sized cutout in the front will suffice. The box should be lined with a thick layer of newspaper topped with clean soft towels that can be disposed of after the birthing process. This box should be prepared ahead of time; this will also give your dog some time to get acclimated to the area.
Approximately 14 days before the dog is expected to go into labor, the owner should begin taking her temperature rectally, once per day, at the same time each day. The dog’s temperature will fall somewhere between 101°F and 102.5°F. A drop in the body temperature signals the beginning of labor. A temperature below 100°F means that the dog should begin delivering within the next twenty-four hours.
The physical signs of labor can include pacing, panting, and extreme restlessness. She will also begin nesting by fluffing up the towels within the whelping box. The owner should also be on the lookout for both loss of appetite and vomiting, as the dog knows it is better not to have a full stomach while in labor. The dog may become shaky and by this time, she may want her owner close by. The owner should stay near the dog during the entire labor process because she will be looking for comfort and attention. Contractions will begin; these can anywhere between six and 18 hours.
Puppies Are Coming
After the initial stage of labor, stronger contractions will kick in and mom will either squat or lie down to begin pushing. Pushing can last up to a half hour prior to the first puppy and between each additional puppy. In fact, some dogs will take breaks of up to three hours between puppies. Owners will notice a pale fluid that is expelled prior to the emergence of the puppy; this is due to the placental sac breaking. After the puppy appears, mom will begin to clean off the puppy, which in turn stimulates breathing. This can sometimes be unsettling for a human to watch, but it is perfectly natural. Mom should be allowed to do this and to clean up any afterbirth. If she does not begin to clean off the puppy then you should be prepared to briskly rub the newborn with a clean towel to establish breathing. Suction of the nose and mouth may be necessary to remove fluids. After all puppies are born, mom should be offered food and water and then be allowed to rest with and nurse her brand-new babies.
Canines have been giving birth on their own for many, many years. Domesticated dogs become emotionally attached to their owners and most often prefer to have them in attendance during labor. This is a good idea both because of comfort and because of safety. If the dog begins to go into distress, if it has been more than three hours since she passed a puppy, or if the owner has any concerns, they should immediately contact your veterinarian.