10 Signs a Dog Is Going Into Labor Soon
It's an exciting time with your dog is pregnant. New puppies are on their way, and you will have the opportunity to watch your gal blossom into a mother. However, because our sweet dogs can't communicate how they're feeling with words, it can be difficult to pinpoint when the pups will arrive. Though it's not always straightforward to detect, there are some signs a dog is going into labor soon, and as her parent, it's essential to be on the lookout for them.
From panting and pacing to nesting and more, veterinarians shared 10 signs delivery is right around the corner.
RELATED: Dog Pregnancy: What to Expect
1. You Saw the Puppies' Skeletons on an X-ray
This might not seem like an obvious sign, but unlike humans, pups are more than one-third of the way through their gestation before you can confirm a pregnancy. Typically, dogs are considered full term at 63 days, and an ultrasound can detect the pregnancy at 25 days, according to Kelly Dunham, DVM, the Indevets area medical director for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
However, she explains not all veterinary hospitals may be equipped to perform ultrasounds, and a referral may be needed. "By day 45 of pregnancy, the puppies' skeletons can be seen on radiographs," she continues. "This is typically a more affordable, accessible, and reliable method to determine the puppy count."
If you could see the puppies on an ultrasound, you can estimate your girl is at least 45 days along and could go into labor within the next two to three weeks (and there's nothing cooler than seeing little puppy skeletons on an X-ray!).
2. She's 58 Days Pregnant
Like people, some dogs may go into labor a little early or late. However, since 58 days is the full-term marker, Dunham recommends that you monitor your dog's actions once they reach this milestone.
If it has been more than 70 days from breeding and labor has not started, this can be an indication that something is wrong, and you should seek immediate veterinary care, she says.
3. She Is Digging and Scratching at Blankets
When expecting parents are nearing their due date, they spend more time settling in at home, setting up the nursery, and cozying up for the baby's arrival. According to Megan McCarthy, DVM at Best Friends Animal Society, dogs go through the same nesting behaviors, and you may notice she digs or scratches at bedding or blankets.
She may even carry her bed or blankets around the house, looking for her spot to welcome her children. McCarthy urges pet owners to allow their pregnant dog to go through these motions since it can decrease her stress.
4. She Is Spending More Time in or Near Her Whelping Box or Area
When a pup starts to nest, she's creating what veterinarians call a whelping box or area. "This is typically a comfortable, warm space away from foot traffic, noise, and other pets," Dunham explains. In short, it's simply where she feels the most comfortable giving birth.
It is best to set the whelping box up one to two weeks before the expected delivery time to allow the mom to familiarize herself with it and feel safe having her puppies there, she adds.
5. She Has Lost Her Appetite
There are many similarities between human labor and dog labor, including the loss of appetite and increased vomiting. McCarthy says she may refuse her food, eat less, and have an upset stomach as delivery gets closer.
"You can offer her a bland diet of cooked, boneless, skinless plain chicken breast and cooked white rice (with no seasoning) or obtain a bland prescription kibble or canned dog food from your veterinarian," she recommends.
It's important not to force feed her and ensure she has access to water and bland food should she care to eat it. However, if vomiting is worsening or not stopping after 24 hours, contact your veterinarian.
6. Her Temperature Has Dropped
One of the biggest signs a dog is about to go into labor is when her rectal temperature drops below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. When this happens, Dunham says labor is most likely to start within 24 hours. A typical adult dog ranges in temperature between 100 and 102.5 degrees, but her body heat will change as she prepares for birth.
7. She Seems Restless and Uncomfortable
While temperature is a clear marker, most owners will first notice behavioral changes in their pregnant pup. Usually, this looks like panting, pacing, digging, or shivering. When these signs are present, Dunham says it's likely the beginning of uterine contractions and typically lasts between six and 12 hours.
8. She Is Clingy—Or Distant
Labor and birth are painful experiences for dogs, and all respond differently based on their personality. McCarthy says some pups will seek comfort, while others become very reclusive. "Give her space and give her privacy if she wishes to be alone—on the flip side, be patient and give lots of love and attention if she chooses to be around you more often," she adds.
9. Her Mammary Glands Are Enlarged
Another clear indicator that labor is progressing is your dog's mammary glands. Some will suddenly enlarge, and milk may start to be expressed, McCarthy says. Be gentle as you examine this part of your pup's body since they may be sensitive and uncomfortable.
10. She Is Straining
The second and third stages of labor are when the puppies start to be born, so you'll likely know she's in labor when you see her strain, Dunham says. She explains that one puppy is usually born every 45 to 60 minutes, followed by 10 to 13 minutes of intense straining.
"It is not uncommon for the mom to take a break part way through the delivery process, and it may last up to four hours," she continues. "However, if the break is lasting longer than 4 hours or if the mother has intense straining for more than 30 minutes, this can indicate that something is wrong, and you should seek immediate veterinary care."