Educating yourself on the gestation period of your dog and what to expect when she goes into labor, allows you to give her a hand in the birthing process, if she needs it.
The average gestation period in dogs is 63 days, but it can vary from 58 to 68 days. Around the 45th day of gestation, you can present your dog to your veterinarian for a radiograph that will show how many puppies she is carrying. Knowing the amount of puppies helps you to realize when she has had them all or if there may be a complication in her birthing process. It also will show if there is an oversized puppy that would necessitate a Cesarean section.
Some breeds are at risk for needing C-sections to deliver the puppies. Dog breeds with large heads in comparison to their bodies, such as bulldogs and other brachycephalic breeds, commonly need C-sections. Planned C-sections are done when the veterinarian office is open and has personnel on hand. An emergency C-section can be more risky when a puppy is stuck in the birth canal.
Signs of Labor
Take your dog's rectal temperature when her due date is approaching. The normal canine temperature is between 101 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit. When her temperature drops below 100 degrees, she will go into labor within 24 hours.
During the first stage of labor, contractions begin and your dog will be restless. She may pace, dig, pant, shiver and vomit. Make sure she has a bowl of clean water nearby. This stage lasts 6 to 12 hours until she is fully dilated.
Puppies are birthed during the second stage of labor, followed by the passing of the placenta, a protective covering around the puppy while in the womb that also nourishes the puppy. Sometimes the mother passes two puppies and then two placentas instead of an afterbirth after each puppy.
Giving Mom a Hand
Each puppy is born in a membrane sac that needs to be removed from the puppy's nose so it can breathe. Most females will lick and bite away the membrane instinctively. A new mom may need some assistance from you a minute or two after the puppy is born. Remove the covering on the puppy with a cloth and rub the puppy dry with a clean towel.
Clean up the placenta to give the whelping box fresh and prevent your dog from eating it and vomiting it.
Never pull a puppy from a dog giving birth because it can cause damage to her internally. About 50 percent of puppies are born tail first, which is normal.
Normal birthing times are one puppy every 45 to 60 minutes with 10 to 30 minutes of hard straining. Your dog may take a rest for up to four hours partway through the birthing process. If she strains hard and produces no puppy for more than an hour or takes a break longer than four hours, call your veterinarian.
When to Call Your Vet
- More than an hour of hard labor without producing a puppy.
- More than four hours between puppies.
- Your dog doesn't go into labor 24 hours after her temperature drops.
- Your dog is obviously in extreme pain.
- Your dog's gestation period is longer than 70 days.