How Long Does It Take for a Dog to Deliver After the Water Breaks?

By Jane Meggitt

If your dog is pregnant and her water breaks, get ready for a life-changing moment: she's going to be giving birth very soon. During this second stage of labor after contractions, your dog may release what looks like water but is actually the amniotic fluid that protects the puppy in utero. This signals the imminent arrival of the puppies — so be ready! VCA Hospitals recommend that you have a clean, large box, known as a whelping box, for her to give birth in as well as your vet's contact information handy should problems arise.

newborn litter of golden retriever puppies
When will the puppies get here? Right after the water breaks, so be prepared!
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Veterinarian examining dog
Remember to check in with your vet if you have any questions about your dog's pregnancy.
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During Pregnancy

Dogs will be pregnant for approximately two months. During this time, her puppies grow inside that amniotic sac, receiving nourishment through the placenta. The fluid inside the sac protects the puppy from the constant movements of the outside world. Once she's about five weeks pregnant, the pregnant dog needs a diet higher in calories for her growing babies, continuing until she weans them. Your vet can recommend the best food for your dog.

German Shorthaired Pointer puppies
A large, clean box in a quiet corner of the room is the perfect place for a new momma and her pups.
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Whelping Box

Any clean, large box should be sufficient, but there are also many businesses that specialize in boxes for specific breeds. Breeder Business recommends the three best whelping boxes you can buy for your dog, and also has a handy guide on how to build your own.

VCA Animal Hospitals advise that you place the whelping box in a quiet, low-traffic area of your home. It should be easy for mama dog to get in and out of it, but hard for the puppies. You can fill the box with newspaper for easy cleanups. Your dog needs to get used to her whelping box prior to the puppies' arrival, or she'll give birth elsewhere.

mother and babies
Make sure your momma dog is comfortable before and after she gives birth!
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Signs of Labor

Dogs going into labor often become restless, according to Purina pet care research. Your dog might not want to eat, but she could start nesting, going in and out of her whelping box. You might see a white discharge from her vulva, but that's not water breaking.

Take her temperature daily as her expected delivery date approaches. Normally a dog's temperature is between 101 and 102 degrees. When your pregnant dog's temperature drops below 100 degrees, that's an indication she'll have her puppies within 24 hours. Once labor begins, it can last up to 12 hours.

Dog with a thermometer
If your dog's temperature drops significantly, she's ready to give birth soon.
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Giving Birth

Your dog's water breaks in the second phase of labor, when she actually delivers her puppies. She'll start straining with contractions, trying to get those puppies out. If your dog strains for longer than 30 minutes and there's no water breaking or an actual puppy appearing, call your vet.

Usually the water breaks and the puppy appears after mama pushes a few more times, so it's fast. Sometimes the amniotic sac doesn't break open during the birth process. Usually the mother dog tears the sac open so the puppy can breathe. If she fails to do this, you must open the sac quickly to save the puppy. VCA Animal Hospitals recommend cleaning the newborn's face and nostrils, then gently blowing on his face for breathing stimulation. A puppy should arrive about every 45 minutes to an hour.

Dog with vet
Be sure to take your dog to the vet immediately if you suspect there is anything wrong or if there is an emergency.
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Problems

If instead of water breaking, if your dog produces a dark green or black discharge from the vulva, that's an emergency. This complication happens as the placenta prematurely separating from the puppy. If she's discharging blood either before the first puppy appears or in between deliveries, that's a literal red alert. You need to get your dog and any puppies she has delivered to a veterinary emergency hospital as soon as possible. Other problems in delivery include more than two hours in between puppy deliveries, or extreme pain on the part of the mother dog.