How to Know When a Pregnant Dog Is Having Contractions

By Cate Burnette

Knowing what signs to look for when your pregnant dog is close to labor can alleviate some of the anxiety and stress felt by worried dog owners. Educating yourself about canine pregnancy not only will prepare you for what normally happens when dogs give birth, but will allow you to know when your dog is in distress and needs immediate veterinary care. Being able to recognize when your mother dog is having contractions will give you both advanced warning of what is to come and time to make her more comfortable.

Begin monitoring your pregnant dog 58 days after her first breeding. Normal gestation in dogs runs to 63 days but can be anywhere from 58 to 68 days depending on the day of conception. Your dog can begin having contractions any time within this time period.

Take your dog’s temperature with a rectal thermometer twice a day at the same time about five days prior to the delivery date. Her normal temperature should be between 101 degrees and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. When her temperature drops to 98 or 99 degrees, she will go into labor and begin having contractions within 24 hours.

Watch your mother dog for signs of anxiety, panting, pacing and restless behavior. She may stop eating and possibly vomit. As she begins having minor contractions and enters the first stage of labor, she will start “nesting”--finding a comfortable place to have her puppies and possibly dragging clothes or towels to make her bed.

Observe your pregnant dog for visible contractions and signs of straining. Now entering the second stage of labor, her abdomen will tense and harden at regular intervals and it may look like she is trying to defecate. She should give birth to her first puppy one to two hours after the onset of “hard” labor.