The gestation period for a pregnant canine is about 63 days from the time of conception1. However, like humans, dogs can go into labor a little early or a little late. So, we can’t only rely on counting days to let us know when our dogs are about to go into labor. Luckily, there are several signs you can look out for that will clue you in that labor is going to take place sooner rather than later. Here are the 11 signs that you should be aware of:
The 11 Signs a Dog Is Going Into Labor Soon
1. Nesting Tendencies
Nesting involves trying to make a safe and comfortable place to have puppies. This can take place at any time during pregnancy, but it is especially common in the last days when most canines go into overdrive and start creating a cushiony place to lay down and get comfortable where they think their babies will be safe. If you’ve set up a whelping box, you may notice that your pooch tries adding clothing, pillows, and other soft items they find around the house to it. They might spend as much time as possible in the box too.
2. Disinterest in Food
Being in labor is uncomfortable and the body does not have time or energy to digest food. Therefore, when it comes close to the time for your dog to go into labor, they may have no interest in eating or even drinking water. While an upset stomach is not uncommon during pregnancy, a disinterest in food along with showing one or more other signs on this list is a surefire clue that labor is not too far away.
Vomiting may occur when labor is upcoming because of stress and excessive GI upset. Vomiting is actually common in dogs who are ready to go into labor. Some even vomit while they are in labor. It’s important to make sure that lots of clean water is available to help ensure that your pooch does not become dehydrated if they vomit during labor and delivery.
4. Genital Licking
Another sign of upcoming labor is excessive genital licking. This is done to prepare the genitals for birth, and sometimes to get rid of pent-up stress due to the labor. Your pooch might also lick their nipples at this time. They may spend several minutes at a time licking these areas in the days and hours leading up to labor. The intensiveness of the licking may get more pronounced as delivery time gets closer.
5. Changes in Behavior
Some dogs display some changes in their behavior in the days leading up to labor. They might become more defensive as their comfort fades, or they might show signs of anxiety, especially when they try to lie down and rest. They also may try to run away and hide if the household is busy in an attempt to be someplace quiet and safe in the event that she gives birth.
If your dog has their own quiet birthing place, like a whelping box, to hang out in, it could help to relieve anxiety and minimize unwanted behavioral changes.
6. Enlarged Nipples
In preparation for feeding her new babies, a pregnant dog’s nipples will become enlarged and engorged soon before she gives birth. Once the nipples start to enlarge, chances are that delivery of the babies will occur within the next few days. The enlargement and engorgement are due to milk being produced and stored in the mammary glands. Once the babies are born, the milk will be readily available for feeding.
7. A Hardened Belly
Another thing that happens during the last couple of days before the delivery of puppies is a hardened belly. Mom’s abdomen feels hard and firm to the touch and there is usually not much give when it is gently pressed. Contractions are typically what cause the hardened belly. Therefore, you might notice that your pooch whines or yelps intermittently at this point.
8. Lowered Body Temperature
About 24 hours before labor begins, a dog’s body temperature tends to drop by a few points. Normally, their temperature would be between 101°F and 102°F. However, when labor is about to take place, their temperature can drop to 98°F or 99°F. This happens because progesterone levels drop in preparation for labor. If you think your dog will go into labor soon, start taking their temperature daily. When you notice a temperature drop, you’ll likely be seeing puppies within the next day or so.
Going into labor is not a comfortable feeling, so your dog might try to cling to you in an attempt to get more comfortable during their difficult time. They may try to follow you around the house, lay on your feet, whine while you do chores, or simply stare at you while they show signs of discomfort. This is a good time to put other things aside and provide your pooch with all of the attention and comfort that they need until and throughout labor.
It’s not uncommon for a canine to become restless in the days leading up to labor since their discomfort increases. Your dog might start to pace back and forth throughout the home, start to dig blankets and pillows up wherever she can, and even shiver while she stands in place. When this happens, contractions are probably beginning, and the behavior is likely to last another few hours before delivery takes place.
11. Labored Breathing
One of the biggest telltale signs that your dog is going into labor is, well, labored breathing. If panting and deep breathing take place, you can be sure that babies are on their way! Labored breathing means things should start moving quickly, so this would be the time to get your dog to their birthing spot and ensure their comfort as much as possible.
Now that you know what the signs of impending labor are, you can better assist your dog on their journey to becoming a mother. Once you start noticing any of these signs, you can expect to have puppies to help care for within a matter of days if not hours. It’s a good idea to start looking for signs of labor at about the 55-day mark.
Featured Image Credit: Hanna Dymytrova-kaihila, Shutterstock