Birth and signs of labor in dogs

dog looking up at food being put down

There’s nothing more exciting than finding out your dog is pregnant. Since pregnancy in dogs only lasts about two months, you can soon look forward to little puppies!

If your bitch is pregnant, you will surely ask yourself the question: "How do dogs give birth to their young??"If the birth is imminent, you should be prepared. Here we show you what to expect now and in which phases the birth in dogs proceeds.

The birth of dogs goes much smoother than with us humans. Puppies are usually born without further complications. Your bitch can usually handle this quite well herself, but stay with her during the birth in case of complications.

Ask the veterinarian for advice if you have questions about pregnancy in dogs or are concerned about the birth. He will certainly be able to reassure you.

Our PetCare team has put together a few helpful tips to help you be as prepared as possible for when your bitch gives birth.

Preparation for birth

Build a litter camp

Your bitch needs a quiet place where she can relax and give birth to her puppies in peace and quiet. You can help her do this by building her a litter camp within the last two weeks of gestation

For the birth of dogs, it is best to use a cardboard box with a puppy pad (in case of minor "accidents") and clean sheets, comforter covers or towels in it. Make sure the box is big enough for your bitch and her litter, and that the mother-to-be still has some space to herself if she needs it. The box should also have sufficient height so that the curious puppies cannot go exploring!

Dogs often prefer to give birth in the kitchen because they feel safe and know that this is where they will get their food.

Place the whelping pen in a quiet place at room temperature, where your bitch will be undisturbed and comfortable. She will be even more likely to accept the whelping bed if you put her dog bed and toys in it (as long as both are clean). So she will feel even more comfortable there before the birth sets in.

Have help at hand

Your bitch’s birth should go smoothly, but it’s still a good idea to be helpfully by her side, reassuring her and being there for her should complications arise.

Before the birth, ask the vet what number he can be reached at outside office hours, as the pups are often born at night. Inform the veterinarian of the estimated date of birth (if he does not know it yet) so that he knows when to rush to help if necessary. If your bitch has problems giving birth to her pups, you may need to take her to the vet – so make sure you have transportation available just in case.

You should have nail scissors and some clean, dry towels ready in case you need to help your bitch give birth. If it is a large litter, you may need a second basket to make sure there is enough room for all the puppies!

If you have to take the pups away from their mother, you need to keep them warm. The best way to do this is to use a microwaved grain pad; a hot water bottle is not so good, as the puppies can make holes in it with their sharp little teeth or claws.

What signs to look for

One of the first signs of an impending birth is a drop in your bitch’s body temperature from 101°F (38.5°C) to 104°F (37°C) – usually about 12 to 24 hours later.

To determine the time of birth, you should take your bitch’s temperature rectally twice a day during the last week of pregnancy. Ask the vet to show you how to do this if you are not sure. If you notice that taking the temperature is stressful for your bitch, you better stop it. The most important thing is that she stays as calm as possible now.

In the last week of pregnancy in dogs, the expectant mother is likely to become a bit nervous and retreat to a quiet place. Also, loss of appetite and pawing in the dog’s bed are not uncommon within the last 12 to 24 hours before birth.

It may happen that your bitch drags the litter to another place in the house. If that is the case, you should avoid moving it from its favored place again if possible.

The stages of labor and birth

Generally, birth in dogs is smooth and free of complications. Keep a low profile if possible, but be present at the birth so you can support your bitch and intervene if there are any problems. The birth usually takes 3 to 12 hours and proceeds in three stages.

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