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10 signs of labour in dogs

White beagle with her puppies advice
© Shutterstock

There’s nothing more exciting for a dog lover than finding out your dog is pregnant. As you prepare for your pup to give birth, it’s important to find out the signs of labour in dogs so you can prepare for the birth and arrival of those sweet little pups.

By Alice Lang

Dog pregnancy only last for 2 months - so there’s not long to get prepared! There are many signs which will indicate both the onset of labour and each stage of the labour process in dogs.

The more you educate yourself to the signs of labour in dogs, the more you can help your dog through her birth and ensure a healthy, happy litter of puppies. Let's go!

#1 - Her body temperature will drop

If you don’t have a doggy thermometer, now is the time to invest. One of the earliest signs of labour is a drop in rectal temperature from around 37 - 38 to 36.5 degrees Celcius. When this happens, you can expect the mother-to-be to start labour within the next day. Take your dog’s temperature as often as you can towards the end of your dog’s pregnancy.

#2 - She’ll stop eating

Don’t be concerned if your pregnant dog refuses her food in the last stages of pregnancy. This is one of the earliest signs of labour in dogs, although it doesn’t happen to every dog. You should continue to provide food and water even if she doesn’t eat it. Be prepared for labour to begin at any minute within the next day.

#3 - You won’t be able to find her

Some dogs may naturally try to hide away quietly before and during labour. You should have already arranged a whelping area in a quiet area for her to complete the birth. You might find that dimmed lights help her calm down, too.

Not all dogs are like this though - some might actually become clingy and crave your affection. Both situations are completely normal.

#4 - Vomiting may occur

It’s common for pregnant dogs to be sick just before or during labour. If your pooch is sick a couple of times, there’s no need to stress. Just clear it up and comfort her when she asks for attention.

However, pregnant dogs who vomit excessively throughout labour may need medical help, so call your vet if they seem to be constantly vomiting.

#5 - Prepare for the whining

As your dog starts the labour process and contractions start, she might begin to whine and appear uncomfortable. Don’t worry too much about this - although it’s unsettling, it’s normal. Birth is as painful for them as it is for us, after all!

This first stage of labour will last between 6 to 18 hours until the cervix has completely dilated. As we mentioned earlier, some dogs will crave the attention of their owners, while others will prefer to be left in peace. Follow her lead and give her what she wants.

#6 - You’ll see movements in her belly

One of the most telling signs of labour in dogs are the uterine contractions which occur, in order to allow the puppies to exit. Even if your dog is tolerating the pain well and isn’t whining, keep a close eye on her belly. You’ll be able to see rhythmic movements occur periodically.

#7 - She might become irritable

Let’s face it, who wouldn’t become a little touchy during labour? Prepare to watch your dog appear restless and agitated. She might even become slightly aggressive towards people she’s not familiar with, so it’s best to have no visitors during this time.

#8 - She may begin to strain or squat

Dr Mike Paul, DVM, told Pet Health Network:

“In the second stage of labour the dog’s contractions are more visible and stronger as she uses her abdominal muscles to expel puppies. She may get into a squatting position to accomplish this, but she also may just remain lying down. It is also perfectly normal for almost half of all puppies to be born back end first (or breech delivery). That is not a concern.”

#9 - A yellow fluid will appear

By this time, labour has progressed and contractions have intensified. One of the most obvious signs of labour in dogs is when the first placental sac breaks, leaving a yellowish, straw-coloured liquid. When you see this, you can expect puppies within half an hour to 12 hours.

#10 - She will lick her genital area

At any time from the first stages of labour through to the moments before birth, you'll notice your dog excessively licking her genital area. This is a natural behaviour, which keeps the area clean to ensure a smooth exit, as well as calm any pain or inflammation in the area.


Within 12 hours of the placental liquid leaking and your dog licking her vulva, the puppies should have arrived safely. After the birth has finished, be prepared for your dog to birth the placentas.

There should be as many placentas as there are puppies, and your dog might try to eat the placenta. She doesn’t need to do this, so take them away if you’d prefer - though it’s a completely natural behaviour and won’t cause any harm.

And lastly, congratulations! Your dog is now a proud mother, and you’ve got lots of little troublemakers on your hands - it’s going to be a fun few weeks!