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Why is your pregnant dog panting?

Brown dog panting advice

Hard breathing in a dog could indicate labour is imminent.

© Pixabay

From being ready to give birth to being worried, there are several reasons why a pregnant dog will pant.

By Dr. Laura Harvey BVetMed GPCert (WVA&CPM) MRCVS

Updated on the 12/08/2020, 08:59

Panting in dogs is often considered normal, as they will pant to control their body temperature when they get too warm or are excited. Yey it can also indicate other conditions, so if it is heavy or prolonged, contact a vet immediately.

Why is my pregnant dog panting and breathing heavily?

Your dog may pant or breathe heavily while pregnant for several reasons. These include being too warm, being excited or worried, being in pain, eclampsia (low blood calcium) and other underlying conditions, such as heart or lung disease. It can indicate the onset of labour or a problem with the pregnancy. Therefore if the panting is excessive, unjustified or prolonged, or your dog appears distressed at all, contact a vet immediately.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What are the signs of dog labour?

Signs of imminent and first stage labour in the bitch include changes in behaviour, restlessness, nesting, hiding away, panting, possibly reduced appetite and occasional vomiting. If vomiting recurs, please contact a vet.  

What care should be taken for dog labour?

Care should include close monitoring during the birthing process, so any problems are noted immediately and so prompt veterinary advice and treatment can be sought. It is important to ensure the dog is in a warm, quiet and stress-free environment to help keep her as relaxed as possible. If your dog goes outside to urinate, or otherwise, follow her in case she gives birth to a puppy outside, remember to take a torch with you if it’s dark.

What preparation should be made before dog labour?

Preparation should include ensuring your dog has a warm, dry, quiet, supervised area for her to give birth in, with food and water available. A whelping box is a good idea, as it gives the dog somewhere to nest in and helps to contain the puppies when they start to move around. Removable (washable/disposable) bedding is a must, and something such as “vet bed” (a type of bedding) helps to keep the bitch and the puppies warm and dry.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What should I do if my pregnant dog is panting?

If the panting is unexpected, heavy, prolonged or unjustified, contact a vet immediately, especially if your dog seems weak or distressed at all. This is because it may indicate she has a problem or there is a problem with the pregnancy, either of which must be addressed as soon as possible.

Why is my pregnant dog panting but not in labour?

If your pregnant dog is panting but not in labour, it may or may not be serious. It may be that she is a little warm or worried by something, or it could mean she has a high temperature, is in pain, has eclampsia (low blood calcium), or has another underlying conditions, such as heart or lung disease. It can indicate the onset of labour or a problem with the pregnancy. Therefore, if she seems at all distressed or not quite herself you should call a vet immediately.

Why is my pregnant dog panting?

Your dog may pant or breathe heavily while pregnant for several reasons, including being too warm, being excited or worried, being in pain, eclampsia (low blood calcium) and other underlying conditions, such as heart or lung disease. It can indicate the onset of labour or a problem with the pregnancy. Therefore if the panting is excessive, unjustified or prolonged, or your dog seems at all distressed, contact a vet immediately.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What are the stages of canine labour?

First, the uterus (womb) starts to contract and the cervix dilates, preparing the bitch and the puppies for the birth. There is usually milk let down at this point, but not always vulval discharge. This time can vary from 0 to 36 hours, but is usually 6 to 12 hours. 

Second, the contractions get stronger, becoming more visible, and the puppies are delivered. This time is usually 30 to 60 minutes (and up to two hours), but if your dog is actively straining for 30 minutes without a puppy, contact a vet immediately. If it has been two hours since the last puppy, even if there's been no straining, you should also get hold of a vet immediately. Keep a close eye on your dog during this time, as although the amnion (the sac) over the puppy should burst, sometimes it does not and, if the bitch does not rupture it with licking, you will need to break it as quickly as possible. If you can see a puppy is breach (coming backwards with only their tail visible), contact a vet as soon as possible. If you bitch has been straining for 30 minutes without birthing a puppy, phone your vet.

Third, the passing of the placenta. Stages two and three tend to alternate in dogs: puppy then placenta, puppy then placenta, etc. Sometimes there might be two or three puppies then their placentas afterwards.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Is panting a sign of a dog in labour?

Yes, it can be, particularly if at the end of the expected gestation period. It can be caused by other things too. If it seems excessive, or your dog is at all distressed, please contact a vet immediately for advice.

What does it mean when my pregnant dog is breathing hard?

If your dog is due to give birth, hard breathing could indicate labour is imminent. Having said that, heavy breathing can indicate multiple things, including the dog being too warm or uncomfortable, as well as eclampsia (low blood calcium) or respiratory disease. Therefore, if it continues, please contact a vet for advice.

How long does the first stage of dog labour last?

This can vary quite a bit between dogs, but it is usually somewhere between six and 12 hours.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

Can a pregnant dog have puppies days apart?

No, this should not happen. If there has been more than two hours since the last puppy was born, contact a vet as soon as you can. If your dog has been straining for 30 minutes and not produced a puppy, call your vet as soon as possible.

Can a dog die during labour?

Yes, unfortunately. This is primarily due to blood loss or toxicity, if one or more of the puppies remain inside the dog. Fortunately it is rare for a dog to die during labour, if veterinary intervention is called upon promptly.

How do I know if my dog has finished giving birth?

The dog will normally become more settled once she has finished giving birth. But the only way to know for sure is to have your dog examined by a vet. The vet may require diagnostic imaging (abdominal ultrasound or x-ray) to be sure.

Why do dogs pant after giving birth?

Dogs can pant after giving birth because they are in pain, are stressed, have lost blood or have developed eclampsia (low blood calcium). Therefore if your dog continues to pant, contact a vet immediately, particularly if the panting is heavy or your dog seems weak or distressed.

Talk to a vet online. Visit myfamilyvets.co.uk

What should I feed my dog after giving birth?

Feed your dog the puppy food that she has had during the last three weeks of pregnancy, as her body is already used to it and it is higher in energy than adult dog food. Putting water on the food can help your dog’s hydration.

How long after feeling puppies move will they be born?

Approximately two weeks. It is usually in week seven that you can start to feel the puppies move. The gestation period is nine weeks. Occasionally you may feel them moving from six weeks.

What temperature should a dog be when in labour?

A dog’s normal body temperature is 37.5 to 38.5°C. Within 12 to 24 hours prior to the onset of labour, a dog’s temperature will often, but not always, drop to 37.1°C or lower, possibly as low as 36.4°C in small breeds. This is something that happens in a lot of dogs, as their body prepares for the birth. Obviously, if you have any concerns about your dog at all, please contact a vet.