Labour in the Bitch

What to expect

Labour occurs in 3 stages

Stage 1: Getting ready

Buy a digital rectal thermometer and assess her normal temperature, 37.2-39.2 is normal

The Bitch's rectal temp will drop to as low as 35-36 C when stage 1 starts

She may start panting, look restless

She may pace about and even exhibit nest-making behaviour

You can expect stage 2 to start within the next 12 hours. Stage 1 Lasts 6-12 hrs, up to 36hrs in 1st pregnancy

Stage 2: Delivery of the pups

The most reliable signs that stage 2 has started are

The bitch will be seen to strain -having contractions

She will pass foetal fluids -her waters have broken

Her rectal temp will return to normal

Stage 2 Lasts 3-12 hrs -rarely up to 24 hrs

Stage 3: passing of placenta

 This mixes in with second stage with multiple births

Spotting 2nd stage labour is important, as the vet does not intervene unless 2nd stage fails to proceed normally

So to reiterate: Check for signs she is in 2nd stage

Has passed fluids -water bag has broken

Visible abdominal straining -having contractions

Rectal temperature has returned to normal

If any of these are present then 2nd stage labour has begun

Normal Progression

First Pup: Within 4 hours
Interval between pups: 5min - 2 hrs
The whole of second stage labour (ie first to last pup) : 3-12 hrs (up to 24hrs rarely)

The above is all normal. If it does not follow this pattern then it is worth having your Bitch checked by a vet.

The following are indications for seeing the vet

Strong regular contractions for 20-30 min with no pup -> urgently see vet

Foetal fluids (waters) passed 2-3 hours ago but nothing since

Weak irregular contractions only for 2-4 hours.

2nd stage Labour goes beyond 12 hours

Greenish discharge but no pup for 2-4 hours

Since last pup and you are sure there are more are present 2-4 hours


Following birth

An elevated temperature of up to 39.5 C is not unusual for 1-2 days following birth
A clear to bloody discharge may continue at a low level for 3-6 weeks
Ensure she is producing milk from sufficient teats to feed the whole litter