The beginning of dog labor can sometimes be missed completely!
A dog’s birth process has 3 stages.
©Photo Courtesy of Fonda Feingold
It is important for you to know the beginning of dog labor symptoms, so you can get your dog into her whelping box, and also make sure you are going to be home for the big event!
The first stage is actually a “pre-labor” which can last anywhere from 8 to 24 hours. This is generally the longest stage, but it can go unnoticed.
Depending on their personality, dogs in labor will act very differently when their labor starts.
The first stage of canine labor is usually marked by a restlessness, refusal to eat, and a drop in her body temperature. Some Golden Retrievers will also refuse to drink water at this stage.
©Photo Courtesy of Kevin Hooke "Poppy"
She may urinate a lot more, vomit water, and start to paw or scratch at the floor.
Some Golden Retrievers will follow you around and seem to not want you out of their sight.
Others will want to be left alone and may try to go off somewhere quiet.
You may see her pacing around a lot, then she’ll lay down for awhile, then aimlessly pace some more before she settles down again. It is almost as if she can’t seem to get comfortable or find exactly where she wants to rest.
It is more common for Golden Retrievers to refuse to eat when they are starting into labor, but a few of them will continue to eat right up to a couple of hours before delivering.
©Photo Courtesy of Connor Surdi
You may see her looking back at her vulva a lot. Not actually licking herself at this point, but more like seeming to stare at herself.
Though many people advocate taking the dog’s temperature twice a day for several days before her due date, I do not do this anymore.
For one, it is a bit upsetting for the very pregnant mom!
Also, most dogs have a drop in temperature, but not all of them have a noticeable or significant drop.
By continuously checking her, you are bringing more stress and anxiety upon yourself and your dog.
If her temperature drops, and she does not immediately act as if she is going to deliver, are you going to rush her to the vet? Another thing to upset your pregnant dog?
I simply choose to watch for the other signs instead. After all, no one knows their dog better than their owner, and you should easily be able to see that she is acting a bit differently than normal.
Photo Courtesy of Leandro Quartiermeister
However, if you do want to check her temperature, it doesn’t actually hurt her to do so.
The normal temperature for a dog is 101 degrees to 102.5 degrees. When it drops to 99 degrees, she should be delivering puppies within 12 to 24 hours.
The second stage of dog labor is the actual beginning of her whelping her puppies, and is marked by noticeable panting, and contractions.
Go from Dog Labor Stage One to Stage Two Labor
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