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dog ready to go into labor

Is My Dog Going into Labor Soon? 11 Signs to Look For!

As your pregnant dog gets close to her due date, it’s helpful to know what signs indicate that your dog is going into labor soon. Here’s what to look for.

As adorable and fun as puppies can be, their arrival by birth can be a bloody, messy ordeal. For some pregnant dogs, labor can be a harrowing experience involving vet assistance or surgery, while others have a relatively easy time and are perfectly fine having their puppies at home. 

If this is your first time helping a dog through a pregnancy, it is important to know the signs that your dog is going into labor soon so that you will be ready for it. If you have helped a dog through a pregnancy before, these signs might not be news to you, but it may not be bad to refresh yourself before your pooch has her puppies.

Signs Your Dog Is Going into Labor Soon

1. Nesting Behaviors

Although nesting behaviors also continue during the birthing process, it is not unusual for pregnant dogs to become more interested in making “nests” or cozy spaces close to the beginning of labor.

Typically lasting from 62 to 65 days, pregnancy in dogs often involves instinctual impulses, including finding or creating a safe space to birth the litter. You can help guide your pooch to an appropriate nest by setting aside an area for the birth before labor happens. This should make the labor process smoother by showing her where it is safe for her to have her puppies, and it can also aid in cleanup.

Pregnant dogs nearing labor may express different emotional needs than they usually do in relation to their owners: some will become needier, wanting their owners around all the time, while others may distance themselves and be less interested in affection.

Even if your dog becomes more standoffish, though, it is still important for you to be there (or at least nearby) when she actually goes into labor in case of any complications. 

2. Temperature Drop (Typically at or Below 99˚)

One big indicator of impending labor is a decrease in the pregnant dog’s temperature. A normal temperature for a dog is around 101 degrees Fahrenheit, but about 12-36 hours before labor, a pregnant dog’s temperature will decrease to 99 degrees Fahrenheit (or even lower than that). 

The most accurate way to take your dog’s temperature is with a rectal thermometer. When your dog is getting close to that 62–65-day window of her pregnancy, you should be checking her temperature 1-3 times each day so that you do not miss that temperature drop. 

Once her temperature lowers, you may want to avoid feeding her so that she does not vomit during the birthing process. Also, make sure the birthing area or whelping box is ready for her. 

3. Decreased Interest in Food

As labor draws nearer, pregnant dogs are more likely to become disinterested in food, primarily due to the increasing pressure on their internal organs. Because of this pressure, it is also not unlikely that during the day before beginning labor the dog will experience a very large bowel movement.

It is true that some dogs are very food-driven, even to the point that physical discomfort will not prevent them from, at a minimum, attempting to eat any available food. In cases like this, it may be a good idea to withhold food once other signs of oncoming labor appear so that she does not make herself sick.

Even though it can be a good idea to moderate food intake close to labor, it is very important that dogs giving birth remain hydrated. As gross as it may sound, it is not uncommon for dogs to eat the placenta after the arrival of each new puppy, which in turn gives them more energy to continue labor. However, they may still need help staying hydrated, so you may want to consider having a bottle feeder on hand to help with that. 

4. Vomiting

As previously mentioned, pregnant dogs may or may not want to eat before going into labor. If they do eat, it is likely that they may become nauseous and vomit. Again, this is why it is good to be aware of temperature changes and withhold food if she drops to and stays at 99 degrees or lower.

5. Restlessness, Panting, or Shivering

Although some dogs may become restful before going into labor, it is more likely that a pregnant dog will become more anxious as the birthing process is beginning. She may whine or groan—especially when contractions have started—but she may also show anxiety by pacing, heavily panting, or obsessively pawing the bedding, towels, or newspaper in the birthing area. 

6. Enlarged Mammary Glands

Although the mammary glands will have been growing throughout your dog’s pregnancy, they will continue to enlarge in the days preceding labor. Once the time is very close, they may also experience some milky discharge, which is not harmful. 

To combat mastitis and other infections that can harm lactating dogs, it is very important to keep the birthing area clean. Once the puppies are born, they should be allowed to feed as soon as possible, though, because this releases oxytocin in the laboring dog and helps her continue the process. 

pregnant dog ready to go into labor

8. Increased Licking of the Vulva

As puppies move through the birth canal and become positioned to exit their mother’s body, you may see the birthing dog’s vulva and lower backside appear to protrude more than normal. Pregnant dogs will lick around their genitals—especially the vulva—more frequently before and during labor. 

This may be in part because of discomfort, but the licking behavior may also be attributed to her desire for cleanliness: Dogs are likely to experience vaginal discharge, blood, or other birthing fluids throughout labor, and most have natural impulses to want to clean themselves.  

Once in labor, she is very likely to try to lick and clean between contractions, between each delivery, and once labor is complete and any afterbirth has been delivered. 

9. Contractions

The early stages of contractions may be less visible than the later and final stages of pushing the puppy out, but you may still notice them as movements in the muscles in the back of the body. Your dog may also begin to look uncomfortable or hunched, and as contractions continue and become stronger, her tail will likely stiffen and may curl downward toward her body. 

Some dogs will want to lie down or crouch during contractions, while others will stand—it is best to let her do whatever she finds most comfortable. 

10. Hardened Abdomen

As a part of contractions, it is normal for the pregnant dog’s belly to become hardened and even appear more rounded. 

11. Amniotic Sac Emerging

Though it is possible for the sac to break, it is not uncommon for an emerging puppy to be surrounded by the amniotic sac and still attached to the placenta. Generally, the amniotic sac and the puppy inside will appear before the placenta, but this is not always the case. 

Once the sac appears to be pushing out of the mother’s body, it will be very clear she is in labor. Once born, momma dogs will usually clean and lick their puppies, breaking the amniotic sac and often chewing off the umbilical cord (often eating the placentas before or after this, too). 

If this does not occur, you will need to help break the puppy out of the sac, then rub it to help it breathe. You may need to use a bulb syringe to help clear their airways if they are gasping for breath, and in some cases, you may need to perform CPR.


Though some pregnant dogs may become standoffish as labor nears, many will want more affection or may just want to feel your support as you wait with them through the process of birth. In many cases, dogs are able to manage labor and will come out of it exhausted but with hungry, healthy puppies. 

Sometimes, though, things may go poorly; for this reason, it is important for you to be aware of the signs your dog is going into labor soon so you can be there for your pooch and be ready to call the vet or an emergency animal hospital if something should go awry. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I thought my dog was pregnant, but it’s been more than 64 days since she was bred and puppies haven’t appeared yet!

A: If you know your dog is pregnant and she has not gone into labor or shown signs of starting labor by the 65th day of pregnancy, she should be taken to the vet. Some dogs require C-sections, and your vet will be able to figure out how best to proceed. 

In some cases, intact female dogs who have completed their heat cycle but were not impregnated may go through a pseudopregnancy, or false pregnancy. When this happens, their bodies react as though they were actually pregnant: they retain fluids and may gain weight, their mammary glands may enlarge, and they may act more “motherly.” Typically, though, this period only lasts from 1-3 weeks after the end of the heat cycle. 

Since it is driven by hormones, spaying generally stops a pseudopregnancy, though it is not a bad idea to take your dog to the vet to make sure she is not undergoing any other health problems that could be causing the same symptoms. Ultrasounds or hormone tests may be taken around the 30th day of pregnancy, while x-rays become useful after around 45 days of pregnancy; any of these veterinary tests should be able to determine whether or not your dog is actually pregnant. 

Chelsea Dickan

Chelsea Dickan

Chelsea Dickan is a long-time advocate for animals, especially those that bark or meow. When she isn't writing, she enjoys reading and watching scary movies in which the dog doesn't die.