Dog labor symptoms – Signs of labor in bitches

Classically, dog labor is divided into 3 stages:

1st stage: Cervical relaxation and dilatation;
2nd stage: Production of young
3rd stage: Expulsion of the placenta.

In animals such as dogs that produce more than one foetus, the stages alter as each individual foetus is produced.

During the first stage, which lasts from 4 hours (average) to 36 hours in primigravid bitches, the cervix relaxes and dilates. The bitch becomes more restless and nervous, shivers, pants, may vomitand may tear up bedding material, possibly as a reaction to pain. Weak urine contractions may be apparent.

The second stage is characterized by strong uterine contractions and by visible straining. Between contractions the bitch will lick the vulvar region, especially once the foetal sac ruptures and placental fluid is released. Once the foetal head or pelvis is engaged in the bitch’s pelvic girdle, strong abdominal straining is stimulated. The duration of the second stage of the labor in dogs is extremely variable between individuals and between puppies within a single litter. As a rule of thumb, however, no more than 6 hours should be allowed to elapse after the delivery of the first puppies before an investigation is carried out, since a long delay may result in placental separation and death of any remaining viable pups.

During the signs of dog labor, the interval between births is also variable. Second and subsequent puppies are usually produced after no more than 30 minutes of straining. Rest periods of more than 3-4 hours should be regarded as abnormal. It is not uncommon for a large litter to take up to 24 hours to be produced. Bitches that are good mothers will clean and succkle the puppies between successive births and it is better to allow this to occur.

The third stage begins when the foetal membranes are expelled. Puppies may be born with the membranes intact or they may be born simply attached by the umbilical cord with the placenta remaining in the genital tract. In the latter case, the placenta will be expelled separately before, with or after subsequent births. It is personal preference whether a bitch is allowed to eat the placentas or not, although it has been suggested that placental hormones may promote uterine involution and milk production. In the case of large litters, it is probably unwise to let a bitch eat all the placentas.

A bitch relaxing and nursing its puppies contentedly signals the end of whelping in dog labour. Finally, it is generally accepted that the administration of a single dose of oxytocin at the end of parturition, to ensure rapid uterine contraction and the expulsion of any remaining placentas, as a wise precaution.