The words Dog Breed Info with the letter D inside of a black paw print

First and Second Stages of Labor

Whelping and Raising Puppies

A large bellied dog with a shaved stomach area is laying on its side on a tiled floor.

In some instances the first stage of labor is missed altogether.

The right side of a pregnant dog that is laying across a tiled floor.

Signs of labor to watch for are:

  • Nesting behavior
  • Dam could become distressed (including: pacing, acting uncomfortable, panting, restlessness, discomfort, licking vulva, vomiting, and frequent urination.)
  • Temperature should be taken three times per day and should be 100-100.8° prior to labor.
    When temp drops considerably, to 98-99° puppies should present themselves within 24 hours. At this time, inform your vet of pending puppies. After the drop the temp will stay at about 99.4
  • Dam may refuse food as her appetite goes away.
  • Stools may turn dark.
  • Do not let dam out to relieve herself without supervision.
  • Offer smaller meals, and maybe try some more expensive canned food.

The first stage of labor can last 24 hours, and can go totally unnoticed. Do NOT give calcium during this stage of dilating. Calcium can only be given when contractions are a minute apart, and she is constantly pushing.

The second stage usually begins with a rather clear or mucous-like discharge from the vulva. In the second stage of labor contractions should start. There will be more discharge, and the presentation of a round, golf-ball size membrane sac of water. This sac is still the 2nd stage of labor and dilating. Do not give calcium. She is not ready to push. This is usually just the horn sac. Pup can follow in 20 minutes to a few hours. Some vets recommend not letting her puncture this sac. This is the protective sac that the puppies are in. But do not fret if she pops it. This is Her water breaking. After presentation of this sac, the puppy could be out in about 30 minutes, but it can take a couple of hours. If the dam continues to strain hard for longer than 45 minutes on a single puppy, it is wise to call your vet. (Remember there should never be time limits, as every situation is different.) It is always best to call your vet and do what he/she recommends.

Close up - A water sac that is coming out of the back end of a female dog.

If two of these sacs present themselves at the same time (especially if they are different colors), call your vet. This could mean that two puppies are trying to come out at the same time, another medical alert requiring professional help.

A Dam is laying on a white blanket under a heat lamp inside of a caged whelping box.

Dam in labor pushing out her puppies

The right side of dam that is standing across a blanket on a whelping box and it is preparing to give birth.

Dam in labor pushing out her puppies

More info and pictures on first stage of labor.

Video clip of a dam in full labor, pushing

Close up - A water sac coming out of a black dog.

The normal body temperature for animals is generally higher than for humans.

Close up - A Dam is laying on her side on a blanket and there is a water sac coming out of her back end.

The normal rectal temperature of a dog is 99.5° to 102.5°F. The normal temperature of a puppy at birth is 96-97°F. The temperature gradually increases with age until it is 100°F at 4 weeks of age.

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