The gestation period in dogs lasts about 63 days, but a female dog can be in labor for anything ranging from 6 to 18 hours and even more.
If you want to find out more about how long it takes for dogs to give birth, some symptoms you should watch out for to know whether your canine friend is getting ready to have puppies, and what aftercare you should provide her with, keep on reading.
If you want to avoid any type of problem related either to the delivery process itself or to the puppies and mommy, it would be a good idea to have your canine companion checked out before you breed her.
This means that she should have all of her vaccinations (especially those for Parvovirus, Distemper, and Infectious Hepatitis) in check and since you aren’t going to be able to give her too many types of medication as she is pregnant, you should also deworm her before she begins her gestation period. Female dogs can transmit worms to their puppies through the placenta, so it would be great if you were to prevent that from happening.
You should also know that the appetite of a pregnant dog increases. You’ll have to feed her several times a day, and make sure that she benefits from a high-quality high-protein diet. Instead of feeding her one or two large meals per day, you should feed her several smaller meals.
Labor – How long does a dog take to give birth?
Labor can happen anytime during the last 2 weeks of your dog’s pregnancy, and if you’d like to monitor her closely, you can do so by measuring her body temperature every day. However, we would like to note that doing this daily can make you feel alarmed whenever there’s a change in her temperature, so this method might not be a good one to choose, after all.
One clinical sign that you could interpret as a symptom that your dog is about to give birth is the lack of her appetite for twenty-four hours. As we noted before, a pregnant dog’s appetite actually increases during this time, so it’s unusual to see that she isn’t manifesting any interest toward food anymore.
You can also tell that your dog is starting her labor if she begins to feel sick (she could vomit) or whine because of the contractions. Contractions can last for as many as eighteen hours, so try to keep calm because you’re the one that should know how to help a dog give birth. If this is the first time that your canine friend is having puppies, you should remain calm and responsible and avoid alarming her.
As your dog is getting ready to give birth to her puppies, you will notice that the number and frequency of the contractions increase. In most cases, contractions start occurring every 30 minutes. You can see the shiny gray water sac protruding from her vulva. Most dogs will naturally tear the sac open for the fluid to drain.
How do dogs give birth? Puppies show about every half hour, and what’s crucial is that each and every one should be accompanied by one placenta. In some situations, the mother might stop giving birth for a time span of two hours and then re-begin the process.
This is completely normal if she has given birth to two puppies or more. However, if only one pup was born and two hours or more have gone by without the sign of any other being delivered, you should call a vet or get medical assistance as soon as possible.
The mommy is in charge with cleaning the puppies. She will also bite the umbilical cord. The rough licking improves the pups’ circulation and encourages them to breathe – that’s why they start squeaking.
Dog giving birth – Problems
Just like in humans, not all births are problem-free, and there are a number of complications that could arise. Female dogs that have never given birth before are more predisposed of developing a complication than those that have gone through pregnancy and delivery before.
Some of the three most common medical issues that could happen are one pup getting stuck in the birth canal, damage to your dog’s uterus, or difficulty in biting the pups’ umbilical cords. You can have a talk with your vet and ask him if there is any medication available that you could give to your dog so as to make the delivery smoother.
There are a number of hormonal medications that could help with this, but we don’t recommend administering them to all female dogs, especially those that have no problem delivering the pups all by themselves. In any case, you should keep your vet’s phone number closeby so that you place a call if something bad happens.
It is essential for you to pay attention and notice whether the placenta was eliminated after every puppy. Under some circumstances, one placenta can remain inside your dog’s body and cause an infection. While it might be a little challenging for you to constantly pay attention, you should try to make an effort in this sense. Some dogs might eat the placenta, and you should let yours do that if she wants to – it poses no health risk whatsoever.
Poor sanitary conditions can cause labor-related diseases and infections from mastitis to vaginitis. Of course, you shouldn’t let your dog give birth in a dirty place, so try to keep your home as clean as possible, especially toward the end of your dog’s gestation period.
Your dog will experience ‘nesting’, so about a week before the delivery, she will look for a comfortable and sheltered space where she feels safe enough to give birth. Keep that spot as clean as possible, but don’t use any strong or scented chemical detergents or cleaners as they might make your canine friend avoid the location and choose a different one.
Caring for your dog after she’s given birth
Because this is a rather important event in your canine friend’s life, it also causes several changes in her body. If you’re wondering what to feed a dog after giving birth, it might be a good idea to switch to a diet specially made for nursing mothers as this kind is richer in essential nutrients such as amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
For the first days following the delivery, it might be salutary to avoid feeding your dog dry kibble. It’s safer to go for wet dog food, instead. The point is that her intestines shouldn’t occupy too much space in the abdomen so as to put any pressure on the ovaries or uterus. Keep your dog’s meals light, yet nutrient-rich.
Can I shower my dog after giving birth? Although normally, this would be a great idea, it’s not recommended to shower the mom for the first 24 to 48 hours. Puppies and their mom create a bond during this time and using any type of shampoo or other cleaning agents can eliminate her natural scent, which is not something that you would want to do.
However, if things got messy as she was giving birth to her pups and her fur got stained with blood, you do have to clean that area using warm water and unscented soap (for dogs or for babies). Use a towel to dry off the hair. You can also give your dog a nice massage with a moist towel and that’s always appreciated since it also stimulates her circulation and helps her relax.