What Do Dog Contractions Look Like?

If you have a pup that is set to give birth any day, you may be wondering how you will know when they are going into labor.

Not only is it important to be aware of the signs of labor in dogs, but you should also have an understanding of what contractions look like.

By keeping an eye out for the signs of labor, you can best prepare for the arrival of adorable little pups.

You want to be able to spot your dog’s contractions when they occur, so you are more prepared with the delivery of her new pups.

We will break down what canine contractions look like, how long labor should last, and offer you a few additional tips on how to best assist your pup.

What Do Dog Contractions Look Like

How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?

Before we discuss the details of contractions in dogs below, it’s important to be aware of how long dogs are pregnant in the first place.

This can allow you to prepare properly for the arrival of their pups, as well as giving you an idea of when you should be on the lookout for contractions.

Most dog pregnancies last between 58-68 days, bringing their gestation time to just about 9 weeks.

What Are The Signs Of Labor In Dogs?

While contractions are a sign of labor that you can always be on the lookout for, there are more subtle signs that you should be aware of as well.

If your dog is about to give birth to their puppies, they may exhibit the following behaviors or signs:

  • Appearing restless or agitated
  • Panting excessively
  • Shivering
  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Digging in bedding
  • Pacing around the home
  • A hardened abdomen
  • Discharge coming from the vulva
  • Noticeable contractions of the abdominal muscles

If you have a pregnant dog that is nearing the end of their pregnancy and experiencing any of the above symptoms, they may be preparing to give birth.

It’s time to keep a close eye on them and make sure their birthing space is prepared, as pups may arrive any minute now.

Why Is My Pregnant Dog Panting All Of A Sudden?

If your pregnant dog is panting, this could point to a number of possibilities. If they are approaching the end of their pregnancy, this could be a sign that they are preparing to go into labor.

If their panting is accompanied by any signs of nesting or restlessness, we suggest watching your dog closely for any signs of contractions.

If your dog is not yet at the end of their pregnancy, then an onset of panting could point to anything from being hot to being exhausted.

Pregnancy takes a toll on dogs just like it does in humans, causing some pups to tire out with normal activity.

As long as your pregnant dog stops panting once they settle down and relax, this is typically nothing to worry about.

How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Having Contractions?

Now that you are aware of the most common signs of labor in dogs, it’s time to discuss how to spot contractions in our beloved pups.

Contractions are a sign of active labor in dogs, so it’s important to have an understanding of what to expect when you have a pregnant dog in your home.

If a dog is having contractions, their abdomen will appear noticeably tight. Their belly will be quite firm upon touch, and it may even appear to be held in a different position then before.

This initial tightness can begin 48-72 hours before actual labor begins, giving you plenty of time to make their whelping space nice and cozy.

After the 48-72 hour mark, your pup will typically begin to have contractions that lead to birth (hard labor).

You will notice their already firm belly tighten even more, almost looking as if they are straining in frequent intervals.

Some describe it as looking like their dog is attempting to pass stool without the posture.

In addition to the contractions seen on the abdomen, your pup may also whine or whimper from time to time.

Giving birth is painful for pups as well, so they may even cry out from time to time once they actually begin to pass the puppies.

How Far Apart Should Dog Contractions Be?

As we mentioned above, the first signs of labor can begin 48 to 72 hours before hard labor sets in.

Your dog’s abdomen will typically look and feel tense, but their abdominal contractions are not always noticeable enough to assess.

You will typically see other signs of labor such as restlessness, nesting, and panting, but it will be difficult to measure any time between abdominal contractions.

Once hard labor begins, your dog’s body will begin the process of birthing the puppies.

Dogs will typically begin to birth puppies about 2 hours after their hard contractions begin, often taking a 30 minute to 1 hour break between each puppy.

Though your pup may get tired, this period in between contractions and puppies should be no longer than 2 hours.

In addition to birthing the puppies, your pup will also need to pass the placentas. This will typically occur in between each puppy, so do not be surprised when you see a strange tissue casing being birthed during their resting period.

Why Is My Dog Having Contractions, But No Puppies?

So what happens if your dog is pushing and pushing, but no puppies are being born?

This can be a sign of birthing complications, so it’s important to understand what’s normal throughout the birthing process.

As we mentioned above, many dogs will take 30 minute to 1 hour breaks in between each puppy.

These breaks can last up to 2 hours if the mother is especially tired, but anything longer than this could point to potential complications.

Once hard labor has begun and the first puppy is passed, it should not take a dog any longer than 5-6 hours to birth their entire litter.

If your dog is having active contractions but has not passed any puppies, or there is a significant time in between each puppy, we suggest reaching out to your vet for guidance.

By giving them the details of their labor duration and how many puppies they are expecting, they can offer you guidance on whether or not they need to be seen.

How Long Should Labor Last In Dogs?

Though our domesticated pups no longer give birth in the wild, their body is still designed to handle this situation.

The process of labor is intended to be no more than 6 hours in dogs, as being in labor is a compromising position.

A quick labor process in the wild was essential for the survival of both mom and the puppies, and the process is the same to this day.

As we mentioned above, the process of birthing puppies should last no more than 5-6 hours after the first puppy was born.

While your pup will certainly take a few breaks in between passing each pup, this process is typically fast and efficient.

If they are taking longer than 6 hours to birth all of their puppies, this could be a sign of underlying complications.

Signs Of Complications During Labor In Dogs

Unfortunately for some unlucky pups, they will encounter complications during their birthing process.

This could occur due to anything from overall exhaustion to the puppies being larger than their birth canal, causing a sudden halt in their birthing process. This is not only incredibly stressful for both mom and puppies, but it can also be deadly and lead to an emergency.

Due to how dangerous birthing complications in dogs can be (dystocia), it’s important to catch them early on and reach out to your vet for guidance.

To help you catch these complications from the start, let’s list some of the most common signs of dystocia in dogs below.

We suggest reaching out to your vet if your pregnant dog is experiencing any of the following complications:

  • Your dog has not had a puppy yet, even though their water broke 2-3 hours prior
  • It has been over 2 hours since they passed their last puppy, and you know they still have more to birth
  • Your dog is having intense contractions, yet no puppies are being born
  • Your dog appears to be in significant discomfort, but they are still unable to pass any puppies despite their straining
  • Your dog appears to be in more pain than they should be, crying out frequently, snapping at their back end, their abdomen is sensitive to the touch
  • They are passing large amounts of blood throughout their birthing process
  • They are experiencing foul smelling discharge during or soon after the birthing process
  • A puppy is actively stuck in their vulva and they cannot pass it
  • Your dog appears extremely exhausted or weak, and you fear that they cannot pass the rest of their puppies
  • Your dog is passing puppies that look abnormal, bloated, discolored, foul smelling
  • They are passing a large amount of green, brown, or black discharge from their vulva
  • They have not passed a placenta for each puppy
  • They have surpassed 68 days of gestation and have not given birth

If you notice any of the above symptoms in your dog that is giving birth, we highly suggest that you reach out to your vet for guidance.

It’s best to give your vet a call before rushing them into the office, as any unnecessary stress can only further complicate the process.

Once you explain the details of your dog’s situation, your veterinary team can determine whether or not they need to be seen.

Tips For Helping Your Dog Give Birth

Now you are aware of what to expect when your beloved pup gives birth, but there are still a few additional tips that can make this process easier on your pup.

You can still play a role with helping your dog give birth.

To help you offer your pup the best at-home birthing care possible, let’s list some of the most effective tips below.

  • Make sure their whelping space is in a quiet area in your home, as it needs to be as stress free as possible
  • Keep a close eye on your pup once they enter the laboring process, and keep a log of when each stage and symptoms occur
  • Keep a close eye on not only how many pups they are birthing, but also how many placentas they are passing as well
  • Give your vet a call at the first sign of complication, as this will offer your dog and their puppies the best chance at survival if something is wrong

Final Thoughts On Dog Pregnancy Contractions

If your canine friend has begun to have contractions, this means their tiny pups will soon enter this world.

Knowing what to look out for as well as when to look for contractions, will help you be less stressed when the actual day and time arrives.

For many dog parents who have a pregnant pup, the first time watching them deliver puppies can be overwhelming.

Just know there are signs you can watch for which will help you be prepared for the day to arrive.

Your veterinary team can also give you reassurances and let you know what to expect.

Be sure to keep a close eye on your pup throughout the birthing process, and always reach out to your vet for guidance if anything worries you.

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