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The best way to know when the dog is going to whelp is to have ovulation timing and specific hormone and breeding dates. Often we do not have that information, and since the average gestation is 63 days but can be between 57 to 72 days from a single breeding, it can be difficult to tell when the dog is going to whelp.
Canine parturition/whelping occurs in 3 stages. The first stage is when the uterus begins to contract and cause the cervix to dilate. Stage one can last 6 to 12 hours in the dog. Signs that you may see in the female are restlessness, panting, pacing, or "nesting" type behavior.
Stages two and three alternate in the dog. Stage two is the passage of the puppy. Stage 3 is the passage of the fetal membranes and placenta. Because dogs typically have multiple puppies, the membranes from the preceeding puppy are usually passed prior to the next puppy. It is common for the female dog to ingest the placentas and membranes.
Puppies normally enter the birth canal with the puppies back against the top of the birth canal. Puppies can be born head or tail first. About 40% are born tail first, and this "breech" position is considered normal in the dog.
After whelping, a few things you need to do are checking each puppy to make sure it is moving and breathing, you may have to help the puppies "latch on" to get the first nursing done. Also, make sure to have fresh food and water available for the dam at all times.
If there are any questions concerning labor, the need for intervention (either medical or surgical), or any other questions regarding whelping, please call one of our doctors. This page is intended for general information only, any further questions should be directed to one of the doctors.