Pet Owners

Normal vs Abnormal Labor (When should I be concerned)

By March 23, 2023No Comments

If you’ve been thinking about breeding your dog, or if you’ve already taken the first step, you’re probably already imagining a wonderful litter of healthy puppies, and that will more than likely be the outcome. However, you should be aware that, just like humans, dogs can sometimes have serious difficulties during labor that can endanger the life of the mother and her pups. Abnormal labor is technically known as dystocia, and it can occur at any point during the birthing process, which consists of two distinct stages over several hours. It is more common in brachycephalic and smaller breeds of dogs, but it can happen with any breed. It’s important that you know the signs and symptoms of abnormal labor so you can seek immediate care from your veterinarian if they occur.

Normal vs Abnormal Labor In Dogs

Pregnancies in dogs typically last about 63 days but can vary a few days either way. When Stage 1 of labor begins, usually lasting between 6-12 hours, your dog’s temperature will start to drop and they will start looking for a place to nest and whelp their pups. During Stage 2 puppies will begin to appear fairly quickly and continue until they are all born.

An abnormal pregnancy can be suspected if there is a significant deviation from this timeline. You should call your vet if your dog has been pregnant without going into labor for more than 70 days, or if they begin labor before 56 days, if Stage 1 of their labor lasts for more than 24 hours without producing any pups, when strong and steady contractions have occurred for more than 30 minutes with no pups appearing, or if there are long periods, two hours or more, between pups.

Other Symptoms Of Abnormal Labor

Although problems with pregnancies in dogs can arise during any point in the process, most issues will happen during the labor phase, especially during Stage 2 when the puppies are actually being born. You should call your vet right away if you notice any of the following signs and symptoms during labor:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive lethargy or unconsciousness
  • Bloody, greenish, or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • A puppy lodged in the birth canal
  • Puppies emerging other than rear legs or head first

Treatment Of Birthing Difficulties

Your veterinarian will physically examine your dog including the birth canal and vaginal opening, and may decide to use ultrasound or X-rays to determine the number and position of unborn pups. They’ll monitor the length and strength of contractions, and possibly order blood tests. Your vet may order an emergency C-section if they determine a normal delivery would be dangerous or impossible.

The best way to avoid problems when breeding is to have your vet examine your dog as soon as you suspect they’re pregnant. Contact the Veterinary Emergency Referral Center in Norman, OK, for more information.