How Do I Know When My Dog Is Done Having Puppies?

Know the signs of labor

As your dog’s due date approaches, you’ll want to keep an eye out for signs that labor is about to start. Some common signs include:

  • Nesting behavior. Your dog may start burrowing and trying to make a comfortable nest for herself and the puppies (source).
  • Restlessness. Your dog may seem anxious or unable to get comfortable. Pacing and panting are common as well.
  • Temperature drop. Your dog’s temperature will drop below 100°F within 24 hours of labor starting (source).
  • Abdominal contractions. You may see the abdominal wall contract as uterine contractions begin. Your dog may strain, but produce no puppy.

The stages of labor

Labor in dogs occurs in three distinct stages:

Stage 1: This is the start of labor when the cervix begins to dilate and the uterus starts contracting. Stage 1 can last 6-12 hours, but the dog will not actively push at this point. You may notice restlessness, panting, shivering, nesting behavior, or loss of appetite as signs that stage 1 has begun.

Stage 2: During this active stage, stronger uterine contractions push the puppy into the birth canal and the dog will begin actively straining to push out the puppies. Stage 2 lasts around 6-12 hours during which the dog will deliver all the puppies, usually 1-2 hours between each. Pushing for each puppy delivery usually lasts 1-30 minutes.

Stage 3: The third and final stage is the delivery of the placentas afterbirth after each puppy. The mother will lick and bite at the umbilical cord to sever it from the placenta. She will typically eat the placentas as well. This stage may last up to a few hours after all puppies are delivered.




Normal time between puppies

During the active labor stage, most dogs will deliver a puppy every 15 to 60 minutes. According to Whelping Puppies, the time between each puppy birth is usually 30-60 minutes, but can be up to 2 hours.

If there is significantly more time between puppies, such as over 4 hours, there may be complications. According to Whelping Potential Problems, longer intervals between puppies could indicate uterine inertia or obstruction preventing the puppy from being born. In these cases, veterinary assistance is recommended.

Overall, allow 15-60 minutes between puppies during normal labor. Contact your veterinarian if several hours pass without another puppy arriving.

Signs labor is complete

There are a few signs that indicate your dog’s labor is complete and she has finished delivering all her puppies:

  • No more contractions – Your dog will stop having contractions once all puppies have been born. The muscles in the uterus will relax and go back to normal.
  • Nesting and nursing behaviors – Once done giving birth, your dog will start paying more attention to the puppies, licking them, nursing them, and nesting around them. This signals her motherly instincts have kicked in.
  • Count puppies and placentas – Make sure the number of placentas passed equals the number of puppies. This helps confirm the litter is complete. According to veterinarians, each puppy has their own placenta, so matching numbers indicates labor is finished.

If you notice these signs, it’s a good indication your dog is done giving birth and has completed delivery of the litter. However, if she seems restless or distressed, or you don’t match up placentas and puppies, contact your vet to be safe.

When to call the vet

While labor and delivery often go smoothly, there are some concerning signs that indicate you should call your veterinarian, including:

  • Your dog strains or pushes for longer than 4 hours without producing a puppy. Prolonged labor like this can put puppies at risk due to oxygen deprivation, so a vet should examine your dog. See Ann Arbor Animal Hospital.
  • There is fresh blood from the vulva between puppies being born. This could signal uterine inertia or an obstructed birth canal and requires prompt veterinary attention. Visit Hook Norton Vets for more details.
  • A green or black discharge comes from the vulva at any time. This indicates placental detachment or fetus decay and is an emergency. Consult your vet immediately.
  • Your dog shows signs of lethargy, fever, or illness before or after whelping all puppies. She may have an infection like mastitis requiring medication. Call your vet right away.

In any emergency birthing situation, contact your vet without delay. Timely intervention can help save puppies and protect the mother dog’s health.

Aftercare for mom

After giving birth, the mother dog will require some special care while she recovers and nurses her puppies. Making sure she is comfortable, healthy, and well-fed is important.

Provide her with a highly nutritious diet so that she can produce rich and plentiful milk for the puppies. Feeding premium puppy food, meat, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt and other high-calorie foods will help. Limit exercise to short leash walks a few times a day for the first week so she can recover from the birthing process.

Monitor the mother’s lactation and make sure her mammary glands do not become infected or inflamed (mastitis). Her teats should not be sore or reddened. Contact your veterinarian if you notice signs of trouble.

Take the mother dog to the vet within 1-2 days after giving birth for a postpartum examination to check for any retained placentas or uterine infections. The vet will also examine the mother dog’s mammary glands.

With some rest, nutrition and attentive care in the first weeks, the mother dog should make a full recovery from the whelping process. Keep a close eye on her behavior and health as she nurses her puppies during this critical bonding period.

Caring for newborn puppies

Proper care for newborn puppies is critical to their health and survival. According to PetMD, newborn puppies should be kept warm, fed frequently, have their waste eliminated, and be weighed daily.

Newborn puppies cannot regulate their own body temperature, so it’s important to provide a warm, draft-free environment around 90°F. Shelter should be a box or confined space lined with towels or blankets where the puppies can snuggle together.

Puppies should nurse every 2-3 hours for the first few weeks. The mother’s milk provides nutrition and passive immunity. If the mother is unavailable, a canine milk replacer like Esbilac can be fed via bottle or tube feeder.

The mother will lick the puppies to stimulate elimination of waste, but human assistance is often needed. Use a warm, damp cloth or cotton ball to gently rub the puppy’s genitals after feeding to help them urinate and defecate.

Weighing daily helps ensure each puppy is growing appropriately. Healthy weight gain is around 10% birth weight per day. Routine deworming and vaccination around 2-4 weeks old is also recommended.

Signs of Complications

While most dogs have normal pregnancies and deliveries, complications can sometimes arise. Being aware of potential issues can help ensure prompt veterinary care if needed. Some signs of complications include:

Stillborn or Malformed Puppies

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for one or more puppies in a litter to be stillborn or have birth defects. There is often no way to prevent this. Contact your veterinarian if you are concerned about the health or viability of a newborn puppy.

Retained Placenta

Normally the placentas detach and are expelled after each puppy is born. If a placenta is not expelled within 1-2 hours after birth, it is considered retained. This can lead to infection and requires veterinary attention. According to Animal Emergency Care, a retained placenta is one of the most common complications during labor.


An inflamed mammary gland, mastitis causes fever, lethargy and loss of appetite in the mother dog. It is often caused by a bacterial infection. Puppies may continue to nurse, worsening the condition. Veterinary care including antibiotics is required.


Metritis refers to a uterine infection following whelping. Symptoms include fever, foul-smelling discharge, lethargy, dehydration and lack of interest in the puppies. Veterinary care is essential. According to Medicanimal, metritis can be fatal if left untreated.


Also known as milk fever, eclampsia involves dangerously low calcium levels that can occur 1-5 weeks after giving birth. Symptoms include restlessness, panting, stiffness, fever and seizures. Emergency veterinary treatment is required as it can be fatal. Supplementing with calcium after birth can help prevent eclampsia in susceptible dogs.

Spaying after pregnancy

It is usually recommended to wait until the puppies are weaned, which is around 5-6 weeks, before spaying a mother dog after pregnancy. This allows the mother dog’s milk to properly dry up before surgery. According to The Pet Owners FAQs | SpayUSA, spaying “as soon as the kittens or pups are weaned, (5 to 6 weeks for kittens and 4 to 5 weeks for puppies)” is best due to the risks of back to back litters.

There are several benefits to spaying a mother dog after she has finished weaning her puppies. Spaying reduces the risk of certain cancers like mammary tumors, uterine infections, and ovarian cysts. It also prevents the possibility of back to back pregnancies, which can be taxing on a dog’s body. Allowing the mother dog to fully wean her puppies before spaying ensures she has time to recover and bond with her puppies after birth before undergoing surgery.

When to breed again

It’s important to allow your female dog adequate time to fully recover before breeding her again. Most experts recommend waiting until she has gone through at least 1-2 heat cycles after weaning her puppies before considering another pregnancy.

According to veterinary guidelines, you should wait until your dog has fully healed, regained fitness and a healthy weight before breeding again. This allows her body to recuperate and prevents the stress of back-to-back pregnancies and nursing [1].

Veterinarians recommend waiting at least 6-12 months between litters, as breeding too soon doesn’t allow sufficient time for the female’s body to recover [2]. Going through successive heat cycles allows the dog’s hormones, nutrients and minerals to reach optimal levels for her next pregnancy.

Discuss with your vet the appropriate recovery time for your specific dog before attempting to breed again. Get their approval that your dog is healthy enough for the physical demands of another pregnancy and nursing. With adequate rest between litters, you can help ensure the wellbeing of both the mother and her future puppies.

Scroll to Top