Indicators of Impending Birth

In the last few days your bitch may:

1. Become restless.
2. Exhibit occasional panting.
3. Build a nest.
4. Hide away under a house or some other private place.
5. Make milk.

All these are signs, but none give an accurate means of predicting whelping time.

•  Two methods can be used to predict the time within 24 hours.

1. Twice daily rectal temperature readings.

2. Blood progesterone levels.

Blood progesterone levels are used when there is no other available information. They are very accurate, but take us 24 hours to get an answer.


•  Rectal Temperature Readings

You will need to plot your bitch’s temperature on a chart.

Normal temperature is 37.5 – 38.5 centigrade.

12 – 24 hours prior to whelping this drops significantly, usually to 37.1 or lower. In small breeds this can be as low as 36.4

If you have a 12 hourly chart of morning and evening temperatures for the past 5 – 7 days it is very clear when this drop occurs.


•  Labour

Signs of Impending Parturition (24 hours before whelping)

a. rectal temperature decreases by about 1 degree Celsius.
b. anorexia.
c. nesting behaviour:

Nesting may occur before this but will intensify in the 24 hours immediately preceding parturition.

d. mammary development and abdominal swelling are NOT good indicators of impending parturition, they vary considerably between bitches and with parity.

•  Stage 1 Labour

a. 6 – 12 hours duration.
b. cervical dilation occurs and uterine contractions begin but are not visible externally.
c. panting, restlessness, nervousness, anorexia, shivering, occasionally vomiting.
d. contractions are regular and of decreasing interval.


•  Stage 2 Labour

a. 3 – 12 hours duration (huge variation).
b. onset of straining, passage of pups and placental membranes.
c. the presence of pups stimulating nerves in the cervix and vagina causes abdominal contraction and the release of oxytocin.
d. 1st pup usually is born in 1 hour.
e. pup should be born every 2 hours or less.
f. bitch has ability to stop stage 2, especially if disturbed, and may resume after rest.
g. usually delivery alternates between uterine horns and the fullest horn goes first.
h. usually get pup, followed by placenta, followed by pup but this is not always the case.
i. 40% of pups are born in posterior presentation, which is NORMAL.
j. expect the bitch to clean the pup and eat the placenta immediately – this is normal although it is not necessary for the bitch to eat the placenta.


•  Stage 3 Labour

a. in other species stage 3 refers to the passage of the placentae, but in the bitch this is accomplished during stage 2.