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The normal gestation period of the canine is 63 days, but could be as short as 58 days, and as long as 70 days. There are three stages to a normal delivery. We recommend taking the temperature of your pregnant pet with a rectal thermometer starting at about day 55. The temperature should remain between 101-102 except as noted below.

Stage 1 Nesting behavior.

The nesting behavior starts 12 to 24 hours prior to whelping. The animal may be restless, panting or shivering, and have a cervical mucus discharge. The rectal temperature will usually drop to 96.8 F to 98.6 F. The length of time from stage 1 is usually 6 to 12 hours but can go to 36 hours as long as there is no colored discharge from the animal.

Stage 2 begins when the "water breaks".

Stage 2 Straining, abdominal contractions and delivery, and Stage 2 labor occurs with strong uterine and abdominal contractions and the rupture of the allantoic membrane to lubricate the birth canal. The fetuses move through the cervix and birth canal to be born. You may see some of this water and later fetal membranes at the vulva. We would expect the first pup to be born within 4 hours of the time the "water breaks". The maximum time between pups is less than 4 hours and the maximum total time for delivery of the litter is 12 hours. There should be no more than 6 hours between the rupture of the allantoic membrane (the "water breaks") and the delivery of the first pup. There should be no more than 1 hour between the start of placental separation and the delivery of a pup. When the placenta separates you will see a dark green discharge.

Stage 3 the periods of rest between delivery of each puppy.

During normal delivery, It is common for 2 puppies to be delivered with a short stage 3 resting period (5-15 min). After the next pair is delivered there will be a longer resting period (30 to 60 min). The resting periods will get longer after each time a pair of puppies is born. The puppies are not always born in pairs.

Problems with delivery that need veterinary care

1. Failure to deliver a pup within 6 hours of the time the "water breaks.

  1. Failure to resume labor after two hours of stage 3 labor rest) provided unborn pups remain in the uterus.
  2. Failure to deliver a pup within 1 hour after the appearance of a dark green discharge (which indicates placental detachment).
  3. Partially delivered pup or placenta visible with the mother in stage 3 labor for more than 15 minutes.
  4. If the mother fails to clean up the pup the umbilical cord may be tied with dental floss about 1 inch away from the body and the cord cut with "flamed" scissors beyond the tie. Treat the cut end with iodine or other disinfectant.
  5. Failure to enter labor 70 or more days after the last known breeding date.
  6. Presence of abnormal vaginal discharges. A dark green to red discharge is normal after normal delivery. The discharge should decline during the days following delivery but may be present up to 4 weeks after delivery
  7. A resting body temperature greater than 103 on the day after delivery or greater than 102 after that. Take the temperature at rest twice daily during the period from a week before expected delivery to the end of the lactation.