A dog’s pregnancy is a time of great anticipation and excitement, but it also brings with it numerous responsibilities and concerns. As an owner, one must stay informed about the various changes a pregnant dog’s body undergoes to ensure her well-being and that of her unborn puppies. A very crucial change that occurs is a drop in body temperature.
A temperature decline before labor is normal and often does not indicate any health problems. It’s a clear sign that she is about to go into labor and it usually drops below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This drop is linked to the progesterone decrease and rise in prostaglandins level in the blood and often occurs approximately 24 hours before labor starts. So, don’t be worried if your dog still has no puppies after a temperature drop as this drop comes in the first stage of labor before whelping.
This phenomenon, though typical, may not occur in every dog, or the timing could vary slightly. Hence, it’s essential to monitor your dog closely, especially during the last stages of pregnancy, and stay in touch with your vet for any concerns or complications.
What Does It Mean When A Pregnant Dog Temperature Drops?
When a pregnant dog’s temperature drops, it is typically an indication that she is going into labor. This decrease in body temperature is directly tied to the hormonal changes that accompany the impending birthing process.
A dog’s normal body temperature typically ranges from 101°F to 102.5°F (38.3°C to 39.2°C). This range can vary slightly based on individual differences, breed, and environmental conditions, but significant deviations from this range can signal changes in the dog’s physiological state.
As the dog approaches the end of her gestation period, her body undergoes significant hormonal shifts to prepare for the birth of her puppies. One of these changes involves the hormone progesterone. Throughout the pregnancy, progesterone plays a crucial role in maintaining the pregnancy, supporting the growth and development of the puppies.
However, as birth approaches, the levels of progesterone start to decline. Typically, dogs enter the first stage of labor within 24 hours of the decline in progesterone levels falling below 2 ng/mL. This decrease in progesterone is concurrent with an increase in prostaglandins, hormones that stimulate contractions of the uterus and help to dilate the cervix in preparation for delivery.
Simultaneously, this hormonal shift often results in a drop in the dog’s body temperature. The temperature can decrease to below 100°F (37.8°C), sometimes dropping further to around 98-99°F (36.7-37.2°C). This drop sometimes referred to as “pre-whelping drop,” is often a reliable sign that the dog will commence labor within 24 hours.
However, while the temperature drop is a useful indicator, it should not be the sole marker for predicting labor. The process can vary between individuals, and not all dogs will exhibit a clear temperature drop before whelping. Other signs that labor is imminent include restlessness, a loss of appetite, nesting behaviors, and increased panting or pacing.
Monitoring a pregnant dog’s temperature can be beneficial, but it should be done carefully and accurately, usually by taking rectal temperature readings. Any sudden or drastic changes in temperature, signs of distress, or absence of labor 24 hours after a significant temperature drop should be promptly addressed with a veterinary professional. These could indicate complications such as dystocia (difficult birth), infection, or other health issues that may pose risks to the mother and her puppies.
Also, note that after the puppies are born, the mother’s temperature should return to the normal range. If it remains abnormally low or suddenly increases, it could indicate postpartum complications, such as metritis (uterine infection) or mastitis (breast tissue infection), which require immediate veterinary attention.
How long does a pregnant dogs temp stay low?
A dog’s body temperature plays an important role in indicating the timing of labor and delivery during pregnancy. Normal canine body temperature typically ranges between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. However, approximately 24 hours before the start of labor, there’s a notable drop in body temperature to below 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This dip in temperature is often referred to as the ‘temperature drop’ and it signifies that labor is imminent.
This lower body temperature is a physiological response preparing the dog’s body for the labor process. The body temperature drop is usually not sustained for long. Once active labor begins, you can expect the body temperature to start rising again due to the increase in physical exertion and metabolic activity associated with labor.
Therefore, this drop in temperature is relatively short-lived, typically not lasting more than 24 hours. However, it is essential to understand that each dog is unique, and variations can occur. Some dogs might show a temperature drop more than a day before birth, while others may have a less pronounced drop.
This is one of the reasons why continuous temperature monitoring is often advised by veterinarians during the late stages of a dog’s pregnancy. Regular monitoring can help identify this critical temperature drop and allow for preparations for the birthing process. However, body temperature alone should not be the sole indicator of labor, as other physical and behavioral changes also occur.
Please note that although this temperature fluctuation is generally considered a normal part of the birthing process, any concerns or anomalies should warrant immediate consultation with a veterinarian. This is particularly crucial if the dog appears unwell, if the temperature remains low for a prolonged period, or if it drops very early before the expected date of delivery. These could potentially indicate underlying complications requiring professional intervention.
Stages Of Labor In Dogs
The process of labor in dogs, also known as parturition, typically unfolds in three distinct stages. Understanding these stages can provide important insights into the birthing process and help identify any potential complications promptly.
Stage One: Preparatory Stage
Stage one is the preparatory phase for labor and is the longest, lasting up to 24 hours or more. During this stage, the pregnant dog’s body prepares for the birthing process. Internally, her cervix begins to dilate and the uterine muscles start contracting, although these contractions might not be apparent externally. Hormonal changes also trigger a drop in body temperature.
Behavioral changes may also become evident during this stage. The dog might appear restless, and anxious, or start nesting behaviors, such as preparing a safe and comfortable space to give birth. Some dogs might also experience a loss of appetite or start panting. However, there are no visible contractions or expelled fluids at this stage.
Stage Two: Active Labor
Stage two is characterized by active labor, where the dog starts having visible contractions. During this stage, each puppy is delivered, usually encased in an individual amniotic sac. The sac often breaks during birth, but if it doesn’t, the mother dog will usually break it herself.
The mother dog should push out each puppy within 1-2 hours of beginning active labor. Puppies are typically born every 30 to 60 minutes, with 10-30 minute rest periods between births. It’s normal for the mother to take a longer break partway through delivery, but if she is straining continuously for more than an hour without producing a puppy, this is a sign of a potential complication, such as dystocia (difficult birth), and requires immediate veterinary attention.
Following the birth of each puppy, the mother will sever the umbilical cord and clean the puppies by licking them, stimulating their breathing.
Stage Three: Expulsion of Placentas
The third and final stage of labor involves the expulsion of the placentas. Usually, a placenta follows each puppy, although sometimes two puppies may be followed by one placenta. It’s important to keep count of the number of placentas and ensure it matches the number of puppies. If a placenta is retained inside the mother, it can lead to serious infections.
During this stage, the mother will continue to clean her puppies and begin nursing them. Once all the puppies and placentas are delivered, the labor process is complete.
The entire birthing process can last from a few hours up to 24 hours, depending on the number of puppies and the individual dog. Close observation and understanding of the different stages of labor can help ensure a successful birthing process and alert the owner to any potential problems. As always, if there are any concerns or complications, it’s crucial to reach out to a veterinarian immediately.
Other Signs Of Labor
Here are some other signs to help identify when your dog is going into labor:
Change in Behavior: Dogs often display behavioral changes such as restlessness, panting, pacing, or acting more nervous than usual. They may seem anxious or more affectionate. Some dogs may also start to dig or nest in preparation for the birth.
Loss of Appetite: Many dogs will refuse food as they are going into labor.
Physical Changes: There might be some noticeable physical changes such as a swollen vulva or enlarged nipples.
Nesting Behavior: The dog may start to prepare a place to give birth. This could involve moving blankets or bed material around in a specific area of your home.
Vaginal Discharge: A clear, odorless discharge may be present. This is usually the water breaking. Any green or foul-smelling discharge should be considered a veterinary emergency.
Visible Contractions: Once labor has started, you will be able to see your dog’s abdomen contracting. Early contractions may be less visible, but as labor progresses, these should become more noticeable.
Visible Straining: If your dog is visibly straining, and no puppy appears within 30-60 minutes, seek immediate veterinary assistance.
Remember that not every dog will display all these signs, and there is considerable individual variation. Always seek advice from a professional veterinarian when your dog is ready to give birth to ensure a safe and healthy process for both the mother and her puppies.
How To Care For A Dog Approaching Labor
Caring for a dog as she approaches labor requires a combination of close observation, a comfortable environment, and appropriate medical support. Here are some tips:
Create a Comfortable Space: Known as a whelping box, this space should be comfortable, warm, quiet, and away from other pets and high-traffic areas. This will provide a safe place for your dog to give birth and care for her puppies.
Nutrition: Pregnant dogs often need additional nutrients, so you may need to switch to high-quality puppy food or food specifically designed for pregnant and nursing dogs.
Regular Veterinary Care: Regular check-ups with your vet throughout the pregnancy can help ensure a healthy mother and puppies. Your vet may perform ultrasound or X-ray imaging to monitor the puppies’ development and estimate litter size.
Temperature Monitoring: As discussed earlier, a drop in body temperature often signifies labor is imminent. Regularly monitoring her temperature can give you a 24-hour heads-up that puppies are on their way.
Watch for Signs of Labor: In addition to the temperature drop, dogs will display behavioral changes like restlessness, nesting, and loss of appetite. Familiarizing yourself with these signs will help you identify when she’s about to go into labor.
Prepare for Emergencies: Have your vet’s number readily available and know where the closest 24-hour emergency vet clinic is located. Complications can arise unexpectedly, so be ready to seek professional help immediately if necessary.
Prepare Whelping Supplies: Essential items include clean towels to clean off puppies and help dry them, a bulb syringe to clear puppies’ airways if necessary, disinfectant, gloves, paper towels, and a heating pad to keep the puppies warm.
Provide a Quiet Environment: Minimize stress by reducing loud noises and limiting visitors. This is an important time for your dog, and she’ll need a quiet, stress-free environment.
Remember, each dog is unique, and the process can vary. Always consult with a vet if you have any concerns or questions about your pregnant dog’s health and well-being. Your vet can provide personalized advice based on your dog’s specific needs.
The drop in her body temperature is a significant indication that labor is imminent, generally suggesting that the puppies will arrive within the next 24 hours. However, it’s essential to remember that this isn’t an absolute rule, as individual variations exist.
Physical and behavioral changes, such as restlessness, nesting behaviors, loss of appetite, and visible contractions, also serve as crucial signs of impending labor. Monitoring these changes, along with regular temperature checks, can help you better prepare for the arrival of the puppies.
The provision of comfortable space, proper nutrition, regular veterinary care, and a quiet environment significantly contributes to ensuring the well-being of your pregnant dog. Being equipped with emergency contact information and whelping supplies can provide additional assurance during this intense period.
Ultimately, the journey of your dog’s pregnancy and the joy of welcoming new puppies is an incredible experience. Being aware of what to expect and how to assist can make this journey smoother and safer for both the mother and her puppies. Remember to rely on veterinary guidance and support whenever needed, as they can provide the best care advice tailored to your dog’s specific needs.