What Do Dog Contractions Look Like: A Visual Guide

Are you a concerned dog owner wondering what to expect during your dog’s labor? One crucial step towards preparing for the arrival of new puppies is understanding the various stages of a dog’s labor, including what dog contractions look like. In this article, we will explore the different ways to recognize dog contractions visually to help you monitor your dog’s delivery process more accurately.

What are dog contractions?

Before we delve into what dog contractions look like, it is essential to understand what contractions are. In dogs, contractions refer to the rhythmic and involuntary tightening of the uterine muscles in preparation for delivery. These contractions are a sign that the dog’s body is preparing for the birth of her puppies. During contractions, the cervix, the opening to the uterus, will slowly dilate, allowing the puppies to pass through the birth canal smoothly.

The Stages of Dog Labor

The process of dog labor typically unfolds in three stages:

  • The first stage: During this phase, the dog will show signs of restlessness and discomfort. The duration of this stage can vary significantly, ranging from a few hours to up to 24 hours or more. During this phase, the dog may pant excessively, show a loss of appetite or licking of the genital area. She will also start to develop contractions. During the first stage of labor, the cervix begins to dilate, or open up, to make way for the puppies to pass through the birth canal. The first stage of labor ends when the cervix is completely dilated.
  • The second stage: The second stage begins when the dog’s cervix is fully dilated, and it ends when all the puppies are born. During this phase, the dog’s contractions will become stronger and closer together, signaling the imminent arrival of the puppies. You should expect each puppy to be born within an interval of 30 to 60 minutes. During this phase, the dog may appear to be pushing or straining, and you can expect to see the puppies emerging one by one.
  • The third stage: The third phase involves the delivery of the afterbirth or placenta. This stage usually happens after giving birth to each puppy.

What do Dog Contractions Look Like?

Dog contractions tend to resemble a mild hiccup, with each contraction causing your dog’s belly to tense and release. The muscles on both sides of the abdomen contract simultaneously, and each contraction can last for approximately one minute. During this time, you may also notice a stretching of the abdominal muscles as the puppies begin to move out of the uterus and towards the birth canal.

Dog in Labor

What Are The Signs That Your Dog Is Having Contractions?

Your dog may show the following signs to indicate that she is having contractions:

  • Restlessness and increased activity
  • Panting or rapid breathing
  • Licking of the genital area
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting

How Long Do Dog Contractions Last?

During the first stage of labor, the contractions can last for up to 30 minutes. During the second stage, the contractions become more frequent and could last for between 30 seconds to one minute.

How Many Contractions Do Dogs Experience During Labor?

The frequency and number of contractions that your dog will experience will vary depending on the stage of labor. During the first phase of labor, the contractions can be mild and relatively infrequent, lasting only 10 to 30 seconds each time. During the second stage of labor, the contractions become stronger and closer together, lasting for between 30 seconds to one minute.

How Can You Time Your Dog’s Contractions?

Timing your dog’s contractions can help you determine whether she is progressing correctly in her labor. To time your dog’s contractions, begin when you notice the first contraction and stop the timer when the second one begins. Repeat this process three times, record the time taken for each contraction, and take the average of the duration to calculate your dog’s contraction rate. If your dog’s contractions start to occur more frequently, this may indicate that she is moving towards the second phase of labor.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Experiences Difficulty During Labor?

If your dog experiences difficulty during labor, you should seek veterinary care immediately. Your veterinarian may give your dog oxytocin, a hormone designed to help stimulate contractions or help with a difficult birth. If necessary, your dog may require an emergency c-section to save her or the puppies’ lives.


Understanding what dog contractions look like is an essential step for dog owners preparing for the arrival of new puppies. By monitoring your dog’s contractions, you can accurately track her labor and identify any potential signs of difficulty. Remember to keep a close eye on your dog during her labor and seek veterinary care immediately if you notice any difficulty during the delivery process.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Q: How long does dog labor last?

    A: Dog labor typically lasts between six to 24 hours or more, depending on the dog’s size and the number of puppies she is delivering. However, it could be shorter or longer than this estimation.

  • Q: How can I help my dog through labor?

    A: You should offer your dog a quiet, comfortable, and warm area where she can deliver the puppies safely. You can provide her with soft and clean bedding and monitor her progress. Keep your vet’s phone number handy in case of emergencies.

  • Q: What should I do if my dog’s labor does not progress?

    A: If your dog’s labor does not progress for more than two hours, or she appears exhausted, distressed or in pain, seek veterinary care immediately.

  • Q: How do I know if my dog has given birth to all her puppies?

    A: You should monitor your dog closely during the delivery process, ensuring that all puppies have been delivered along with their placentas. You can also take your dog to the vet for a thorough check-up after delivery to ensure that all the puppies have been delivered.


1. Dog Pregnancy Stages: The joys and challenges of raising a litter. (2019). Retrieved 29 July 2021, from https://cessnalifeline.com/dog-pregnancy-stages/
2. Haring, J. (2019). How long does dog labor last? A dogs labor time from start to finish – here is the timeline. Retrieved 29 July 2021, from https://doghelpful.com/how-long-does-dog-labor-last/
3. Hemopet.org. (2019). Management of Canine Pregnancy and Parturition. Retrieved 29 July 2021, from https://www.hemopet.org/media/PDF/hemopet-canine-pregnancy-parturition.pdf

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