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Early Contractions and Labor in Dogs

Premature Labor in Dogs

Premature labor in dogs can stem from various factors, triggering early contractions and leading to the premature birth of puppies. These factors encompass bacterial and viral infections, fetal demise, ovarian cysts, hormonal imbalances, physical trauma, inadequate nutrition, environmental changes like relocation, and any stressors inducing mental or physical strain on the dam. Additionally, certain dog breeds may carry genetic predispositions to preterm labor.

Preterm delivery in dogs refers to births occurring before the optimal 60 days of gestation. Generally, puppies born at 58 days of gestation or later have a favorable chance of survival.

Symptoms and Types

  • Delivery occurring prior to 58 days of gestation
  • Presence of bloody discharge or tissue
  • Excessive vocalizing or barking
  • Episodes of vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drop in body temperature
  • Increased attention-seeking behavior from the dam; clinginess


  • Genetic predispositions
  • Bacterial infections such as Brucellosis and Lyme disease
  • Viral infections including Herpes and Parvovirus
  • Physical injury
  • Malnutrition
  • Hormonal imbalances, including suspected sudden drops in progesterone and low thyroid levels in older females
  • Non-infectious uterine or vaginal diseases
  • Presence of ovarian cysts
  • Administration of drugs such as corticosteroids or chemotherapy

Stressful events such as:

  • Emotional disturbances within the household like fights or screaming
  • Relocation to a new environment
  • Exposure to cold temperatures
  • Receipt of vaccinations during pregnancy, particularly those for diseases like distemper and hepatitis
  • Boarding in unfamiliar environments
  • Participation in dog (breed) shows
  • Exposure to loud noises


If you notice signs of early labor in your dog, it’s crucial to seek veterinary assistance promptly. Provide your veterinarian with a comprehensive overview of your dog’s health history before and during pregnancy, the onset of symptoms, and any potential triggering incidents. Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough physical examination of your dog, ensuring minimal stress.

Standard laboratory assessments may include blood chemistry analysis, a complete blood count, electrolyte levels, and urinalysis to rule out underlying diseases contributing to premature labor symptoms. Blood tests will help determine if your dog’s progesterone levels are unusually low.

Ultrasound imaging will aid in diagnosing fetal death or abnormal fetal positions, which could complicate delivery. Additionally, ultrasound provides your veterinarian with insights into fetal heartbeats and detailed fetal information. In cases of stillborn puppies or those dying shortly after birth, your veterinarian may conduct necropsies to ascertain the cause of death.


In the event of early labor in your dog, promptly reach out to your veterinarian or the nearest emergency veterinary clinic for guidance. Your dog will likely need medical intervention, either to address an underlying illness or to facilitate the removal of stillborn fetuses.

Living and Management

If your dog is pregnant, it’s important to avoid exposing her to other animals three weeks before and after delivery. Even pets living in close proximity should be kept separate during this critical period. Ideally, provide your dog with a warm, quiet room where she can create a comfortable nesting area for herself and her puppies.

Some dogs prefer solitude during birth, while others may feel more secure with a trusted human companion nearby. Offer both options to your dog if possible. Refrain from administering any medications during pregnancy without consulting your veterinarian, including flea treatments and vaccinations. Inform your veterinarian about the pregnancy before any treatment, such as deworming.

Avoid boarding your dog or relocating her unless absolutely necessary. If your dog exhibits bloody vaginal discharge prematurely, contact your veterinarian immediately for guidance. Consider scheduling a pregnancy check-up around 30 days to ensure the pregnancy progresses smoothly.

Similar precautions regarding medications and vaccinations apply during the nursing period. Always consult your veterinarian before administering anything that may enter your dog’s bloodstream and milk.

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