How Long After a Dog Loses Her Mucus Plug Does Labor Start?



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What Exactly Is a Mucus Plug?

After your dog has successfully mated and become pregnant, mucus will start accumulating by the cervix. At some point, this mucus will thicken and seal over the cervix tightly, forming what is called "the mucus plug". What's the purpose of the mucus plug during a dog's pregnancy? Its main purpose is to block the entry of bacteria so as to protect the developing fetuses from potentially life threatening infections. The mucus plug has been known to also contain a variety of antimicrobial agents.

What does a dog's mucus plug look like? It usually looks like a whitish fluid. Veterinarian Dan Rice in the book The Complete Book of Dog Breeding describes a dog's mucus plug as a clear, odorless discharge that can be stringy and resemble egg whites. Veterinarian Dr.BJ Hughes, claims that the color may range from clear to yellowish clear and that sometimes it can be slightly blood tinged. The presence of blood tinged mucus is sometimes referred to as "bloody show".

The mucus plug may present as a continuous discharge, or, as the name implies, it may resemble a dried up plug as seen in this picture. Many dog owners never get to really see the release of the mucus plug, as the clear discharge is promptly licked by the dog, removing any trace of it. However, for those who are lucky enough to witness its presence, high hopes of an impending delivery of puppies start crossing their mind. After all, the release of the mucus plug is a sure sign that the dog's cervix has dilated to get ready for giving birth, so the next question is "how long after a dog's mucus plug is expelled will my dog be in labor?"

When Is a Dog's Mucus Plug Expelled?

So when will my dog give birth after noticing the release of the mucus plug? "It can be hours to days," says veterinarian Dr. Krista Magnifico. Some breeders report their dogs' mucus plug being expelled up to a week before labor starts, with an average of about four to five days, but then others report birth taking place within a few hours after they notice a mucus plug released all at once in a big clump or the presence of a "blood show." The blood in this case derives from small blood vessels breaking and releasing blood when the cervix begins to dilate.

Generally though, the mucus plug alone isn't an accurate indicator of when the dog will be whelping. It's just an indicator that things are progressing. There may be better indicators of impending birth than the release of a dog's mucus plug. Here are a few.

By taking the dog's temperature on a daily basis, dog owners may have a more accurate predictor of impending labor as the classical temperature drop seen just hours prior to whelping is a far more reliable indicator. Veterinarian Dan Rice recommends taking the rectal temperature at the same exact time each day for more accuracy. When the dog's temperature drops to 98 degrees, then delivery may just be 24 hours away, says Dr. BJ Hughes. This is a good time to start keeping a watchful eye for nesting behaviors and the very first contractions. As the contractions start having briefer pauses between one and another and increase in intensity, the pups will be closer and closer to their birthing time.

Signs of Trouble

While the dog's mucus plug won't be a very reliable indicator of when the big delivery day is coming, the timing and appearance of the release can though provide some information about first signs of trouble. For instance, a mucus plug that is released too early into pregnancy can be a sign of trouble indicating early labor, and possibly, the delivery of premature puppies. A mucus blood with green discharge that has a bad odor, on the other hand, can be indicative of an infection or the presence of dead fetuses, further adds Dr. It's best to see the vet immediately in such a case to play it safe.

As seen the mucus plug isn't really a reliable indicator of the exact day when a dog will be whelping, but its presence along with other signs, is a sure sign that things are progressing!

Questions & Answers

Question: Is two days too early to do a c-section ahead of the due date for my dog's puppies?

Answer: First of all, it would be very important to have the correct due date. Most dog owners count 63 days from the day of breeding, when to be accurate, one must count from the ovulation date in order to time when a C-section should be done. In general, if done too early (like 4-5 days earlier or more), there are risks that the pups will be premature and have insufficient lung development to survive.

For this reason, it's important to have progesterone levels monitored prior to doing a C-section. Based on the results, the vet can determine whether it is safe or not to do a c-section. Generally, it is safe to do a when progesterone levels drop below 3 ng/dl.

Other parameters to consider is whether the dog is starting to produce milk and showing signs of imminent whelping (nesting, temperature drop) and how the pups look on ultrasound.

So deciding whether it's too early to do a c-section takes more than just marking a date on a calendar. It would be important making sure all the parameters are met and when your veterinarian feels it's best. It's unfortunate, but sometimes c-sections are done too early in fear of weekends/holidays and vet's offices being closed and things don't go as well as planned.

© 2016 Adrienne Farricelli

Maria on August 05, 2020:

My dog is 59 days pregnant. She has been discharging yellowish mucus-like substance from her vulva since day 56. Is this normal?

Leanne on July 20, 2020:

My dog is 61 days pregnant and bin loosing clear discharge and really of food Is this normal

Kandy on June 13, 2019:

My chihuahua is 63 days today she lost mucus at 730am it is 9pm now she is being very loving when do u think we will have babyd

Cloie clark on May 04, 2018:

My dog been passing jelly like cmlear mucus for a week. Everytime she pee. It's really stringy.should we expect puppies. n

chloie on January 06, 2017:

That was good information


Beginning Labor

As your dog prepares to give birth, you will see the emergence of fetal tissue. This discharge you’re seeing is the membrane that covers the puppy as it is pushed through the birth canal. If the membrane bursts on its own, there will be a watery discharge. If not, the mother will bite through this tissue after each pup is born, bite through the umbilical cord and clean each pup. She will expel a placenta for each pup as well, and may attempt to eat the discharge, but it’s preferable that you remove as much of it as you can, or she may get an upset stomach.


How Long After The Mucus Plug Passes Do You Have To Wait Till Your Dog Gives Birth?

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References

This article was written using the following sources:

Becher N, Adams Waldorf K, Hein M, et al. 2009. The cervical mucus plug: structured review of the literature. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica 88(5):502-513

Dencker A, Berg M, Bergqvist L, et al. 2010. Identification of latent phase factors associated with active labour duration in low-risk nulliparous women with spontaneous contractions. Acta Obstet et Gynecol Scand 89(8):1034-9

Gross MM, Hecker H, Matterne A, et al. 2006. Does the way that women experience the onset of labour influence the duration of labour? BJOG 2006 113:289–294

Gross MM, Petersen A, Hille U, et al. 2010. Association between women's self-diagnosis of labor and labor duration after admission. J Perinat Med 38(1):33-8

Jackson K, Marshall JE, Brydon S. 2014. Physiology and care during the first stage of labour. In: Marshall JE, Raynor MD. eds. Myles textbook for midwives. 16th ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 327-66

NHS. 2015. Signs that labour has begun. NHS Choices, Health A-Z. www.nhs.uk [Accessed June 2016]

Simkin P, Ancheta R. 2011. The labor progress handbook: early interventions to prevent and treat dystocia. 3rd ed. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell


What to Expect When Your Dog’s in Labor

(Editor's Note, Dr. Peter Kintzer: Given the large number of homeless dogs available for adoption that would be wonderful pets and companions, very careful thought and serious deliberation should be undertaken before electing to breed your dog. Please consider adoption and click here for more information>)

In the first part — of this two part series — we talked about supporting your dog during her pregnancy including trying to have a clear idea of her due date and how many puppies are on the way. Now we will talk about helping her through the big event itself.

How do you know your dog is in labor?
As we discussed in part one, towards the end of your dog’s pregnancy you should be taking her rectal temperature every day, and waiting for the sudden drop below 99-100 degrees Fahrenheit that signals that labor is close.

When labor begins, most dogs start to become restless, want to be alone and start nesting. They also tend to stop eating and may even vomit. (Of course some dogs continue eating and remain sociable.) According to UCDavis, uterine contractions start and occur at progressively more frequent intervals though they still may be hard for you to appreciate. Any vaginal discharge that you see should still look like clear mucus.

In the second stage of labor the dog’s contractions are more visible and stronger as she uses her abdominal muscles to expel puppies. She may get into a squatting position to accomplish this, but she also may just remain lying down. It is also perfectly normal for almost half of all puppies to be born back end first (or breech delivery). That is not a concern.

A normal delivery should occur within 10 to 60 minutes of strong, stage two, labor contractions.

Third stage labor involves the expulsion of the placenta. Be aware and count to be sure your dog delivers the same number of placentas as she does puppies. She does NOT, however, need to (nor is there any benefit to) eating the placentas. Feel free to take them away to dispose of them.

Note: Most dogs instinctively know to lick the puppy to remove the membranes, to stimulate breathing and to care for their newborns, but not all of them will. Puppy care is beyond the scope of this posting but by all means familiarize yourself with the procedures in case you do have to step in and care for the little ones.

How do you know if there is a problem that requires you or your veterinarian’s intervention?
Dystocia (or difficulty giving birth) can be a serious problem for both mother and pups. Once you know how a normal birth progresses, any deviation from that norm is worthy of a phone call to your veterinarian or an emergency clinic depending on the time of day. It’s far better to contact your veterinarian and to be told that everything is okay than it is to not call and take the chance. It's important, however, that you call someone first because it’s not in your dog’s best interest to disturb her or to disrupt her delivery by rushing her off to the hospital unnecessarily.

Discuss this all ahead of time with your veterinarian so you know when/why he or she feels you should make contact. In general, though, consider calling if (as stated by UCDavis):

  • Your dog goes beyond her proposed due date
  • You do not see evidence that Stage 1 labor has started 24-36 hours after the drop in rectal temperature mentioned above
  • Stage 1 labor has not progressed to Stage 2 labor after 24 hours
  • The first puppy has not been delivered after 1 hour of active labor
  • It has been more than two hours without another puppy arriving. (It is normal for dogs to occasionally take a break from labor between pups, but that resting period tends to last just an hour or two.)
  • Vaginal discharge turns green or involves large amounts of blood between deliveries.
  • Your dog is in apparent distress or pain.
  • Puppies are stillborn or are alive but seem weak or not normal.
  • You know that there are more puppies on the way but your dog appears to be exhausted and labor seems to have stopped. (We talked about taking Xrays late in pregnancy to count the pups. In the midst of labor that information can be extremely valuable.)

Hopefully your dog’s labor will be normal and uneventful and in the end mother and pups will all be fine, but the key is to be as prepared as possible. Know what to expect. And know who to call.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.


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