How Long Before Labor Will a Dog Begin to Lactate? The Ultimate Guide

How Long Before Labor Will a Dog Begin to Lactate

Being a dog owner, it’s essential to recognize the signals that your beloved canine companion is nearing her delivery date. One of these indicators is when she starts producing milk. But how much time before the birth process does this usually occur?

Based on my research, a dog generally starts producing milk approximately 48 hours before the actual birth. However, it’s vital to remember that each dog is unique, and the schedule might differ. It’s a good practice to begin checking your dog’s temperature daily around a week before her expected delivery date, as a decrease in temperature can be a sign that labor is approaching.

Key Points to Keep in Mind:

    • Dogs usually begin producing milk about two days before giving birth.
    • It’s crucial to keep an eye on your dog’s temperature during the days leading up to labor.
    • Keep in mind that every dog has its own pace for lactation and labor, so there may be variations.

Dog Lactation Timeline

For dowg owners, it’s crucial to be aware of when dogs begin to produce milk. Knowing this can assist you in getting ready for the puppies’ arrival.

According to insights from Dog Discoveries, milk production in a pregnant dog can commence anywhere from one week before delivery to shortly after giving birth. If your dog hasn’t delivered yet and there’s no sign of milk, there’s no need for concern. Milk production can still start after childbirth when potent hormones kickstart milk flow.

First-time mothers often experience milk leakage for a more extended period, so if your dog has had puppies before, the onset of milk leakage indicates that she’s likely to deliver within a day or two. Nevertheless, it’s vital to remember that each dog is unique, and the schedule can differ.

In general, dogs typically start producing milk just a few days before giving birth, which can serve as a labor sign, helping us humans get prepared. The timing can also vary depending on how many litters a female dog has had. A new mother with her first litter may start lactating very early, while an experienced mother with a second, third, or fourth litter may begin the day before.

It’s essential to observe your dog’s behavior and physical changes during pregnancy. This will help you spot any potential problems and ensure the well-being of your dog and her puppies. If you have any concerns, it’s always advisable to seek advice from your veterinarian.

Factors Influencing Lactation

As a dog owner, it’s crucial to grasp the elements that can affect the nursing process in your furry companion. Here are a few things to keep in mind:


The commencement of nursing in dogs is linked to pregnancy. Usually, a pregnant dog starts producing milk approximately 60 days into her pregnancy. Nevertheless, milk production may begin anywhere from one day to one week before delivery. If your dog has had puppies before, the onset of milk flow suggests she’s likely to give birth in a day or two. In contrast, first-time mothers might experience milk leakage for a more extended period.


Hormones have a vital role in nursing. The hormone prolactin is responsible for triggering milk production in the mammary glands. Once the puppies begin suckling, the hormone oxytocin is released, prompting the mammary glands to release milk.


The general health of your dog can impact nursing. Inadequate nutrition or the presence of an illness can hinder milk production. It’s crucial to provide your dog with a well-rounded diet and ensure regular veterinary check-ups to maintain optimal health.


Stress can also influence nursing. Anxiety or stress in your dog can disturb hormone levels and milk production. Creating a tranquil and comfortable environment for your dog during pregnancy and nursing can help reduce stress levels.


Specific medications can interfere with nursing. If your dog is taking any medications, consulting with your veterinarian is essential to confirm their safety during pregnancy and nursing.

Understanding these factors can assist you in ensuring a healthy and successful nursing period for your dog.

Getting to know Dog Pregnancy

As a dog owner, it’s crucial to grasp the various stages of a dog’s pregnancy. Having this knowledge can assist you in getting ready for the arrival of your new pups and ensuring that your dog enjoys a secure and wholesome pregnancy.

Typically, a dog’s pregnancy lasts about 63 days from the moment of conception. During this period, your dog’s body will experience several transformations in preparation for the birth of the puppies.

One of the most noticeable changes is the enlargement of your dog’s mammary glands. As the due date approaches, you may observe that your dog’s teats are getting bigger and firmer. To check for signs of milk production, you can gently press her nipples a day or two before the expected delivery date. Nevertheless, some dogs only start producing milk after the puppies are born.

Another crucial indication of impending labor is a decrease in your dog’s body temperature. Within 24 hours of labor, your dog’s temperature will drop significantly below 100°F. This serves as a signal that labor is about to happen, and you should be ready to assist your dog during the birthing process.

It’s equally important to keep your pregnant dog separated from other dogs for the three weeks leading up to labor and the three weeks following delivery. This measure helps prevent the transmission of herpesvirus, which can be fatal for puppies.

By understanding the signs of dog pregnancy and labor, you can contribute to ensuring that your dog enjoys a secure and healthy pregnancy. Should you have any concerns or questions, feel free to consult your veterinarian.

Detecting Pregnancy in Dogs

For those who care for dogs, it’s vital to recognize the indications of pregnancy in dogs. Below, you’ll find some of the most common physical and behavioral changes to keep an eye out for:

Physical Changes Bigger Nipples: One of the initial signs of pregnancy in dogs is the enlargement of nipples. As the pregnancy advances, the nipples will become more noticeable and might even release milk.

Swollen Belly: As the puppies develop, the dog’s belly will visibly swell. This is typically noticeable around 4-5 weeks into the pregnancy.

Weight Increase: Pregnant dogs will put on weight as the puppies grow. This weight gain usually happens gradually and might not be obvious right away.

Boosted Appetite: Pregnant dogs might experience a greater appetite as their bodies work to support the growing puppies.

Behavioral Changes Nesting Instinct: As the due date approaches, pregnant dogs may start showing nesting behavior. This could involve digging in soft materials like blankets to create a cozy space for the puppies.

Restlessness: Some pregnant dogs may become restless and have trouble settling down. This restlessness could be due to discomfort or anxiety about the upcoming birth.

Heightened Affection: Pregnant dogs may seek more affection from their owners as they look for comfort and reassurance during this period.

Decreased Energy: As the pregnancy continues, pregnant dogs might become more tired and sluggish. This is a normal part of the process.

It’s important to remember that not all dogs will display these pregnancy signs, and some dogs may only exhibit a few of these symptoms. If you suspect that your dog might be pregnant, it’s crucial to consult with your veterinarian for proper care and guidance.

Pre-Labor Lactation

For dog owners, recognizing the indications of early labor in a pregnant dog is vital. Pre-labor lactation is when a dog’s milk glands begin producing milk before labor begins.

As per advice from PetCoach, lactation might initiate about a week prior to delivery. Nonetheless, it’s not unusual for lactation to commence as soon as a day before birth or even on the day of delivery itself.

Keeping a close eye on your dog’s lactation is crucial, especially if it’s her first time giving birth. First-time mothers often have milk leakage for longer durations. So, if your dog has delivered puppies previously, the start of milk flow could mean she’s likely to deliver within one or two days.

If you observe your dog’s milk glands producing milk, it’s a prudent move to prepare for the impending birth. Ensure you have all the necessary supplies like clean towels, scissors, and a heating pad ready and within reach.

Furthermore, it’s essential to monitor your dog’s body temperature twice daily, at the same times each day, to gauge when labor is approaching. A dog’s usual temperature ranges from 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. As labor gets closer, the temperature will drop below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, indicating that labor is imminent.

In summary, pre-labor lactation is a natural occurrence in pregnant dogs before they give birth. It’s essential to closely monitor your dog’s lactation, prepare for the upcoming delivery, and keep an eye on her temperature to ensure a safe and healthy birthing process.

Dog Labor Signs

For dog owners, it’s crucial to identify the signs that indicate your four-legged companion is getting ready for childbirth. Here are some common signals that your dog is approaching labor:

Nesting Behavior

Your dog may begin rearranging pillows, blankets, and any cozy materials to create a secure spot for delivering her puppies. This is a clear indication that birthing is imminent.

Milk Production

Your dog might start to have milk leakage anywhere from one day to one week before the delivery. If your dog has given birth before, milk leakage means she’s likely to deliver within a day or two, especially for first-time mothers who may have longer periods of milk leakage.

Temperature Drop

Your dog’s body temperature may decrease to around 98-100 degrees Fahrenheit, indicating that labor is approaching. This temperature drop typically occurs 12 to 24 hours before birth.

Decreased Appetite

As labor gets closer, your dog may lose interest in eating and drinking. This is a normal part of the process.


Your dog may experience anorexia, which is a loss of appetite, as labor approaches. This is a normal aspect of labor and nothing to worry about.

Heavy Panting

Your dog may begin heavy panting as labor approaches, indicating discomfort and pain.


Your dog may dig in the ground or her bedding as she prepares for childbirth. This instinctive behavior helps her create a safe and comfortable space for her puppies.


Your dog may become restless and anxious as labor nears. She may pace, whine, or seek your attention and affection.


Your dog may experience contractions as she enters labor. These contractions can manifest as visible tightening and relaxation of her body, or they may be subtle and hard to notice.

Being aware of these signs can help you ensure that your dog experiences a secure and comfortable labor and delivery. If you have any concerns or questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian.

Post-Labor Lactation

Following childbirth, a dog’s milk production ramps up significantly. This increase is a result of hormonal shifts during and after labor. Typically, the milk-producing phase lasts for about 3-4 weeks, with the mother dog providing nourishment for her puppies.

Keeping an eye on the mother dog’s milk production is vital during this period. If the puppies aren’t receiving enough milk, they could become dehydrated and undernourished. Signs of insufficient milk intake include excessive crying, listlessness, and weight loss.

To make sure the puppies are receiving adequate milk, it’s advisable to weigh them daily. A healthy puppy should gain roughly 10% of its body weight every day. If a puppy isn’t gaining weight, it might not be receiving sufficient milk.

If the mother dog isn’t producing enough milk, there are measures that can be taken to boost milk production. One of the most effective methods is gently massaging the mother dog’s nipples to stimulate milk flow, encouraging the puppies to nurse.

Another approach is to provide the mother dog with a high-quality, nutrient-rich diet. A diet rich in protein and fat can enhance milk production and ensure that the mother dog receives the necessary nutrients for milk production.

In certain situations, it may be necessary to supplement the puppies’ diet with formula or milk substitute. This should only be undertaken under the guidance of a veterinarian to guarantee the puppies receive the correct balance of nutrients.

Caring for a Lactating Dog

As a responsible dog owner, it’s crucial to provide proper care for your nursing dog. Here are some helpful tips for looking after your dog during this time:


A nursing dog has higher nutritional needs compared to a non-nursing dog. She requires more calories, protein, and fat to produce milk for her puppies. Make sure to feed her high-quality dog food designed for nursing dogs. You can also add extra protein and fat to her diet with cooked chicken, eggs, and fish.

Keep fresh water available to your nursing dog at all times to ensure she stays hydrated, as this is essential for milk production.


Maintaining cleanliness for your nursing dog is vital for her health and the well-being of her puppies. Regularly clean her teats and the surrounding area to prevent infections. Use warm water and mild soap to clean her teats, and make sure to thoroughly dry them after cleaning.

Additionally, keep your dog’s bedding clean. Change it regularly and wash it in hot water to eliminate any bacteria or parasites.

Medical Care

Routine veterinary checkups are crucial for your nursing dog. Your vet can monitor her overall health and ensure she’s producing enough milk for her puppies. They can also check for signs of infection or any other health issues.

If your nursing dog exhibits signs of illness, such as a loss of appetite or lethargy, contact your veterinarian right away. These symptoms could indicate a serious health problem that requires immediate medical attention.

In summary, caring for a nursing dog involves providing proper nutrition, maintaining hygiene, and seeking necessary medical care. By offering your dog the care she needs, you’ll contribute to the health and well-being of her puppies.

Wrapping up

To wrap things up, having knowledge about the nursing phase in dogs is crucial for every dog owner. Recognizing the signs that signal the beginning of nursing can help you get ready for the puppies’ arrival. As previously mentioned, dogs can start nursing anytime between one day and one week before delivery. If your dog has given birth before, milk leakage suggests she’s likely to give birth within a day or two, especially for first-time mothers who may have longer milk leakage.

It’s worth noting that the lactation period in dogs can range from 4 to 8 weeks. During this period, the mother dog produces milk to nourish her puppies. As the puppies grow and begin eating solid food, the amount of milk produced by the mother dog will gradually decrease until the nursing period ends.

If you’re considering breeding your dog, it’s essential to be vigilant for any nursing signs. This will help you pinpoint when your dog is expected to give birth and ensure you’re prepared for the puppies’ arrival. Don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions about your dog’s nursing phase.

In a nutshell, the nursing period in dogs is a natural and vital process that guarantees the health and survival of the puppies. By understanding this process, you can provide the best possible care for your dog and her puppies.

Frequently Asked Questions

When do dogs begin making milk before giving birth?

Dogs can start producing milk about a day to a week before they’re ready to have puppies. But if it’s their first time, they might start leaking milk earlier, and if she’s had puppies before, milk leakage usually means delivery is just around the corner. Keep an eye on your dog’s behavior for other signs like getting ready for her babies, heavy breathing, or restlessness.

Do pregnant dogs leak milk before delivering?

Yes, expecting dogs can start leaking milk before going into labor. This means their bodies are getting ready to feed their puppies. However, not all dogs will have this milk leakage before labor. Some might not start until after the puppies are born.

What’s the first indication that a dog is in labor?

The early signs that a dog is going into labor include her being fidgety, breathing quickly, pacing, and getting ready for her puppies. She might also eat less. As time goes on, her contractions will get stronger and more frequent. Eventually, she’ll start pushing, and the puppies will arrive.

How long do dogs produce colostrum?

Dogs make colostrum for the first few days after giving birth. This is a super nutritious substance that gives the puppies important stuff like antibodies. After a few days, regular milk takes over.

When does a pregnant dog start to look pregnant? Around the third or fourth week of pregnancy, a pregnant dog will start to show. But her size and how many puppies she’s carrying can affect when she starts to look pregnant. Some might not show until later in the pregnancy.

My dog is 65 days pregnant, and there are no labor signs. What do I do?

If your dog is 65 days pregnant and there’s no sign of labor, it’s time to call the vet. Even though the average time for dogs to be pregnant is about 63 days, some can go longer. But if your dog is way past her due date, there might be complications that need the vet’s attention. They can do an ultrasound to check on the puppies and see if there are any problems.

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