How Long After a Dog Loses Her Mucus Plug Does Labor Start?
What Exactly is a Mucus Plug?
After your dog has successfully mated and has 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? It's main purpose is to block the entry of bacteria so 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 though as the clear discharge is promptly licked by the dog, removing any traces of it. However, for those who are lucky enough to witness its presence, high hopes of a close delivery of puppies starts 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. BJ Hughes. 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!
Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog is about to give birth and you notice something doesn't look right, please consult with your vet immediately.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.