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

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

How soon should I expect puppies after the mucus plug is gone?

How soon should I expect puppies after the mucus plug is gone?

A Pregnant Dog’s Discharge Before Labor

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 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.

Go to the vet immediately upon noticing anything abnormal about your dog's mucus.

Go to the vet immediately upon noticing anything abnormal about your dog's mucus.

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 the 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. 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.

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!

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.

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

Carla on May 02, 2020:

My dog had clear fluid drip from her valva today twice she’s pregnant nothing has happened yet should I be worried she’s well over due!

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