How to know if your American Cocker Spaniel is ready to give birth

As a proud owner of an American Cocker Spaniel, anticipating the arrival of new puppies can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. While the birthing process can be a natural and smooth experience, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs that your furry friend may be ready to give birth. Knowing what to expect ahead of time can make the process much easier on both you and your beloved pet. In this article, we’ll outline the various signs that can indicate your American Cocker Spaniel is ready to give birth and provide tips for caring for both the puppies and mother after the delivery. So, let’s get started!

Signs of Pre-Labor

Signs Of Pre-Labor
As you prepare for the arrival of your American Cocker Spaniel’s puppies, it’s important to be aware of the signs of pre-labor. Pre-labor is the period of time leading up to labor where your dog will start showing some physical and behavioral changes. By paying close attention to your pet’s behavior, you can ensure a smoother delivery process. In this section, we will discuss some of the signs of pre-labor that you can expect to see in your American Cocker Spaniel.

Drop in Body Temperature

One of the earliest signs that your American Cocker Spaniel is ready to give birth is a drop in her body temperature. Generally, a dog’s normal body temperature is between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, but about 24 hours before she goes into labor, her body temperature will drop to around 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. This drop in temperature is a result of dropping levels of the hormone progesterone and is typically an unmistakable sign that labor is very near.

How can you measure your dog’s temperature?
You can measure your dog’s temperature using a rectal thermometer. Gradually and carefully insert the thermometer about one inch into their anus and wait about one minute for the temperature to stabilize. Be sure to lubricate the thermometer with petroleum jelly before insertion.

If you notice a temperature drop in your American Cocker Spaniel, it is important to prepare your whelping supplies and get ready for the birthing process. Make sure that you have everything you need, including clean towels, puppy formula, heating pads, and antiseptic solution for cleaning the puppies.

For more information about the helping process and how to care for your American Cocker Spaniel during this time, you can check out our ACSW helping process guide or reach out to your veterinarian or a breeder.


Restlessness is another sign that your American Cocker Spaniel is ready to give birth. During this phase, your pet may become agitated and anxious, and may pace around or try to hide. This anticipation can be quite distressing for a pet parent, but it’s important to remain calm and supportive for your dog.

To help ease her anxiety, make sure she has a comfortable and safe place to rest. A whelping box can be an excellent solution for providing a secure and private area. You can purchase a whelping box from a pet supply store or create your own by cutting down the sides of a large cardboard box and adding cushioning material. Place blankets or towels in the box to make it cozy and inviting.

It’s also essential to keep an eye on your dog during this time and ensure that she stays hydrated and fed. Provide her with small meals of easily digestible food, as a loss of appetite is common during this time.

If your American Cocker Spaniel seems distressed and is exhibiting significant discomfort, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian for advice. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Additionally, prepare yourself to witness the birth of the puppies. This can be a harrowing experience, so be sure that you have the correct birthing supplies on hand. Some essential items include scissors, clean towels, and gloves.

You can find more detailed information on the necessary birthing supplies and preparing for the arrival of your American Cocker Spaniel’s puppies in our comprehensive article on whelping supplies and our guide for American Cocker Spaniel Owner Whelping.

Nesting Behavior

One of the signs that your American Cocker Spaniel is ready to give birth is nesting behavior. This refers to a sudden urge to create a comfortable and safe space for giving birth and caring for the puppies. The following table highlights some of the nesting behaviors you may notice in your dog:

Gathering materialsYour dog may start gathering blankets, towels, or any soft materials to create a place for her puppies to rest.
Scratching and diggingYour dog may start scratching and digging at her bed or the area where she intends to give birth. This behavior is a way of creating a shallow nest or den for the puppies.
ProtectivenessYou may notice that your dog is becoming increasingly protective of her nesting area. She may growl or bark if she feels threatened or if someone approaches too close to her nest.
RestlessnessYour dog may pace around her nesting area, trying to find the perfect spot to give birth. She may also have trouble settling down and may frequently change positions.

If you notice these nesting behaviors in your American Cocker Spaniel, it is a sign that she will likely give birth soon. Make sure she has a safe and comfortable space to give birth and prepare yourself for the arrival of the puppies.

Loss of Appetite

One of the common signs that your American Cocker Spaniel is ready to give birth is a loss of appetite. During this stage, your dog may refuse to eat or may eat less than her usual diet. It is normal for dogs to experience a decreased appetite towards the end of their pregnancy due to the pressure the growing puppies are putting on the stomach. This does not necessarily mean something is wrong, but it’s important to keep an eye on your dog’s eating habits.

You should monitor your American Cocker Spaniel’s food and water intake. Keep track of how much she eats and drinks each day. If you notice that your dog hasn’t eaten anything for more than a day, it’s time to visit your veterinarian. Loss of appetite can lead to hypoglycemia in dogs, which can be life-threatening. Hypoglycemia is a condition where the blood sugar levels drop significantly, and it’s common in toy breeds, including Cocker Spaniels.

It’s crucial to ensure that your dog is getting enough nutrition and hydration, especially during this important stage of her life. A balanced and nutritious diet helps your dog stay healthy and maintain the energy she needs to give birth and nurse her puppies. Make sure to provide clean drinking water at all times, and consider giving your dog wet food instead of dry kibble to increase hydration.

Here are some tips to encourage your American Cocker Spaniel to eat during this time:

Change the DietTry changing your dog’s diet to something more appealing, such as wet food or homemade meals.
Feed Smaller, More Frequent MealsInstead of feeding your dog a large meal, try feeding her smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.
Warm the FoodHeating the food can enhance the smell, making it more appealing to your American Cocker Spaniel.
Add Some ToppersAdding some tasty toppers to your dog’s food, such as scrambled eggs, chicken broth, or ground meat, can make it more attractive.

Ultimately, loss of appetite is a sign of pre-labor in American Cocker Spaniels. While it’s normal for your dog to eat less during this stage, it’s important to monitor her food and water intake to ensure that she’s getting enough nutrition and hydration. If you suspect that your dog isn’t eating enough, consult your veterinarian for guidance.

Signs of Labor

Signs Of Labor
As the due date approaches, it’s important to keep a watchful eye on your pregnant American Cocker Spaniel. One of the most exciting parts of this process is the onset of labor. The signs of labor in dogs are often clear, but it’s essential to know what to look for to ensure a successful delivery. In this section, we will discuss the telltale signs that your furry friend is about to enter labor. Keep in mind that every dog is unique, and some may exhibit different signs than others, so it’s wise to stay present and attentive.


Contractions are an unmistakable sign that labor has started. It is common for American Cocker Spaniels to start experiencing contractions 24 hours before giving birth. During contractions, the muscles in the uterus tighten and release, putting pressure on the puppies and helping them move through the birth canal.

Here are some things to look for when trying to identify contractions:

  • Tense posture: Your dog may become very still and tense during contractions.
  • Arching back: As the muscles contract, your dog may arch her back to help push the puppies out.
  • Abdominal tightening: You may notice your dog’s belly getting hard and then softening between contractions.
  • Panting or heavy breathing: Your dog may start panting or breathing heavily during contractions.
  • Unusual vocalizations: Some dogs may cry out or whine during contractions.

It’s important to keep a close eye on your dog during contractions to ensure that everything is going smoothly. If you notice anything unusual, such as prolonged contractions or lack of progress, contact your veterinarian immediately. Remember to be patient as each dog’s labor and delivery process is unique and can take several hours to complete.

Bloody Show

During labor, you may notice a “bloody show”, which is one of the signs that your American Cocker Spaniel is ready to give birth. This is caused by the release of the mucus plug that has sealed the cervix throughout the pregnancy. When the cervix begins to dilate, the mucus plug will be dislodged and expelled. The mucus may be tinged with blood and appear either as a thick discharge or as stringy bits.

The Bloody Show
What is it? The release of the mucus plug that has sealed the cervix throughout the pregnancy.
Appearance: It can appear either as a thick discharge or as stringy bits. It may also be tinged with blood.
When does it occur? It occurs during labor, when the cervix begins to dilate.

It is important to note that the bloody show alone does not necessarily mean that your dog is in active labor and ready to give birth. It is simply a sign that labor is approaching. The actual active labor will be evidenced by consistent contractions and the eventual delivery of the puppies.

If you notice a bloody show, keep an eye on your dog and monitor her closely for any further signs of labor. It is always a good idea to have a plan in place for the delivery and to establish contact with your veterinarian to discuss any concerns or questions. Remember to stay calm and be prepared for the exciting arrival of your American Cocker Spaniel’s puppies.

Rupture of Membranes

During the final stages of labor, another sign to look out for is a rupture of membranes, commonly referred to as the breaking of the water. This happens when the sac containing the puppies breaks, and amniotic fluid starts to leak out through the vagina. Some things to keep in mind if you suspect this has happened are:

  • Color of fluid: Amniotic fluid is typically clear, but if it appears green or brown, it could be a sign of meconium staining, which means the puppy may have passed stool in the womb.
  • Time frame: Once the sac ruptures, the puppy should be born within an hour. If there is no puppy born within two hours, it’s important to contact a veterinarian.
  • Infection risk: A ruptured sac increases the risk of infection. Keep the mother clean and dry until all of the puppies are born.

It’s important to note that not all dogs experience a rupture of membranes, and some may give birth to puppies still inside the sac. In these cases, the mother will typically break the sac herself and free the puppy. However, if the sac is not broken, the puppy can suffocate, so it’s important to be present during the birthing process and intervene if necessary.

After the Birth

Now that your American Cocker Spaniel has given birth, it’s time to shift your focus to caring for the newborn puppies and the new mother. This can be an overwhelming and exciting time for both you and your dog, and it’s important to be prepared for what’s to come. From providing proper nutrition to monitoring the puppies’ health, there are a lot of things you’ll need to do to ensure that everyone stays happy and healthy. Let’s take a closer look at the steps you should take after the birth.

Caring for the Puppies

As a responsible pet owner, caring for your American Cocker Spaniel’s puppies is crucial. Here are some tips on how to take care of them during their first few weeks of life.


During their first few weeks, puppies will rely solely on their mother’s milk for nutrition. However, it is important to monitor their weight gain to ensure that they’re getting enough milk. If you notice any issues, consult with a veterinarian.

Keeping them Warm

Puppies need to be kept warm, as they can easily get chilled. Provide a warm and cozy nest for them, away from any cold drafts. You can use blankets or towels to create a comfortable and safe environment for them.


As newborn puppies cannot eliminate on their own, the mother will need to stimulate them to urinate and defecate. Use a warm damp cloth to clean them after they eliminate. This also helps to prevent any infections.


Socializing the puppies is important for their overall development. Handle them gently and let them get used to human touch. As they grow older, introduce them to new people, sounds, and environments.

Monitoring their Health

Keep a close eye on the puppies’ health. Look for any signs of illness such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, or lack of appetite. If you notice any issues, consult with a veterinarian immediately.

Taking care of newborn puppies can be a challenging but rewarding experience. By following these tips, you can ensure that the puppies and their mother stay healthy and happy.

Caring for the Mother

Taking care of the mother is just as important as taking care of the newborn puppies. Here are some important things you can do:

  • Provide a Comfortable Space: After giving birth, your American Cocker Spaniel will need a safe and comfortable space to rest. Be sure to provide her with a warm, clean, and cozy bed that is easily accessible but not in a high-traffic area of your home.
  • Feed Her Nutritious Food: Giving birth is a big ordeal, and your dog needs extra nutrients to aid in her recovery. High-quality puppy food or food formulated specifically for nursing mothers can help provide the necessary nutrients for your dog’s recovery.
  • Keep Her Hydrated: It’s crucial to ensure your dog stays hydrated after giving birth. Make sure that fresh water is readily available, and consider adding some wet food to her diet to increase fluid intake.
  • Monitor Her Health: Keep an eye on your dog’s physical health in the weeks following the birth. Watch out for any signs of infection, such as fever or abnormal discharge from her reproductive system. If you have any concerns about your dog’s health, don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian.

Remember: Your American Cocker Spaniel has worked hard to give birth to her litter of puppies, and now it’s your turn to take care of her. By providing a safe and comfortable space, nutritious food and plenty of water, and monitoring her health, you can help ensure that she recovers fully and enjoys a happy and healthy life with her new family.


After months of waiting, your American Cocker Spaniel is finally giving birth to adorable puppies. It can be an exciting and overwhelming time, but with proper care and attention, the mother and her newborns can thrive.

Remember that it’s always best to be prepared for the signs of labor and birth before they happen. Look out for the pre-labor signs such as a drop in body temperature, restlessness, nesting behavior, and loss of appetite. These are important indicators that your dog is getting ready to give birth, and you should be ready to assist her during the process.

During labor, keep a close eye on your dog to spot any signs of distress or complications. Look out for contractions, a bloody show, and rupture of membranes. It’s essential to provide assistance if needed, such as helping to deliver the puppies or contacting a veterinarian in case of emergency.

After the birth, make sure that the puppies are kept warm and fed, and that the mother is comfortable and well cared for. Puppies need to be fed every two hours for the first few weeks, and they should be kept in a warm and clean environment. The mother will also need special care, including proper nutrition, rest, and attention to any post-birth complications.

In conclusion, the birth of American Cocker Spaniel puppies is an exciting and rewarding experience. However, it’s essential to be prepared and informed to ensure that the mother and her newborn puppies receive the best care possible. By paying attention to the signs of labor and birth, providing assistance if needed, and giving proper post-birth care, you can help your dog and her new family thrive.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for a Cocker Spaniel to give birth?

The average time for a Cocker Spaniel to give birth is between 6-8 hours. However, it can take up to 12 hours or more.

Can I leave my Cocker Spaniel alone during labor?

No, you should never leave your Cocker Spaniel alone during labor. They may need assistance, and complications can arise that require veterinary attention. Stay with your dog throughout the entire birthing process.

What should I do if my Cocker Spaniel is in labor and not progressing?

If your Cocker Spaniel has been in labor for more than 12 hours without giving birth, or if there is a prolonged period between puppies being born, contact your veterinarian. This could be a sign of a problem, such as a stuck puppy or uterine infection.

What is a bloody show?

A bloody show is a small, mucous-like discharge that is tinged pink or red in color. It is a sign that the mother’s cervix is dilating and that labor is starting soon.

Do I need to be present for the entire birth?

It is recommended that you are present for the entire birth to monitor your Cocker Spaniel and puppies. However, if you need to step away briefly, make sure someone else is there to help.

How do I know if my Cocker Spaniel is having contractions?

You can tell if your Cocker Spaniel is having contractions if their abdomen tightens and then relaxes periodically. They may also pant, pace, or whine during contractions.

When should I take my Cocker Spaniel to the vet during labor?

You should take your Cocker Spaniel to the vet if she has been in labor for more than 12 hours without giving birth, is experiencing difficulty with labor, or has any signs of distress, such as vomiting or heavy bleeding.

Can I touch the puppies during birth?

No, you should not touch the puppies during birth unless it is necessary to assist the mother. Excessive handling can cause distress and reduce her maternal instincts.

How often should I feed the mother after she gives birth?

The mother should be fed small portions of food every 3-4 hours after giving birth to help her regain strength and produce milk for her puppies.

When can I start socializing the puppies?

It is recommended to start socializing the puppies around 4-6 weeks old once they are able to walk and play. Prior to this, they should be kept with their mother and siblings for proper development.


Matthew Farthing

Matthew Farthing

Сontributing author at DogCareHacks, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant.

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