If your dog's water broke and there are no puppies, you may feel concerned. However, it's important to understand that a dog's water doesn't really break as often as it happens in pregnant women. This is because things are slightly different between a human pregnancy and a dog pregnancy. However, just as in humans, a dog's birth can be constellated by several complications and the absence of puppies during the active stages of labor can be something requiring immediate veterinary attention.
First, Does a Dog's Water Break?
During a human pregnancy, the baby is surrounded by a fluid-filled sac that is known as amniotic sac. The amniotic sac (also known as water sac) consists of a tough, transparent pair of membranes meant to hold the developing baby, until shortly before birth. The sac is filled with amniotic fluid which provides cushioning and buoyancy to the baby allowing him/her to move freely within the uterine walls.
The term "water breaking" therefore refers to the rupture of these membranes. These membranes can rupture theoretically at any point, prior to labor, during labor and sometimes even after labor.
When it comes to canines, puppies are usually delivered in their amniotic sacs but without breaking, which is slightly different than what usually happens in humans. Then, once the pups are delivered, either mother dog will tear the sac apart or humans may help with this task.
Rather than being a sign of water breaking, therefore, a gush of fluid may be suggestive of the expulsion of lubricating fluids coming from mother's dog cervix, points out veterinarian Dr. Micheal Salkin. Sometimes though, it may happen that a first pup's amniotic sac may be accidentally ruptured, releasing it contents as it's being delivered. In this case, you may see a spreading puddle of fluid. This for example may happen if mother dog happens to be sitting as the sac is being passed.
Is Mother Dog Really Ready to Deliver?
How long does a dog stay pregnant? It is often said that a dog's pregnancy generally lasts 63 days on average; however, this is a rough estimate considering that dogs do not always ovulate when they are bred.
The correct way to count is from the actual day of ovulation (the time when the male dog's sperm and the female's egg make contact), therefore, a dog's gestation period may vary and can range anywhere between 58 to 68 days, explains veterinarian Bruce R. Coston.
One way of knowing when your dog will be delivering anytime soon is to take her temperature twice daily at the same time each day as her due date starts approaching. Starting from day 55 after breeding, start taking your dog's temperature. You can use a normal human thermometer for the task. Simply lubricate it with some Vaseline and insert the tip into the dog's rectum, leaving it inside until it beeps or for at least a minute. Take the temperature for about 2 to 4 times a day.
Generally, a dog's normal rectal temperature is between 101-102.5 degrees, but it typically lowers to below 100 degrees (generally below 99) within 24 hours before whelping date, explains Margareth V. Peggy Kustritz, a veterinarian specializing in canine reproduction. The temperature drop is due to a reduction in serum progesterone levels and signals that the dog will start labor within 24 hours.
Something to consider as well is that there are several types of discharge in dogs prior to whelping. About 1 to 2 weeks prior to giving birth, a stringy white or clear discharge resembling white eggs may be seen and this is often sign that the mucus plug (a protective cover for the cervix) has been shed. Later on, some discharge may be seen just prior to delivery, but this again is likely not a dog's "water breaking" in the real sense of the term.
Dog's Water Broke and There are No Puppies
If your dog's due date is near and you notice the classic temperature drop, start getting ready: mother dog may start the whelping process soon, even in the next 4 to 6 hours.
When mother dog is about to give birth, the amniotic sac will typically show up right before a puppy. If mother dog is standing, the amniotic sac may look like a balloon. If mother dog is laying down, in a large breed dog, the water sac may look initially like a small marble, and then, as it's pushed out, it may get larger and larger. It is possible to sometimes see the pup's head and feet through the "bubble."
Some mother dogs may lick or chew the sac at this point, tearing them off the pup's face. Once the sac appears, ideally, the puppy should be out within 30 to 45 minutes, but what if you noticed though the intact sac protruding or your dog's water broke and there are no puppies delivered within this time frame?
If your dog's water broke and there are no puppies, chances are, your dog is having difficulty giving birth. Difficulty giving birth in dogs is often due to a puppy being too large for the mother to deliver, the puppy being stuck in the wrong position or mother dog's contractions being too weak. If the first pup is stuck in the birth canal, it will be blocking the birth of any further pups. It's therefore important to see the vet as soon as possible if your dog's water broke and there are no puppies. Waiting may risk the life of mom and pups.
"From the time you see the sac and she is pushing pretty hard, she should have a puppy within 30 - 45 minutes. If she is not having success at this point, it is time to take her to the ER. "~Dr. Chris Smith
What Does a Black Greenish Discharge Mean?
Sometimes, a green discharge may be seen prior to the appearance of a puppy, what is that? Dr. Margareth Root Kustritz, a veterinarian specializing in reproduction, explains in her book "The Dog Breeder's Guide to Successful Breeding and Health Management" that the green pigment derives from the edges of the placentas and is indicative of placental separation.
The green discharge, therefore, in this case simply indicates that the placenta has separated from the uterus. When a placenta has separated, the puppy is no longer receiving nutrients or oxygen from mother dam, and therefore, what happens next is ultimately what can make a difference between an emergency and non-emergency situation.
If you notice green discharge and no puppy being produced, this can once again may be indicative of dystocia, and mother dog will need to see the emergency vet, explains veterinarian Dr. Bruce. However, Dr. Kustritiz in her book points out that she has witnessed cases of dogs who developed green discharge for a day and managed to still give birth to live pups. In any case, best to play it safe and consult with a vet considering that quick intervention may be important.
"Although I tend to intervene fairly quickly if green discharge is present and birth of a pup is not impending, I have known (dogs) that passed green discharge for a day and still had live pups."~Dr. Margareth Root Kustritz