Do Puppies Stop Moving Before Birth? – Vet Answered

Expecting new puppies is both exciting and challenging. On the one hand, you know there will be an overload of cuteness, and on the other hand, there are so many things you need to prepare for and know. For example, is it normal for puppies to move inside the womb? 

And, do puppies stop moving before birth? Yes, it is normal for the puppies to stop moving before birth. Namely, in the last days of the pregnancy, the puppies are likely to move a lot. This is because they need to get into the right birthing position. After that, it can be expected for the puppies to settle and stop moving. 

In this article, I’ll talk about why and when dogs stop moving before birth and why in my 6 years of experience it’s nothing to worry about! I’ll make sure to explain the movements and their timeframes and give an overall review of the birthing stages in dogs. 

The Different Stages of Labor 

To understand when and how puppies move and why it is normal for them to stop doing so at a certain point, as a pet owner, you need to be familiar with the stages of labor. Here is a short explanation of labor stages in pregnant dogs

The first stage of labor

Sudden appetite loss is one of the first signs of imminent labor. This is particularly true for the whelping day. During this stage, it is possible for dogs to regurgitate and vomit as well as act lethargic and spend most of the time sleeping. 

During the first stage, dogs can experience mild and infrequent contractions. The dog might be restless, pant a lot, and whine for no apparent reason. First-time mothers can be confused by the situation and ongoing changes. 

As a responsible dog owner, it is your job to keep the dog calm and relaxed. In general, this first stage should last less than eight hours. If the first stage prolongs and the dog fails to enter stage two, you need to call the vet. 

The second stage of labor 

The second stage starts with heavy panting and increased alertness. During this second stage, there will be visible contractions. Once the contractions begin, there should be one pup every 15 minutes. 

The puppies come out wrapped in bluish-grey and slimy sacs. On average, it takes between two and three contractions for the puppy and its sac to get expelled. 

After each puppy, the mother will expel the placenta (a process popularly known as afterbirth). Usually, the mother tears the sac and eats the placenta. If this does not occur, you can help by manually removing the sac and allowing the puppy to breathe. If you need to intervene, be quick and make sure the puppy remains close to the mother. 

The whole placenta-eating topic is quite controversial. On the one hand, breeders claim it is healthy and beneficial as the placenta is packed with useful nutrients (even nutrients that support strong contractions, thus facilitating the birth-giving process). On the other hand, vets warn about the possibility of the placenta triggering diarrhea or, worst-case scenario – intestinal obstruction. 

What we do know is that eating the placenta is an instinctual behavior as the mothers try to hide the puppies and prevent attacks by predators. Regardless of whether you allow the dog to eat the placenta or not, you need to make sure there is one expelled placenta for each newborn puppy. 

The third stage of labor 

The third stage refers to the end of the birth-giving process. Establishing this stage can be hard in large and giant dogs. On the other hand, it is easy in small breed dogs. 

During stage three, the mother has to expel any retaining placentas (if a placenta stays inside, it can trigger a potentially life-threatening infection, thus making the placenta counting a lifesaving practice. 

To prevent such issues and be prepared, you need to have your vet perform an abdominal x-ray. Pregnancy can be diagnosed via ultrasound too, but this technique does not allow counting the puppies. On the other hand, the x-rays will enable the vet to determine the exact number of expected puppies. That way, you will know how many puppies and placentas to expect. 

Why Would Puppies Stop Moving Before Birth?

Puppies are usually most active in the womb in the last days of pregnancy. During these times, the puppies will need to move a lot in order to get into the right birthing position. 

Due to the anatomy of the dog’s reproductive system, the puppies are situated in the two horns of the uterus. Before labor begins, the pups need to get in the best position that will allow easy whelping. Then, once the birthing position is completed, the puppies may stop moving or move less intensely. 

If at any time of the pregnancy you are worried about the wellbeing of the puppies, you can ask your trusted veterinarian to perform an ultrasound. The ultrasound will reveal the puppies’ vitals – heart pumping, thus ensuring they are alright. 

Is It Bad if Puppies Don’t Move Before Birth?

No, it is not necessarily bad if the puppies stop moving just before birth. Also, keep in mind that feeling or even seeing the movement of the puppies inside the belly can be hard, especially in large dogs and dogs with extra weight. 

However, if the puppies stop moving and the bitch is not showing any signs of imminent labor, it is highly advisable to seek veterinary attention. 

In general, you should call your trusted veterinarian whenever you feel something wrong is going on with your dog. Here are some situations in which you need to get veterinary help:

  • No puppies more than 24 hours after the mother’s body temperature dropped 
  • If stage one of labor lasts for more than eight hours without progressing to stage two
  • If there is profuse expulsion of brown or green fluid without whelping a pup (and this lasts for more than 15 minutes)
  • In case there are visible contractions, but there are no puppies for longer than two hours 
  • When you know, there are more puppies inside the dog, but there are no contractions and straining for over two hours 
  • If the 63rd day of the pregnancy has passed and the dog is not showing any signs of labor. 

These are all risky situations indicating there could be something wrong with the puppies. In each of the scenarios, there can be visible movement of the puppies (if not all may be of some of them). However, it is also possible for the puppies to be okay but do not move. 

Summing Up: Do Puppies Stop Moving Before Birth? 

All in all, there is no need to panic if the puppies stop moving before birth. It is normal for puppies to be quite active in the last days of the pregnancy and then suddenly stop moving just before being born. 

However, if the puppies are not moving and the bitch is not showing any signs of labor, it is highly advisable to call your trusted veterinarian and seek attention. Puppies are fragile, and many things can go wrong, endangering both the lives of the puppies and the life of the mother. 

Expecting a litter of puppies is a responsible task. Before breeding your dog, we strongly recommend getting familiar with the process. Also, keep in mind that close collaboration with the vet is vital. 


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!

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