In some instances the first stage of labor is missed altogether.
Signs to watch for are:
Dam could become distressed (including: pacing, acting uncomfortable, panting, restlessness, discomfort, licking vulva, vomiting, and frequent urination.)
Temperature should be taken three times per day and should be 100-100.8°.
When temp drops considerably, to 98-99° puppies should present themselves within 24 hours. At this time, inform your vet of pending puppies.
Dam may refuse food as her appetite goes away.
Stools may turn dark.
Do not let dam out to relieve herself without supervision.
Offer smaller meals, and maybe try some more expensive canned food.
The first stage of labor can last 24 hours, and can go totally unnoticed
The second stage usually begins with a rather clear or mucous-like discharge from the vulva. In the second stage of labor contractions should start. There will be more discharge, and the presentation of a round, golf-ball size membrane sac of water. Some vets recommend not letting her puncture this sac. This is the protective sac that the puppy is in. After presentation of this sac, the puppy could be out in about 30 minutes. If the dam continues to strain hard for longer than 45 minutes on a single puppy, it is wise to call your vet. (Remember there should never be time limits, as every situation is different.) It is always best to call your vet and do what he/she recommends.
If two of these sacs present themselves at the same time (especially if they are different colors), call your vet. This could mean that two puppies are trying to come out at the same time, another medical alert requiring professional help.
The normal body temperature for animals is generally higher than for humans. The normal rectal temperature of a dog is 99.5° to 102.5°F. The normal temperature of a puppy at birth is 96-97°F. The temperature gradually increases with age until it is 100°F at 4 weeks of age.
Although this section is based on a whelping of an English Mastiff, it also contains good general whelping information on large-breed dogs. You can find more whelping information in the links above. The links below tell the story of Sassy, an English Mastiff. Sassy has a wonderful temperament. She loves humans and adores children. An all-around mild mannered, wonderful Mastiff, Sassy, however, is not the best mother toward her puppies. She is not rejecting them; she will nurse them when a human places them on her to feed, however she will not clean the pups or pay any attention to them. It is as if they are not her puppies. This litter is getting mom’s milk with major human interaction, manually giving each and every pup what they need. In return, the pups will be super socialized and will make remarkable pets, however the work involved is astounding. It takes one dedicated breeder to keep this situation healthy. Thankfully this litter has just that. Read the links below to get the full story. The pages within include a wealth of information that everyone can appreciate and benefit from.