Skip to Content

How To Help A Pregnant Dog Carrying Puppies In Rib Cage!

The prospect of your female dog having her first litter can be exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time! If you don’t have a regular vet you can consult with for the birth, now would be a good time to get one!

Your vet can provide valuable counsel on how to prepare to welcome new puppies into your home. Quality prenatal care and support from a trustworthy vet is essential to a successful pregnancy and delivery.

A healthy litter begins with a healthy dam, so make sure your pregnant dog is eating a nutritious diet and living a healthy lifestyle before the pups are born.

Routine vet checkups during pregnancy are also a must to verify the health of your dam and her unborn pups. If there are inconsistencies in your dog’s pregnancy, it’s better to uncover them sooner rather than later, to avoid complications during delivery.

A dog’s pregnancy generally lasts around 9 weeks before she’s ready to give birth. During this time, your vet may order an ultrasound to check the growth and development of the pups.

X-rays may also be ordered toward the end of the pregnancy to determine the size and number of puppies your dog is carrying. If these tests uncover that your pregnant dog is carrying some of the puppies in her rib cage, don’t panic! It has been known to happen.

Is It Normal For A Pregnant Dog To Carry Puppies In Its Rib Cage?

In early pregnancy, the fertilized egg of your dog settles inside the womb where, over the next 9 weeks, it will transform into a newborn pup.

A female dog’s uterus (womb) is shaped like a “Y” and extends from her ovaries to the back of her abdomen. The arms are called “horns” and the stem is the body. It is within the two uterine horns that the puppy fetuses settle and grow.

During fetal development, it is possible that a few puppies may slip into an abdominal cavity located beneath your dog’s rib cage and be carried there until birth. The puppies will develop normally within this cavity until your dam is ready to give birth.

This won’t necessarily occur with all dogs, but it’s not an anomaly either. In this respect, it is possible for your dog to carry puppies in her rib cage safely, without posing a risk to her or her litter.

The rib cage itself does not expand to accommodate puppy growth, because it’s a fixed structure within your dog’s skeletal anatomy and incapable of expanding. As your dog’s abdomen expands and its body grows, the rib cage may appear enlarged, giving the impression there may be pups inside.

If, at any time, you feel worried or apprehensive about your dog’s pregnancy or health, schedule a video call with your vet to discuss your concerns and allay your fears. That’s what vets are for!

How To Help A Pregnant Dog Carrying Puppies In Rib Cage!

In general, dogs have a built-in instinct for whelping (the process of giving birth) and this instinct quickly kicks in when your pup goes into labor.

If this is your dog’s first litter and your first experience with whelping, you may feel more comfortable having a vet or experienced breeder present in case complications arise.

A dog’s labor can last for hours, depending on the breed and the number of pups the dam is carrying.

Dog breeds with skinny heads like Dobermans and collies tend to deliver quicker than those with fat heads like bulldogs and pugs, so don’t be alarmed if the delivery seems to drag on and on.

At the onset of labor, your dog should be comfortably settled in her whelping box, which should be situated in a quiet nook for the delivery. When your pooch is fully ready to deliver, she’ll start to push her first pup out – this may take anywhere between 10-30 minutes.

After the first one, a pup should come forth every 45 minutes to an hour until all the pups have been born. If your dam is expecting a large litter, she may take a break for an hour or two (or longer!) in between puppies to rest and recuperate her strength.

Sometimes a puppy gets stuck in the birth canal and it doesn’t appear your dog can push it out. You can help by grasping the puppy with a clean cloth or gloved hands and gently pulling it downward at a slight angle until it is safely delivered.

Puppies are normally born head or rear legs first; if they start to come out sideways or bottom first (breech), they could get stuck and need assistance getting out. Puppies are also born in an amniotic sac which needs to be broken immediately after birth so they can breathe.

The mother normally does this with her teeth, but if she doesn’t, you can do it for her and then gently dry each puppy before placing it on the mother’s teat.

Where Should Dogs Hold Puppies When Pregnant?

Like all mammals, puppy fetuses generally settle and grow inside the mother’s uterus or womb until they’re ready to be born.

The position of the uterus within the abdomen may change, however, during different stages of your pup’s pregnancy to accommodate puppy growth.

Initially, the uterus may be closer to your dog’s rib cage, which is how some puppies may wind up being carried in that area. Towards the end of your dog’s pregnancy, the uterus may drop lower into the abdomen and move closer to the birthing canal.

As your dog’s pregnancy progresses, its belly will grow larger and larger and may even sway from side to side as your dog walks.

After the 7th week of gestation, you can often see and feel the puppies moving in your pup’s abdomen as the puppies shift about. Around the same time, your dam’s nipples will turn dark and colostrum (first signs of milk) may leak out.

Your dog will start to lose fur on its abdomen to make it easier for the puppies to find and suck on the nipples after they’re born.

Once your dog’s labor begins, it’s time to let nature take its course. It would be good for you to stay and observe quietly, but there’s no need to interfere unless your dog shows signs of being in distress.

For the most part, dog deliveries go well on their own. Just in case, however, keep your vet’s phone number handy and don’t hesitate to call if you need help.


It is possible for a pregnant dog to carry puppies in its rib cage safely until they’re ready to be born. Chances are the puppies will drop into the abdominal cavity and closer to the birth canal on their own when the time comes. Whelping (giving birth) is a natural process for a dog and most of the time requires no assistance from a pet owner or vet. Should complications arise, however, make sure you have the number of an emergency vet on hand.