Summary: The long wait is nearly over. So what are the warning signs that indicate whelping puppies is near? We review dog pregnancy, dog labor signs, potential problems you may run into during whelping, the how puppies are born, how to assist with delivering puppies, and more pregnant dog topics. (Disclaimer: This article contains information that is strictly the expert opinion of AskABreeder.com personnel or other professional breeders based on their experience. It should not be substituted for a veterinarian’s expert advice.)
What are Dog Labor Signs?
A day or two before whelping puppies, the pregnant dog will generally stop eating. She will begin to nest in her whelping box. Her temperature will be below 100 degrees. She will be restless and usually scratching. She will frequently need to do her business. Usually they have a little bit of diarrhea and may throw up. She will do this so she will not have to leave her puppies to take a potty break during whelping. Her water bag will break. You may not even notice this part. They are very good at cleaning up after themselves. It may look like urine since it will be the color of straw.
Occasionally, there are virtually no visible symptoms at all to dog labor. That is why it is so important to know when your pregnant dog was bred. You can use our Dog Pregnancy Calculator to determine the approximate puppy whelping date.
How Puppies are Born
When a pregnant dog starts to pant quickly, you know that her contractions have seriously begun and whelping is near. She may prefer to circle, stand or lay down for the puppy delivery. As the puppy is delivered the mother will clean the puppy off and bite off the umbilical cord. She will then vigorously lick the puppy, which stimulates it to breathe and helps with its circulation. When the umbilical cord is separated from the placenta she will usually eat it.
If by chance she does not remove the puppy out of the amniotic sac, that is where you must intervene in the natural whelping process. The puppy needs to be out of the sac within about 30 seconds. If the mother does not sever the umbilical cord, it will be up to you to do it using hemostats to clamp off the umbilical cord. It does not take long for the hemostats to work. After about a minute you can take it off the puppy. Cut the remaining cord off with clean, sterile scissors near the hemostat but not between the hemostat and the puppy. Cut the part of the cord that is closest to the placenta.
When you take the Hemostat Forceps off of the umbilical cord, carefully watch to see if any more blood comes out. If not, give the puppy back to its mother. If it continues to bleed, reapply the Hemostat Forceps. If you do not have hemostats, you can use dental floss or string that has been soaked in alcohol. Tie the puppy’s umbilical cord off about an inch from the puppy’s abdomen. I definitely recommend using the hemostats over dental floss.
PetEdge Stainless Steel Hemostat
If the puppy is not breathing well, you may need to rub the puppy vigorously with a soft towel to stimulate its breathing. I have rubbed a puppy for over 30 minutes until he started breathing on his own. While rubbing the puppy, keep the face slightly lower than the rest of the body. Gravity will also help to get excess fluids out. If you ever see liquid by the puppy’s nose make sure you wipe it clean so it will not inhale more fluid.
What You Should Do After the Puppy is Born
After a puppy has been born, you will need to make certain that the fluid is out of the puppy’s mouth and nose. You can use a soft towel to wipe away the fluid. A bulb syringe can also be gently used. If all of that fails, you will need to use what I call ‘the fling’. ‘The fling’ is done by holding the puppy securely, especially the head and swinging it between your legs. Don’t do this too hard though as you could cause irreparable harm to the puppy. This motion will help rid the puppy of unwanted fluid. It is somewhat common for the mother to take rests for up to three or four hours between puppies. If by chance you see rear legs coming from the mom dog, gently pull the puppy downward during a contraction to help with the delivery. If you don’t wait for a contraction it may cause a tear in the mom. So be very careful when assisting the mom dog.
If she has stopped pushing for a while and you know there is another puppy, you may need to help her contractions to begin again. Do this by rubbing her stomach and also take her outside for a walk around the backyard. Watch the mom dog closely when taking her outside, just in case she decides to have a puppy while you are out. This assists in positioning the remaining puppy or puppies better in the birth canal and helps stimulate contractions.
Some dogs will not nurse until all the puppies have been whelped. As she feeds the puppies, she will lick their bottom area to help stimulate the puppy to empty its bladder and bowels. The mom dog will clean up the puppies’ waste for about three weeks or until the puppies start on food other than her milk. It is interesting to note that in the wild, an animal will do the same thing to eliminate all signs of a litter thus protecting them from predators. After giving birth, it is normal for the mother to have a substantial increase in vaginal discharge. It is usually reddish to greenish brown.
Caring for the Mom After Birthing
The mother will begin to eat about two to three times as much as she normally did before being pregnant. She will need to eat a real quality dog food to help with milk production. Many dog breeders recommend that she should also be given nutritional supplements formulated for lactating dogs in pregnancy. These products will help promote milk production. Some products that aid in milk production are powders that need to be mixed with water. There are also homeopathic and natural organic milk promoting products.
Common Problems when Whelping Puppies
Some problems that you need to watch for during puppy whelping and notify your veterinarian if you find them include but are not limited to the following:
- If the mother does not go into labor twenty four hours after her temperature is below 100 degrees.
- If the mother dog does not have sufficient milk for her puppies, she needs to be seen by a veterinarian.
- If her discharge is like puss or has a real nasty odor she needs to be seen.
- If the mother stops eating and becomes listless or seems to be disoriented she needs to be taken quickly to the vet.
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