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It is Time for Whelping Puppies (How Puppies are Born)

how puppies are born

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 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.

how puppies are born
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.

If you have further comments or questions about ‘Dog Pregnancy: It is Time for Whelping Puppies’, feel free to visit our Forums or make a comment on this article below. We encourage participation and feedback.


  • My 10 yr old Chihauhau got breed with my male yorkie. My male was only 8 months at the time and I did not think he would or she could at the ages.
    The thing is she is due around the 6th thru the 10 of this month FEB. She had 2 wonderful littlers, 4 the first 3 the 2nd, but she had 2 other litters after that. They all died before they could come out. had them to the vet the day before and he said hearts sound good and strong. But they all died anyway. Now this happened 2 times. She has not had any puppies since 2001. What can I do to help her this time or prevent them from dying durning birthing?
    Thanks for your help.

    • Carol,

      Your vet may need to get involved at the onset of labor signs or before. Your dog may need a c-section depending on what your vet thinks (ultrasound may be of assitance). For one thing, your dog is getting quite old to be giving birth. The mixed breeding as well may be complicating the delivery of the puppy through the birthing canal.

      Good Luck,

  • Hello,
    my pit bulls bred, and as most say, it was a complete accident. But mine REALLY was! My male was sick for some time and our vet wouldn’t neuter him (he is now 11 months old). And I got my female from a rescue, who said she was already fixed (obviously not the case!)! She is 6 years old and very healthy! I came back into town, after being away for 2 1/2 weeks, to find them “tied”, more like stuck together! So according to that date, which was 5/25/09, she should be 59 days. She’s not leaking milk, her stomach is HUGE, and her temp has been pretty steady between 98.8 and 99.5. Will she be going into labor today or tomorrow? I know it will be soon, but she’s not showing any other signs! She’s eating like a pig, the babies are moving and kicking, no leaking milk, no nesting, no throwing up…. NOTHING! Her temp has been the only sign she’s given me. Besides her wanting to be by my side every waking and sleeping moment! I really want to make sure I’m here, this is, from what I know, her first litter and I’ve had her since she was 8 months old. Any advice would be greatly appreciated, and well absorbed! I never wanted to breed her. Oh and my male is getting neutered today! Oh, also, he is a bit bigger than her. She (pre-pregnancy) was 43lbs and he at 9 months was 67lbs. Will it cause complications? I’m so scared for her and I feel like a complete @$$ !!! I have a vet, who will be coming to my house to assist with the delivery. But I fear complications and I don’t want to loose my baby girl! Thank you!

  • Some aspects of whelping puppies will seem revolting to the beginning breeder. For instance, when left to herself the bitch will eat the after-birth. This instinct goes back to the days when it was necessary for her to destroy any evidence of her presence or that of the litter, since the scent would be sure to attract unwelcome visitors. It has another function, however. It is nature’s way of regulating the system of the bitch, since it acts as a laxative. Following whelping puppies, the bowel movements of the bitch will be almost black in color for two days or so. This is quite normal, and is caused by having eaten the placenta immediately following the birth of each puppy.

  • sassy had 1 pup at 3 am n unfortunatly it didnt make it she hasnt had no mre can dogs only hav 1 pup or was tht misscarriage n will she hav mre

  • my german shepard is giving birth and she is still breathing heavy and i belive there may be more pups she has not had anymore for 3 hours now. what should i do? is this natural?

  • My Boxer, is whinning and panting like she is still in labor, but, I can’t feel anything, and she is an 80 lb female, so therefore, it’s difficult to feel anything from the outside. She only had one pup. I’ll feel like and idiot if I take her in, and if I don’t. She’s not constantly whinning, and she has not been pushing. She didn’t push with the first one either. She just wanting out to pottie, and squatted, and there was the pup.

  • I am a little bit concerned? My Chi was bred on 05/29/10 all of the signs are present, as far as her pregnancy, except she doesn’t seem to be putting much weight on. I have to say, she has always been a finicky eater,all table food or natural dog treats only. Should I be really concerned?. I have been reading all about what to feed her,and I have done so, my? Was is that the reason for her,not gaining as much weight now,or does it all come on at the end. Plz help if you know! I am really concerned and upset that I could of done more. Also this is her 1st litter .

    • Alot of dogs dont look like they are putting on much weighyt when they are first stuck in my case although she was a pit but we did not even know she was pregnant untill the end even then she just looked really healthy It seems to me you are doing a great job at taking care of your dog just keep doing what your doin and keep looking up good facts to know about when they are in labor and you should be fine. bryea

  • My pitbull just had puppies. I’m a little concerned because when I try to get her to eat she doesn’t want to and I am also having a hard time getting her to drink. Is there anything I can do to get her to eat and drink?

  • I know it is common to say it was an accident but this one was, we had them separated but my 4 year old opened the back door and my female ran out, of course he closed the door and it took me a minute to realize ummm hey Were is she? Anyhow she is coming up on her due date (2 more days) But she is doing this very differently from my past dogs (we used to breed poodles when I was growing up) She looked big then a few weeks ago she looked normal all of a sudden. No discharge, no smelly smell. She then stopped eating for about 4 days last week but remained her bouncy self, her temp ranged from 99 to 100.5, tonight it is 98.9. She has been playing normally. I even let her out back to potty and play with the other dogs (smaller than her). She then dug a huge hole and rolled in it so she had yet another bath. She will only eat the food out on my hand, which isn’t like her. She is a piggy normally 🙂 Her area is “poofy” it looked extra swollen a few hours ago but I did not see a puppy or anything like that. Just a big bump but by the time I got her up to where I could actually check her the bump had gone down. I can feel a hard but movable lump in the area between her anus and vagina. She is starting to whine every time i leave the room. We don’t have the money to take her to the vet, situations happened and now I am stuck. I tried applying for carecredit. I want to know if this is “normal”. Her temp goes up and down. This dog is like one of my children, my husband got her for me after a miscarriage. I am just really worried about her. Please help!

  • My toy poodle gave birth to 4healthy size puppies she left the last one after birth and all in corner of bathroom puppy died and the 2nd born one ( the only male) died also..
    My question is can the mother go like totally mad crazy lose her mind after giving birth.. She keeps moving them to my bed where she’s always slept Really protective over the first born but she keeps biting me like she’s mad.. Does anyone know why Plzz help fast.. 1/5/17