Normal Birth in Dogs

Normal Birth in Dogs

Preparations for Whelping: Begin preparations for delivery of puppies before the female gives birth.  A whelping box should be provided for the mother to being sleeping in to ensure the birth of the puppies in the area you have chosen.  This box should be relatively small, with sides 6 to 8 inches high to keep the pups from crawling out of the nest.  With larger mothers, it is a good idea to build a little shelf around the inside of the walls.  It should be high enough for the puppies to be scooted under if mom lies on them, to avoid crushing the puppies.  The whelping box should be placed in a secluded yet familiar area of the home, away from the family traffic, to allow the mother solitude.  It is her instinct to hide during the birthing process.

Newspapers make excellent bedding because they can be changed easily, are absorbent and can be shredded by the mother as she makes her “nest”.  If such materials as old quilts, blankets, rugs or towels are used, they must be washed or replaced frequently.

If you want to know more precisely when delivery is near, check the rectal temperature of the mother twice daily from the 58th day of pregnancy until labor begins.  Normal rectal temperature varies between 100.5 and 102 F.  Within 24 hours before the onset of labor, the rectal temperature drops nearly 2 degrees.

Labor and Delivery: Labor in the female dog can be divided into 3 stages. The second and third stages are repeated with the birth of each puppy.

Stage 1: During the first stage, the mother seems extremely restless and very nervous, and often seeks seclusion. She may refuse food even if offered her favorite treats. This stage may last 6 to 24 hours.  This is a good time to exercise the mother to allow her to urinate and defecate.

Stage 2: In the second stage, contractions and expulsion of the puppies begins. Usually a small greenish sac of fluid protrudes first form the vulva. This is followed by the puppy and its attached placenta (afterbirth).  The normal presentation of the puppy is nose first, stomach down. About one-third of all puppies, however, are born hindquarters first.  This presentation is considered normal in the dog.

After delivery, the mother opens the sac, cleans off the pup and  severs the umbilical cord. You may have to perform these functions for the mother (see Obstetric Care).  Make sure the sac is removed from the puppy immediately if it is unbroken during delivery.

Stage 3: The third stage of labor is the resting stage, which follows each delivery. Mild contractions and delivery of the afterbirth occur in this phase.  This stage usually lasts 10 to 30 minutes, but it may range from a few seconds to an hour. 

Obstetric Care

After a pup is delivered, remove all membranes covering the puppy, clean the face, and remove mucus from the mouth and nose.  Rub the puppy with a clean towel to dry it and to stimulate breathing and circulation.  After a few minutes of rubbing, the puppy should begin to squirm and cry loudly.

The umbilical cord should be tied with thread about an inch from the puppy’s body.  Then cut the cord on the other side of the knot (away from the puppy). 

Assisting with the Birth:

If a puppy seems to be lodged in the birth canal and the mother cannot expel it, rapid assistance is necessary.  There may not be time to call your veterinarian and drive to the hospital.

Grasp the puppy with a clean towel (to get a grip: these little guys are slimy and slippery), and exert steady, firm traction. Do not jerk or pull suddenly.   Don’t pull straight back, but pull down and around, as though to bring the puppy between the hind legs.  Traction may have to be applied for as long as 5 minutes.  If you cannot remove the puppy, call the veterinarian. 

Behavior of the Mother:

During whelping and nursing, your pet may not be her usual self. She may be very nervous and filled with a sense of protectiveness for her new family. Any aggression she may exhibit usually fades as time passes.

Notify the Doctor if ANY of the following occur:

  1. You cannot remove a puppy lodged in the birth canal.
  2. There is strong persistent labor for 30 minutes without delivery of a pup.
  3. There is weak, intermittent labor for 2 hours without delivery of a pup.
  4. It has been more than 4 hours since the last birth and it is probable that more puppies are still inside.
  5. There is a greenish-black discharge and no labor or puppies within 3 to 4 hours.  The greenish-black color is normal, but such a discharge should be followed very soon by the delivery of the pups. It means that they are separating from mother and need to get out soon.
  6. Labor has continued for 12 hours and is not yet finished.
  7. The pregnancy lasts more than 65 days

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