Having a litter of puppies is an exciting prospect, but if it’s your first time attending a whelping, it can be a bit scary as well. Although most pregnant dogs whelp just fine on their own, it’s important to be aware of what can go wrong and how to identify when you need to seek veterinary help.
Late Pregnancy to Whelping
In the last few days before a pregnant dog gives birth, she will begin to search around for a suitable place to deliver her puppies. Physical signs of imminent whelping include a loss of appetite and general restlessness. Many dogs have a lower than normal rectal temperature in the last 24 hours before birth. If you notice any of these signs, you can be certain that the puppies are on their way.
Preparing for Whelping
When it seems like whelping is not far off, it’s wise to prepare as much as possible in advance. Gather plenty of clean dry towels and newspapers and prepare a whelping box for your dog. The whelping box should be large enough for her to move freely but small enough to provide a secure and enclosed environment. Pad the box with plenty of clean bedding and ensure that you have some hot water bottles nearby. In spite of your best efforts, don’t be surprised if your dog chooses somewhere else to have her babies. It’s less stressful for her if you let her stay where she feels most comfortable.
As your dog begins to give birth, you should be on the lookout for any potential problems that may arise. Most dogs have a puppy every hour or so, and each pup is born after up to 30 minutes of hard straining. Don’t be surprised if your dog takes a break between pups but she shouldn’t rest for longer than 4 hours. If she is still having intermittent contractions, her rest should only be an hour or two.
Keep an eye out for the following signs of a difficult delivery, or dystocia:
- You can see a puppy at the opening of the vulva or there is a large lump behind the vulva, your dog is straining hard and no puppy is emerging. This could mean the pup is stuck and your dog needs veterinary attention.
- Your dog has been straining for 30 minutes and no puppies have been produced.
- You see a green discharge from the vulva but no pups are being born. Pups should be born within 30 minutes of the appearance of a green discharge. Excessive blood from the vulva is also a cause for concern, especially if there is no pup delivered with the blood.
- Your dog appears in pain, depressed, lethargic or excessively anxious.
Some dystocias require cesarean sections while others can be treated medically. If you notice any of the above symptoms in your whelping dog, contact your vet immediately to make sure your dog and her babies get the help they need.
Whelping often goes off without a hitch however laboring mothers occasionally need some hands on help to deliver their pups. Contact your vet immediately if you have any questions about whelping. If you prepare appropriately, educate yourself and keep in touch with your veterinarian, your dog and her puppies have the best chance of a safe and healthy delivery.
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