Pregnancies can be both a time of great joy and a notable degree of fear – even for dogs.
If you suspect your dog is having puppies soon, then it’s important for you to know how to help a dog give birth.
- 1 Dog Birth: What You Need to Know
- 2 How to Help a Dog Give Birth
- 3 Potential Dog Birth Difficulties
- 4 What to Do After Puppy Birth
- 5 Conclusion
Dog Birth: What You Need to Know
Dogs take around 64 or so days to gestate or to fully conceive her puppies in her womb.
You need to look out for these telltale signs if you suspect your dog is pregnant:
- She is visibly restless.
- She suddenly stops eating. This is an especially important sign because it means you have about 24 hours before labor begins.
- She is pawing at her bedding like she is preparing a nest.
- She starts licking her vulva.
- She vomits or discharges mucus.
At the five- to six-week mark, your dog’s appetite should gradually increase until you notice she is eating approximately 30 to 50 percent more food than she used to. The amount she eats will depend on the number of puppies growing within her.
Bring your dog in to your veterinarian at around the 45-day mark. By this point in the pregnancy, your vet will be able to feel the puppies and give you an estimate of how many you can expect. You can also have an ultrasound done at about 25 days in, if you want to know earlier.
If you’re still unsure if the dog is pregnant after 34 days of watching her, then you can opt to have her take a blood progesterone level test as well. This will absolutely confirm or deny it.
Once you’re positive your dog is pregnant, then be sure to take her temperature at least twice daily – once in the morning and once in the evening. This is because her temperature will drop before she goes into labor.
Your dog’s temperature should normally be somewhere between 101 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit, but about 24 hours before labor begins, her temperature will drop below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
This temperature drop may fluctuate for a day or two, but if it stays between 97 and 99.5 degrees, then get ready for your dog to go into labor shortly.
Before your dog gives birth, you need to introduce her to a whelping box. This is basically the designated puppy delivery area in your home.
As such, make sure this area is warm, quiet, and free from any drafts, so that she feels comfortable and safe during the delivery.
This area should be restricted to the mother alone, so keep all the other dogs in your home away from it. After all, she needs to keep her attention on giving to birth to her puppies, not on whether the other dogs are a threat or nuisance.
Other Essential Items
You need to prepare a few items so that they are on-hand during and after the birthing process:
- Some old newspapers.
- Clean towels (both paper and cloth towels).
- A thermometer.
- The phone number for your veterinarian in case of emergencies or birthing complications.
- Dental floss.
- Bath mats.
- Heating pad.
Before Labor Begins
You will need to tear up the newspapers into strips and line them along the whelping box; this will create a soft bedding for your dog and her puppies.
You will also need to keep your thermometer nearby to check your dog’s temperature prior to labor.
You should use sterilized scissors to cut the puppies’ umbilical cords or placenta if the mother fails to do so herself.
You can also use un-waxed dental floss to tie the umbilical cords, if you want.
After the cords are severed, clean the puppies’ abdomens off with iodine. You will also need to clean the whelping area thoroughly with paper towels.
Finally, replace some of the newspaper with bath mats to serve as gentler bedding for the puppies. While you’re cleaning the whelping box, you should place the newborn puppies on a heating pad kept nearby.
This video shows how to build a whelping box for a puppy birth.
How to Help a Dog Give Birth
There are three recognized stages of labor that all dogs go through.
Stage One is when your dog experiences mild uterine contractions that last anywhere from four to twelve hours, though they may last longer. If your dog is going through Stage One, they may exhibit:
- Restless pacing.
- Nesting behavior.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Digging or scratching at the floor or ground.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should encourage your dog to go to her whelping box and send any of your other dogs away, so they don’t disturb her.
Her vaginal discharge during this stage should be clear and somewhat thick, and her cervix should be fully dilated.
Breaking the Membrane
Stage Two is when labor begins. Your dog will have strong abdominal contractions and will either lie on her side or squat.
Puppies will be delivered about every thirty to sixty minutes, though this period tends to vary on a case by case basis. Hours can pass between each puppy birth, but three or more isn’t normal.
Puppies are born inside a thin membrane, which basically looks like a bubble with a puppy in it. Sometimes the sac breaks during delivery, and other times, the mother breaks it herself.
If she doesn’t, you will need to break it manually. Make sure you clear away all the fluid from the puppy’s nose and mouth, so that it can finally breathe.
Stimulate the Puppy’s Breath
After the membrane is removed, the mother will bite off each umbilical cord and then lick each puppy, which will stimulate it to breathe and cry.
If she doesn’t do this, you will need to vigorously rub the puppy with a clean towel until it starts breathing on its own.
If possible, it’s important to let the mother do these things on her own, as hormones are released in these processes that help her bond with her puppies, recognize them as her own and helping her produce milk.
If the initial licking or towel-rubbing doesn’t work, you need to cover the tip of the puppy’s mouth and nose with your own mouth, gently extend its neck out, and puff air in it to inflate its lungs. Just make sure you do not blow too forcefully, as this can injure a newborn puppy’s lungs.
Even if it takes a while for them to start breathing or crying, do not give up too soon. Some puppies will start to breathe even ten minutes after it’s born!
What to Do With Puppy Umbilical Cord
If the mother does not chew through each puppy’s umbilical cord on her own, you will have to cut the cord personally. Again, be sure to use sterilized scissors for this process.
Cut the cord about an inch from the puppy’s belly, and then tie the cord with the thread or dental floss ¼- to ½-inch from the puppy’s body.
It is best to crush the cord rather than make a clean cut, as this will reduce any bleeding. After you’ve tied it, dip the end in a shallow dish that has either iodine or an antiseptic solution. This helps seal the cord’s end and prevent infection or further bleeding.
Deal With the Afterbirth
Within five to fifteen minutes after each birth, a mass of blackish-green tissue called the placenta (sometimes called ‘the afterbirth’) should follow.
You should discard these placentas unless the mother wants to eat them. If she does eat a few, do not worry. It is completely natural and will not cause her any harm.
You should not let her eat more than one or two of them, however, as this could encourage vomiting – which isn’t pleasant during the delivery process.
You should also keep count of the number of puppies and placentas because the afterbirth does not always come out after each dog’s birth.
The mother should discharge any remaining placentas after the last puppy is born.
Potential Dog Birth Difficulties
Dystocia is the medical term for when your dog is experiencing any kind of birth difficulty. These difficulties can occur during any stage of the labor.
Delivering puppies may be difficult for your dog if she has a narrow pelvis or is a breed that is predisposed to dystocia. British Bulldogs, French bulldogs, and boxers are just a few examples.
Puppies are normally born either head-first or rear-legs-first. If the puppy comes out sideways or bottom-first, they are likely to get stuck and cause your dog some pain.
As a result of this abnormal birth position, the puppy may likely die and affect future uterine contractions. Similarly, if the puppy is too large, it will not fit in the birth canal and cause similar complications.
Dystocia can also be defined as:
- More than thirty minutes of persistent or strong abdominal contractions without expulsion of the offspring.
- More than four hours from the onset of Stage Two to delivery of the first offspring.
- More than two hours between the delivery of each puppy.
- Failure to go into labor within twenty-four hours of the drop in rectal temperature.
- Your dog cries or looks as if she is in pain, and she constantly licks the vulvar area when contracting.
- Prolonged gestation, which is when your dog fails to give birth more than 72 days from the day of first mating, more than 59 days from the first day of cytologic diestrus (which is the stage that follows conception), or more than 66 days from LH peak (or the luteinizing hormone, which peaks at the time of ovulation).
- Discharge of the placenta that precedes the birth of the first offspring by more than two hours, which is indicative of premature placental separation.
- Presence of bloody discharge before the delivery of the first puppy or between puppies.
Uterine inertia is when your dog is unable to give birth due to her uterine muscles’ failure to contract and expel the puppies from the uterus.
Though your dog does not appear to be in distress, this can still be detrimental to the puppies still inside her.
In some cases, your dog may deliver one or two fetuses normally, but suddenly stop giving birth, even though she still has more puppies in her uterus.
It is important to contact your veterinarian if you notice any of the problems listed above.
What to Do After Puppy Birth
Newborn Puppy Care
Once the last puppy is born and the mother seems well enough to walk, take her outside to urinate. Then, bring her and her pups back to the whelping box to allow them to nurse.
The puppies need to stay warm and be fed shortly after birth. The mother should take care of this, but if she cannot supply enough milk or rejects any or all of her puppies, this duty falls on you.
If they are not fed enough, the puppies will complain, act restless, or start sucking at everything. You can feed them with nursing bottles and supplements that you can find at pet stores.
If any of the puppies seem slow or lethargic, then they are not warm enough. The puppies’ temperatures should be right around 97 degrees Fahrenheit.
If it is anything below this, then place them on the heating pad until they reach this temperature.
How to Help Mom
You need to take your mother dog to the vet twenty-four to forty-eight hours after she gives birth to check for any complications or injuries she may have contracted during labor.
If so, the vet will give your dog a posterior pituitary extract (POP) injection to relieve her pain.
You also need to give her extra meals after her pregnancy, because her appetite will increase. You should feed her a name-brand puppy diet during this period, so you will not have to give her any supplements.
She should also avoid any intensive exercise or work training for some time, so she has time to heal.
This video goes into more detail on what to expect after dog birth.
Your dog giving birth to puppies might seem like a scary process that you aren’t prepared for, but there’s no need to worry. If you follow these steps above, you will know how to deliver puppies when the time comes!
What has your experience with puppy delivery been like?