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How to Help a Dog Whelp or Deliver Puppies

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

A whelping box provides the mother with a safe place and keeps the puppies safe when they are older.

A whelping box provides the mother with a safe place and keeps the puppies safe when they are older.

Do I Have to Help My Dog Have Puppies?

I have been involved with some dogs that have needed a lot of help. However, in the vast majority of cases, there is absolutely nothing to do. Nothing! You do not always need to help your dog deliver puppies. Take a deep breath and relax.

Different Dog Breads Lead to Different Birthing Experiences

Some breeds of dog will be easy to deal with, and others will be more difficult. If you have a pregnant Siberian husky or Alaskan malamute, all you need to do is monitor things. If you have an English bulldog or a Chihuahua, grab your gloves and be ready to help.

How to Prepare for Whelping

If you're sure that your dog is pregnant, figure out about what day she will be whelping, based on the day of breeding. Have all of your supplies ready. You should build a whelping box and have your first aid kit ready with the following:

  • a tube of KY lubricant (you can buy this at a pharmacy)
  • latex gloves
  • an electronic thermometer
  • clean towels
  • other tools and bandages that you always have handy

Be sure you also have the phone number to your veterinarian's clinic handy. You may end up needing help, or maybe just moral support.

Of course dogs can whelp anywhere—even a bathtub!

Of course dogs can whelp anywhere—even a bathtub!

What Will Happen When My Dog Delivers Puppies?

  1. As the due date approaches: A few days before the due date, you should get used to taking her temperature. Her normal temperature is about 101.5 (this does vary with each dog, and you should take it daily to find out what normal is), and when it drops down (to 99 or 100), she will be whelping within a few hours (this will vary, too, so if she takes up to 10 hours, do not worry too much). Make sure that her whelping box is ready and in a quiet place for her.
  2. First stage of labor: Some dogs will want you to hang around the whelping box while they are in the process of giving birth. That is great because you can monitor things. In the first stage of labor, she will probably just be moving around and digging in her bedding. Don’t be surprised if she vomits or regurgitates her last meal. If she is straining excessively, passing a foul or green discharge, or if she is just stretched out on her side and shivering, you should call your veterinarian. Be prepared to spend some time next to your dog, as this stage can last from 4–24 hours.
  3. Second stage of labor: In the second stage of labor, the contractions will begin in earnest. Puppies should start coming quickly. Don’t get worked up if a puppy is coming back legs first—according to the Handbook of Veterinary Obstetrics, about 40% are born this way.
  4. As the pups arrive (checking for breathing): As each puppy comes out, he or she will be covered in a sac of fluid. The mother will normally break open the sac and lick the puppy to stimulate her. If she is tired and not able to take care of each puppy, you should take a hand towel and wipe off the nose and face. If the puppy is not breathing, wipe the sides vigorously. If the puppy is still not breathing, you can take it in your hands, grasp it firmly, and swing your arms as if you were hitting a baseball bat. Any fluid in the pup's lungs is tossed forward and expelled. (If the pup does not start breathing, rub the sides again and then try again. Do not give up too easily, as sometimes a puppy will start breathing long after everyone expected he was dead.)
  5. As the pups arrive (clamping the umbilical cord): You should also take a pair of hemostats out of your first aid kit and clamp off the umbilical cord about one to two inches from the body (this will vary depending on the breed, but do not clamp off the cord too close to the puppy). Clamp the other hemostats just on the other side and then cut the umbilical cord between them, so that there is no bleeding. The blood in the cord goes back into the puppy's body, so when you remove the hemostat a little later, there should be no bleeding. If there is a little bleeding you can always tie it off with a little elastic tape.
  6. Third stage of labor: In the third stage of labor, the placenta is passed. They may be passed after each puppy is born, a few might be passed after a few puppies, or they may all be passed after all of the puppies are born. It varies with each dog. Within a few hours she will have eaten all the placentas and settle down to feed her new family.
If you don't want to give up your bathtub, a wading pool is also good.

If you don't want to give up your bathtub, a wading pool is also good.

When Should I Help My Dog Deliver Puppies?

Does it all sound too easy? Usually, the mother takes care of most things herself so the humans in the room do not do much more than watch. A lot of breeders emphasize the difficulties of whelping and there are things you should look out for:

1. Your dog has gone past her due date but has no signs of giving birth.

If you have had the pregnancy confirmed beforehand and had x-rays done a few days earlier (to confirm the number of puppies and to make sure your dog is not carrying a giant puppy that will make whelping difficult), you should be worried and call your veterinarian. If you are not even sure she is pregnant, this is a good time to take her in for an exam.

2. Your dog is straining but not passing puppies at all.

There are no definite rules, but if she strains for more than about 30 minutes, something is wrong. Put on some latex gloves. You can coat your finger with KY and put it into her vagina and feel the head of the puppy. (If there is no way you can do this you should put some KY into the large catheter-tipped syringe in your first aid kit, make sure the sides of the puppy are as well lubed as possible, and move the body from side to side so as to try to ease it out.)

If there is still a problem, and you are not able to help, you should take her to your veterinarian—she may need a caesarian section, or if the puppy is already dead it may be able to be pulled with forceps or other instruments. A large puppy may have gotten stuck in the birth canal. He will not come out and not let any other puppies come through. Two puppies may be straining to come out at the same time.

3. Your dog was straining, but she stopped before all her puppies were born.

This may be due to uterine inertia, a condition in which her uterus is “tired out,” usually after delivering several puppies. (This condition may respond to hormones but the dog may need a c-section.) The dog may also have ruptured her uterus, and will need to be taken to your veterinarian and treated immediately!

A new litter of Shih tzu puppies.

A new litter of Shih tzu puppies.

You May Not Need to Help With the Whelping, but Be Ready!

You may not even need to take a part in all of this. If you are needed, however, you are really needed, so be ready. You can make a big difference when it is time for your dog to start delivering her puppies.

Take Good Care of Your New Puppies

Just remember—the hard work is yet to come. You will need to make sure the puppies are all eating, gaining weight, and thriving. Please consult with your local veterinarian if you have any problems in caring for your new puppies.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: My dog has been pushing off and on for over an hour and crying with each push. What do I do to help her?

Answer: If your dog has a large puppy that she can not pass, she will need medical attention. She might need a c-section. Contact your local vet immediately.

Question: My dog's fluid sac is out, but she isn’t straining or pushing. What can I do to help her to push?

Answer: You need the assistance of a veterinarian or a very experienced breeder. The vet can give your dog an oxytocin injection to help contract the uterus.

Question: Are you supposed to cut the umbilical cord when delivering puppies?

Answer: No, you usually do not need to do so. When delivering puppies via c-section we cut the cords and tie them off to prevent the puppy bleeding out. If the mother is delivering normally she will usually bite off most of the cord, the rest will just dry up and fall off.

© 2012 Mark dos Anjos DVM


Sharon on April 15, 2019:

I got woken up my dog has blood everywhere stop but she's licking down and I'm not sure should I just wait and see . I didn't even know I think she's having puppys

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 27, 2018:

Matthew, if you are concerned that your SIberian might be bred you really need to have her examined by your regular vet.

Matthew reed on October 25, 2018:

I have a Siberian Husky and she’s pregnant I don’t know when she got pregnant but she’s panting really hard and I wanted to know if she’s trying to go in labor and if she don’t have puppies will she die

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on October 23, 2015:

Amy, do you not have access to an emergency clinic? Without looking at her, it is impossible to tell if she has uterine inertia, maybe low blood calcium, or a large puppy that has blocked the birth canal. The only thing you can do at home is add some KY to the birth canal and help the puppy come out, but if she is not straining at all she needs to be seen and possibly treated. Try to call around to other vets if you have any others available. Good luck to the both of you.

Amy campbell on October 23, 2015:

i think my dog is having a difficult birth she had one puppy aboit 3 hours ago and seems really tired the puppy came out backwards REALLY WORRIED VET IS CLOSED AND WONT DO AN AFTET HOURS i dont want her to die what can i do

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 07, 2015:

If the puppies are worth some money to you try calling around to your local breeders. Years ago I used to raise Siberian Huskies and they usually only have four puppies so they are able to take on several more. (My Pitbulls usually have 8 or 10 pups so cannot handle more, but it is worth it to try several breeders if you are looking for a foster mom for your pups.)

If the pups are very small, like Frenchies or Chihuahuas, try to call those breeders first. Some will only accept the same breed they are interested in, and some breeders will not be willing to take in strange puppies. (The reason I mention money is that many breeders will want to charge you for this service.) Anyway, it is worth taking a chance since that is really their only hope. Best of luck with your new kids!

Stephanie Truhn on September 07, 2015:

Thank you unfortunately i dont no as of saturday she was nursing all the pups then yesterday i noticed that that one was by itself and cold i warmed him up and got it back with the others she hasnt really been nursing the other pups im starting to worry about her and them i dont no what to do

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on September 07, 2015:

Stephanie--is she still nursing the puppies? Do you think she killed the puppy or it died of some other reason?

It really depends on how much time you have available to take care of them. If you are worried about the female killing the other puppies, I would keep them alone until every three hours when you sat with them so that they could nurse from the mother. If you think the puppy died from something else, however, I really cannot tell you without doing a phyical exam. You would have to take them into your regular vet to have them take a look at them.

Sorry I cannot be more help without looking at them. If you need anything else be sure to leave another comment here or email me.

Stephanie Truhn on September 07, 2015:

My pup had four puppies a week ago sunday sometime either last night or early this am one puppy died and now she is acting strange towards the other three puppies is there anything i can do to help her so that we dont lose any more puppies

kelacy on August 10, 2015:

Thank you so much for sharing this info. Our female ended up around an unfixed male unexpectedly and now we're expecting our first litter. I am trying to get as much info as I can before her due date. That you, thank you!

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on December 02, 2012:

lrc--thanks for your great comment. Having dealt with Siberians for so many years, I am used to dogs just pushing them out and getting it over with! Unfortunately I have seen the other side of the coin many times, and it is something most people really do not need to deal with.

Eiddwen-I enjoyed your comment. Thank you for stopping by.

Eiddwen from Wales on December 01, 2012:

A great hub once again which I know will benefit many dog owners. That photo brought back memories of my little Scnauzer many moons ago with the only litter of pups she had. Thanks for this share and enjoy your weekend.


Linda Crist from Central Virginia on November 30, 2012:

Dr Mark, this is a very useful hub. There is nothing more exciting or...frightening that the birth of a litter, for the average person. Those few minutes between puppies are so scary, wondering if there is a problem or, if Mom is just too tired to push anymore. So many people let their dogs get pregnant without understanding how quickly things can go wrong. Your hub is so well written and precise about when to call for help. I hope everyone who is considering a litter reads this.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on November 29, 2012:

Great to see you! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, glad you appreciated the article and thank you for sharing.

Michelle Liew from Singapore on November 29, 2012:

Mark, these are extremely good suggestions. Those newly whelped puppies are precious! A very important reticle for those who want to breed their dogs, and o it well as many are lost through the strenuous process. Thnksnd I'm sharing.