How to Help a Dog Whelp or Deliver Puppies
Do I Have to Help My Dog Have Puppies?
I have been involved with some dogs that have needed a lot of help but, 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.
Some breeds of dog will be easy to deal with, others 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.
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; have your first aid kit ready with a tube of KY lubricant (you can buy this at a pharmacy), latex gloves, an electronic thermometer, clean towels, and the 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.
What Will Happen When My Dog Delivers Puppies?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- As each puppy comes out, he or she will be covered in a sack 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.)
- You should also take a pair of hemostats out of your first aid kit and clamp off the umbilical cord about 1-2 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Do you want to let your dog have a litter so your kids can watch this miracle?
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.
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.
© 2012 Dr Mark