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How to Help Your Dog Give Birth

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

Here's how to help a dog in labor, in case complications arise.

Here's how to help a dog in labor, in case complications arise.

Preparing for Birth

Sixty-three days have passed since your dog has been bred and you think the big day has come. Your dam has reported the typical rectal temperature drop of 99.0 or lower. She has also lost her appetite, appears restless, and has started the nesting behavior. She appears to be looking for a good spot to give birth. You kindly remind her of the nice whelping box you have so carefully created for her comfort and the comfort of her babies.

Luckily, most births are uneventful. Nature takes its course and your dam and puppies will likely be just fine. While most times no human intervention is necessary, staying beside your dam during the birthing process will be helpful. By remaining nearby, you will be able to assist her should she need help, and you will be promptly able to recognize signs of something going wrong. Remember to keep your vet's number handy should you need to ask any questions or alert your vet that you are bringing your dog in as an emergency.

Signs of a Normal Delivery

Contractions

The dam will have involuntary contractions that may last from 6 to 12 hours. These contractions may cause your dog to appear restless, but this is a normal process. Later, the contractions will be more forceful, and your dog will appear anxious and may even pant and vomit. She may also repeatedly lick her vulva. Don't worry, this is considered normal.

Pushing and the Water Bag

The dam may then start straining or may lay down pushing. Shortly, you may see a bag showing out from her vagina. This is the water bag, in some cases this bag ruptures before the puppy is actually born. When this happens, a typical straw-colored fluid will be secreted.

The First Birth

After the water bag breaks, the puppy should follow. Most puppies are born in a diving position. Dark green fluid may be passed after the puppy exits the birth canal.

Cleaning and Umbilical Cord

Mommy at this point will take care of cleaning up, she will remove the fetal membranes and the secretions from the puppy's nose and mouth, allowing the pup to breathe freely.

Finally, the umbilical cord is bitten off.

Placenta(s)

The dam may now expel the placenta. This takes place after each puppy is born. Some dams may ingest the placenta. This is an old instinct to remove any evidence of birth that may attract predators.

More Puppies

The next puppy should appear usually from 15 minutes to 2 hours later. You should see the first signs of straining resume within 5–30 minutes after the precedent puppy.

Once done, the dam may exhibit a bloody or dark green discharge for the first few days following birth.

Things You Can Do to Assist

  • You can disinfect the umbilical cord with iodine, this will prevent infection. Should the umbilical cord be still bleeding, you may want to clamp it or tie it with thread to stop the bleeding.
  • You can help remove the amniotic sac from around a puppy should your dam be still busy with another pup. Simply tear the sac open and remove. Do this within 30 seconds after birth. This will allow the puppy to breathe.
  • You may help remove the secretions from the nose and mouth with a cotton swab or with a special suction device or you may turn the puppy gently upside down supporting his head and allowing the secretions to drop out with gravity.
  • You can rub the pup shortly after birth with a soft towel after the secretions are cleaned off. This mimics the mom's licking.
  • You may want to remove some of the placentas if your dam is ingesting too many. In excess, they may cause diarrhea.
  • You may want to count the placentas after the birthing process is done. There should be one per pup. Should you miss and you know the dam has not eaten it you will need your vet to give an oxytocin injection to help her expel it.
  • You may want to place the pups while the dam gives birth in a nice warm box, so they will stay warm and the dam avoids accidentally laying on them as she continues to give birth.
  • You may place the pups near the nipples to start feeding during the interval between births.
  • You may lubricate the birth canal with K-Y jelly should she seem like having difficulty delivering a puppy. The pup may be stuck in the birth canal.
  • You may help deliver the puppy by gently gripping the puppy's skin behind his neck with a cloth. You may also rotate the pup one way and then the other to help the puppy be expelled.

Signs of an Abnormal Delivery

There are various signs that may indicate trouble. A physical blockage takes place when a puppy is too large or it is positioned incorrectly, such as rump first. A mom may also have a narrow birth canal, a tumor or a fractured pelvis that makes delivery difficult.

Call Your Vet if Your Dog Is

  • Straining actively for about 30–60 minutes without a puppy may indicate this sort of problem. A veterinary may be needed to correct the position or perform a C section.
  • Refraining from birthing more puppies within an hour, yet you know she has more inside, suggesting uterine inertia.
  • Expelling a purulent or bloody vaginal discharge, suggesting a hemorrhage or uterine rupture.
  • Expelling a dark green fluid BEFORE the first puppy is born, suggesting premature placental separation.
  • Exhibiting muscle weakness, tremors, spasms, muscle rigidity, or seizures, suggesting eclampsia.
  • Exhibiting signs of shock, pale gums, severe abdominal pain, or a drop in temperature, suggesting uterine torsion.

Most births go pretty smoothly. Many times, an owner concerned about their dog having puppies for the first time will wake up in the morning only to find mommy with her newborn puppies in the whelping box doing just fine. Usually, it is best not to intervene, so to allow the puppies and mom to bond together. However, in cases where mom appears to be struggling, a little help will not hurt.

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Read More From Pethelpful

Being prepared and knowing what suggests trouble, is almost like going halfway through the process, the rest then is left to your dam and the miracle of birth provided by nature.

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 dogs' water sac is hanging out with no signs of breaking. What can I do?

Answer: If you notice an amniotic sac protruding for some time, then a vet should be seen as soon as possible.

There may be a puppy stuck in the canal, or you may be dealing with a case of uterine inertia.

Question: If my dog's puppies are too big, how can I help her give birth without having a C-section?

Answer: There is no safe way to do this at home if the puppies are large.

Question: How do I lubricate the birth canal of a dog?

Answer: According to veterinarian Dr. Linda, the birth canal can be well lubricated with any safe lubricant such as KY Jelly. If the dog is having difficulty giving birth, though, it is recommended to see the vet.

Question: My dog's water broke, when should I expect the puppies to come out?

Answer: Usually, when mother dog's temperature drops to below 100 we can expect labor to start within the next 24 hours. In stage 1 labor, then temperature returns to normal which is over 100F. Water "doesn't really break" in dogs as it happens in people. If your dog is having some clear fluid discharge, then it may be just lubrication fluid and she may have her pups soon. Expect contractions.If active contractions lasts more than 30-40 minutes, this can be a sign that one pup is stuck and if there are more pups the rest are also at risk. Time to get in contact with the vet. A vet should be also seen at once should mother dog develop a dark green or black discharge prior to a puppy considering that this may indicate placental separation and fetal distress.

Question: What is Uterine Inertia in dogs?

Answer: Uterine inertia is the absence of effective uterine contractions which may cause a dog difficulty giving birth. You can read more about this here: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Dystocia-Difficulty-Gi...

Question: I have a Chihuahua and she's 7 months and 7 lbs. She bred with a big dog. Should I be worried about her having the babies on her own?

Answer: If is pregnant, the biggest concern would be whether or not your Chi will be able to pass the puppies naturally or whether she will need a C-Section. It would be important to get her x-rayed around the last 10 days of her pregnancy to determine how many pups there are and whether they appear to be very large.

Question: What should I do if I don't have money for a vet?

Answer: You can try to apply for Care Credit. Care Credit works well for dog owners who are unable to provide the up-front costs of veterinary care. Many vets allow Care Credit and the biggest perk is that there may be no interest if the amount is paid back within a certain time frame.

Question: What do I do if the umbilical cord is still attached to a puppy?

Answer: Normally, the mother dog will severe the cord herself. If she hasn't, then it will become your task.

It is best to keep it a bit longer than too short. Many breeders prefer about 2-3 inches away from the pup's belly.

You will, therefore, have to clamp the cord between puppy and mom with dental floss very tight and then clamp again in a second place leaving at least a couple of inches between where the cord is clamped.

Next, you need to cut the umbilical cord right in between the clamped areas using sterile scissors or even better, thinning shears.

You will then dip the cord in betadine solution and then some clotting powder such as the one used to clot blood when accidentally cutting a dog's nails through the quick. Remove the clamps.

Question: Does a water sac appear before every puppy dog's birth?

Answer: When mother dog is getting ready to give birth, the amniotic sac should appear right before the puppy. From the time you see the sac, you should expect a puppy to emerge within 30-45 minutes.

Question: Is it safe for a nine-year-old Cocker Spaniel to have her first litter?

Answer: Before any dog of any age is bred, it's important to ensure the dog is in the best shape possible and given a health clearance from the vet.

As dog's age, there are higher chances they may experience problems in whelping, and the puppies are developing problems.

Also, one must consider that many breeders retire their dogs from breeding when they are about nine to ten years old.

Question: My miniature schnauzer got pregnant by a bigger dog, will she have issues delivering the puppies?

Answer: Generally, the good news is that when a smaller dog mates with a larger dog, despite the size disparity problem, the puppies tend to conform more to the size of the mother rather than the father. Of course, this is just a generalization. A wise thing to do in such a case would be to therefore, have an X-ray done. This can tell you how many puppies your dog is expecting and how large they are. If they seem too large to be able to pass through the birth canal, your vet will likely suggest a C-section.

Question: What do I do if the dam has dead, decaying puppies are inside her?

Answer: In such a case, a veterinary visit would be paramount. With decaying puppies inside mother dog, at a minimum, one would expect a uterine infection at the least. This would make the mother dog very ill left. The vet may try to induce labor by giving a drug called oxytocin or surgery may be needed. So sorry about this.

Question: I have a dog it's her first time giving birth. Will my pregnant dog know naturally what to do while giving birth? Will my dog cut her umbilical cords herself?

Answer: In most cases, yes. Unless your dog is young and was bred before maturing mentally and physically, there are good chances that her instincts will kick in. The release of powerful hormones will evoke her care-taking behaviors. If she won't cut the umbilical cord, the good news is that you can do so.

Simply clamp the cord between the puppy and mom with a hemostat or use dental floss tied very tight. Then, you would clamp in a second place leaving at least a couple of inches between where the cord is clamped. Next, you would use sterile thinning shears or just regular scissors to cut the umbilical cord between the clamped areas. Next, dip the part of the cord attached to pup in betadine solution and then in some clotting powder such as the one used for bleeding nails. Remove clamps. Voila'. Always best to be prepared for any mishaps!

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