THE BIRTH PROCESS - STEP BY STEP

Whelping can be a stressful process for both the humans and animals involved, although dogs are usually perfectly capable of getting themselves through these things alone. It's a good idea to understand the process and get involved to avoid any problems.

When labour starts your bitch will show some, or all of the following symptoms

She will become restless and start nesting
She may lick her vulva
Some bitches vomit and have a mucus discharge
90% of bitches don't eat 24 hours before labour, but there are always exceptions to the rule

Some breeders will check temperature twice daily and with most bitches you will see a drop as a sign of impending labour (around 36.5°-37°), although the temperature usually goes up again and you could miss the drop.

When you see a grayish sac drop from the vulva, this means that there’s a puppy on the way! The mother should pass the first puppy within an hour of the sac appearing. If she doesn’t, please call your vet for advice.

A lot of people will leave the mother to do everything herself, for some it comes naturally but some bitches are totally bewildered and are not sure what to do.

To avoid any problems, this is how I was taught by a long term breeder.

Puppies are born in a thin membrane that looks like plastic wrap, this needs to be removed within a few minutes so the puppy doesn’t suffocate. It is not unusual for the sac to break during the birthing process.

Right after the membrane comes off, the mother dog will normally lick the puppy, which will stimulate it to breathe and cry. If she doesn’t do this, rub the puppy vigorously with a towel until it starts breathing on its own.

The placenta (afterbirth) usually comes out with each sac, but sometimes it can be five to fifteen minutes after each birth. Once the puppy is born, the placenta is entirely useless and can be discarded. Your bitch will want to eat the placenta, and this is completely natural, but I don't let them eat more than two as it can give them terrible Diarrhea and the last thing you need is a bitch nursing a litter of puppies that needs to go outside every few hours and you have to try and keep her clean.

It’s also important to keep count of the puppies and placentas, because the afterbirth does not always come out with the puppy. The mother should discharge any unaccounted for placentas after the last puppy is born.

The bitch will chew through each umbilical cord on her own, although the dangers are that she can be a little rough, pull the cord as she chews it, and causse the puppy to have an hernia. I have also heard stories of exuberant dams chewing cords and chewing off limbs at the same time. Hence why I was told to do it for the bitch to save any problems.

You can rip the cord with your nails, about two inches from the puppies belly, if you prefer scissors, you need to tiethe cord off with the thread or dental floss 1/2 inch from the puppy’s body. When cutting, it’s better to crush the cord rather than make a clean cut; this will reduce bleeding. After you’ve tied it off, dip the end in a shallow dish with either iodine or antiseptic solution.

Remember, unlike humans, breech births are the norm in dogs. Ultrasound can give you a good indication of how many puppies to expect, but remember the bitch can reabsorb puppies around 4 - 5 weeks. Depending on breed, the entire whelping process can last anywhere from two to twenty hours.

Once the last puppy is born and everything seems to be going well for the mother, take her outside to urinate, then bring her and the pups into the whelping box and let them begin nursing. At this stage the demand for calcium spikes, almost every breeder has seen even the most even-tempered, stoic bitch become easily annoyed and sometimes aggressive during lactation, and this is usually down to a strain on her calcium levels. To avoid any problems I start giving calcium tablets/or calcium liquid as soon as the puppies are born and continue throughout lactation until puppies are weaned.

Once the last puppy has been born and you are sure all the placentas have come away (if you are unsure, an ultrasound will confirm) - remove all the dirty bedding and replace with some clean vet bedding.

The puppies need to stay warm and fed, a cold puppy will not feed. The mother should take care of both, but if she can’t supply enough milk or rejects any or all of the puppies, then it becomes your job.

If the puppies aren’t well-fed, they’ll let you know by complaining, acting restlessly, or sucking at everything. You can feed them yourself with nursing bottles and supplements, available at pet stores.

If any of the puppies are acting lethargic, then it means they’re not warm enough. The puppies’ body temperatures should be right around 97° F (36° C). If their temperature drops below this, it’s time for the heating pad.

Some books on newborn puppies suggest keeping the environment 30-35°, but some breeders will tell you this is way too warm. I personally try to maintain the box temperature right around 26°. However, the whelping box should be in a draft free area away from the hussle and bussle of family life. I spoke with a lady recently who said the mum was taking the puppies into the bathroom, and in the background all I could hear was children playing and turns out they were playing in the same room and mum was getting stressed. I use also a heat pad which is in one corner of the whelping box, so mum doesn't fry under a heat lamp and the puppies can leave the heat pad if they get too warm, although even if the room is warm I find the puppies love a heat pad. Heat pads are far more efficient than a water bottle as they keep a constant temperature, bottles get cold very quickly.

So for the next two weeks apart from watching mum, as long as she is feeding them, she will do most of the work, but from two and half to three weeks you can start them with solid food, and then the fun starts!

HEALTHY BREEDING AND WHELPING (PDF)

 

 


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