Whelping Advice

Healthy Breeding and Whelping

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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.

The gestation period for puppies is approximately 61 to 65 days give or take 1 day. If it's been more than 65 days and you still don't see any whelping signs in your dog, talk to your vet. Breeding to whelping takes between 55 to 70 days because male sperm can survive within the female for 7 to 9 days prior to fertilizing the egg.

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

First stage labour can last between 10 and 24 hours.
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. Note - The temperature drop is not what indicates delivery soon, and within a few hours, it is the rise back to normal that is critical. A puppy should be born within 6 hours of the temperature returning to normal.

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.

Second Stage Labour

The bitch will attempt to push out puppies by abdominal muscular contractions, she may be in a lying or squatting position
Litter delivery starts 10 to 60 minutes after muscular contractions start
Membranes encase puppy which ruptures. It is the equivalent of water breaking in humans
Breech delivery happens in 40% of cases
The bitch will lick and remove the puppy or fetal membrane, and assist the pup to start breathing
You can stimulate puppy breathing by using a towel to dry the puppies - some puppies may need life drops

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.

If your bitch doesn't have much milk this can be improved with a good diet with a high meat/protein content, fenugreek (one teaspoon per day mixed with food), or a herbal product called Let It Flow.

Urgent Veterinary attention maybe required if.......

  • Unproductive straining for 30 mins or more

  • Interval between puppies greater than 3 hours

  • Greenish/black discharge from vulva

  • Absence of pushing – inertia

  • Puppy stuck in birth canal – dystocia

If in ANY doubt seek advice from a Vet

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.

It is not adviseable to use newspaper because of the inks and dye but there's another important reason.  Paper is too slick a surface and in large breed puppies it may stress, strain and over-flex their little joints in the effort to get to a nipple or under the puppy pile.  That unnatural stress could lead to canine hip dysplasia later in their life. Vet bedding keeps puppies safe, dry, and provides excellent footing as puppies begin to move about in the nest.  A lot easier too as the majority of any fluid will go right through leaving the top dry.

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!




Caulophyllum 30C
Natures Oxytocin, only give when the bitch is actively pushing

Oxytocin is used to stimulate the smooth muscle of the uterus producing rhythmic contractions, it also assists in the involution of the uterus and reduction in uterine bleeding due to subsequent involution after administration.

Usual dosage in large canines is 5 -10iu by subcutaneous injection. Its duration of action is approximately 15 minutes.

Over dosage or inappropriate use can result in:

  • Placenta Abrupto: Premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall
  • Foetal Distress: Resulting in foetal death in utero
  • Uterine Hypertonicity – Tetanic Contraction – Uterine Rupture
  • Amniotic Fluid Embolism
  • Water Intoxication


The bitch is in labour but has not produced any puppies:
This inevitably means that the cervix is either still closed or has not dilated fully or there is a puppy blocking the vaginal canal. Administration of Oxytocin at this time could result in rupture of the uterus, the cervix and even death of the dam.

The bitch is contracting and has been straining hard for a while and no puppy has been produced:
This inevitably means that there is a birth canal defect, an oversized puppy lodged in the birth canal, a dead puppy holding up proceedings or a malpresentation in the birth canal. All these represent a medical emergency and your dam needs to be taken to the vet immediately. Administration of Oxytocin at this time will almost certainly result in rupture of the uterus, uterine bleeding and probable death.

The bitch appears to have finished whelping and all puppies and placenta’s are accounted for:
If this is the case and there is no green discharge but instead a normal reddish brown discharge it should not be necessary to give a *clean out shotThe uterine wall will go through an active phase of self cleansing and the puppies feeding on the dam will stimulate normal Oxytocin release which promote lactation, involution of the uterus and expulsion of any foreign matter, should there be any left behind.

Labour is progressing normally and the dam appears to stop but there are more puppies:
This is quite normal. Dams often take a rest about half way through whelping and even have a sleep for a few hours before resuming whelping. Additional whelps can be delivered safely up to 36 hours after the initial whelp being born. The requirements for foetal viability are a secure attachment of the placenta to the uterine wall and an adequate oxygen supply. Administering Oxytocin at this time may result in placenta abrupto only rather than the birth of more puppies and the risk of subsequent puppies being born dead due to asphyxiation or foetal distress increases dramatically. If the dam is resting and the remaining puppies are kicking and paddling quite happily in the uterus then allow nature to take its course.

The dam is suspected to have Primary Uterine Inertia
This means that the bitch is dilating her cervix but has atony or weak ineffective contractions. This will require a caesarean.


The dam has Secondary Uterine Inertia
This means that the uterine muscles are fatigued and are not producing meaningful contractions. Oxytocin can be administered to increase the intensity of those contractions to expel retained foetuses or placenta’s providing that there is no obstruction or defect in the vaginal canal, the bitch is not mouth breathing, the uterus is not contracting vigorously and there is no evidence of prolonged uterine fatigue as again these all preclude its use. Oxytocin is usually give in conjunction with Glucose and Calcium and these are usually administered by a vet. It must be remembered though that uterine stimulants such as Oxytocin can produce uterine spasm rather than rhythmical contractions resulting in foetal death in utero.

If retained placenta’s / membranes are suspected
Oxytocin can be administered as an adjunct to the contractions of the dam to help expel retained membranes or placenta’s within a reasonable time frame to avoid the risk of infection.

To stimulate milk release after delivery.
It should only be given by a vet and generally given if a bitch has had a C Section to help bring down the milk




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