BREEDING AND WHELPING FOR PET OWNERS
When should my dog whelp?
Most dogs will give birth 65 days from ovulation. If ovulation timing was done with progesterone levels, it is important to not let your dog go more than 1 to 2 days beyond due date without consulting with a veterinarian. If timing wasn’t done, most dogs will whelp 63 days plus or minus 5 days from breeding (between 58 and 68 days). If your dog goes more than 68 days past breeding dates, a veterinarian should be consulted.
What signs indicate my dog is close to whelping?
Many dogs will start to act restless and ‘nest’ within a few days of whelping. Some will become nauseous and go off their food as the time nears. Milk production is an unreliable indicator of timing, but should be present. The best indicator is a drop in rectal temperature below 100 degrees, which indicates labor should begin in the next 24 hours. Her temperature may spike a little 24 to 48 hours after labor, but this shouldn’t be accompanied by her acting sick.
My dog seems to want to hide in strange places. Is this normal?
During the last week of pregnancy the female often starts to look for a safe place for whelping. Some pets appear to become confused, wanting to be with their owners and at the same time wanting to prepare their nest. It is a good idea to get your pet used to the place where you want her to have her puppies well in advance of whelping.
Should I be present during the whelping?
Some dogs like the owner to be with them the whole time they are in labor. Others prefer to have their puppies in seclusion. Respect your pet’s wishes and avoid intruding any more than necessary. If this is her first time giving birth, monitoring the process will be needed.
How will I know when my dog is going to start having puppies?
Your dog’s water may break, and you may see a vaginal discharge. The discharge should not be black, bright red or a snotty green color. It will have an odor, but it should not be offensive.
During the actual delivery your dog will start to strain and have abdominal contractions. If straining continues for more than 1 hour without any puppies, you should contact your veterinarian.
First time mothers should be attended by their owners until at least one or two puppies have been born. She may rest for up to 2 to 3 hours between puppies, but once she starts to contract again you should see another puppy within the hour. If she goes longer than 2 to 3 hours and you are suspicious there are more puppies inside, you need to contact your veterinarian.
How long will whelping take?
Delivery times vary. Dogs with fairly slim heads such as Shelties, Collies and Dobermans may complete delivery of all the puppies within 2-3 hours. Brachycephalic breeds, i.e. those with large, round heads such as Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Pekingese, tend to have more difficult deliveries and sometimes will produce one or two relatively quickly and then rest for a while before labor starts again.
If your dog has produced at least one puppy and then does not strain again within two hours, we should be contacted. Similarly if the bitch has been straining continuously for more than 45 minutes to an hour and has not had a puppy it is important that she receives veterinary care.
How are puppies normally born? Do they usually come backwards?
Puppies can be born headfirst or hind feet first. Tail or bottom first is abnormal and called breech.
Some breech presentations can result in a normal delivery but also can result in complications. If a puppy’s tail is seen hanging from the vulva or there is a lump just behind the vulval lips or a puppy becomes ‘stuck,’ contact us immediately.
What should I do if one is stuck?
Regardless of whether the puppy is coming head first or hind first, take a piece of clean tissue or clean cloth and gently grab the puppy and apply traction at approximately 45o to the angle downwards between the spine and the hind legs. Do not just pull when the mother strains. Constant, gentle traction on the puppy will stimulate additional contractions. Once the puppy has been born, clear the membranes and then cut the cord. If the afterbirth is still inside the mother, do not worry. It is important to stimulate the puppy by blowing gently down the nostrils and mouth and clearing any discharges, membranes, debris and also stimulating it by gently rubbing it with a towel until it starts to breathe.
If you cannot move the puppy or if it appears to be painful to the mother, seek veterinary help immediately.
Should my dog pass an afterbirth after each puppy?
Each puppy is enclosed in a sac that is part of the placenta or afterbirth. This sac is usually broken at birth and passed after each puppy is born. This is often unnoticed since it is normal for the female to eat them. The hormones the afterbirth contains help with milk production. Sometimes a mother will have two or three puppies and then pass several of the afterbirths together.
If the afterbirth is still intact, hold the umbilical cord between your finger and thumb with the puppy resting in the palm of your hand and cut the cord with a pair of scissors approximately an inch from the puppy. Holding it for a few seconds will usually stop any bleeding. Otherwise tie it with clean thread.
How soon should a puppy be born after it is seen emerging from the birth canal?
In a normal delivery a few contractions will produce the puppy. Ten minutes is reasonable. Following delivery the mother will lick and chew at the puppy and often appears to be treating it quite roughly. In most cases this is normal behavior and stimulates the puppy to start breathing. During the chewing and licking she tears the birth sac and exposes the mouth and nose so that the puppy can breathe. You will realize all is well if the puppy starts to whimper or cry. First time mothers will sometimes need help with this part. Be sure to uncover the puppy’s mouth and nose so it can breathe.
Sometimes the placenta is delivered immediately after the puppy and is attached by the umbilical cord. The mother normally chews the umbilical cord and breaks it about an inch from the puppy, consuming the placenta at the same time. However in some breeds the mother seems to become over enthusiastic and may lick and chew at the puppy until she injures it. Therefore, it is advisable to observe the dog as she cares for her newborn puppies, particularly if it is her first litter.
My doctor gave me oxytocin. What is this and how do I use it?
Oxytocin is used to stimulate uterine contractions. It is typically given if more than 2 hours pass between puppies, or if the dog is straining for 30 to 45 minutes without a puppy being born. Always call your veterinarian prior to using this medication.
It is given as an injection, either in the muscle, or under the skin. Typically given 30 minutes apart. If two injections are given without any progress, your veterinarian needs to be contacted.
Is it true that the puppy will die if it is not stimulated immediately after birth?
If the puppy is born within the fetal sac, it will be unable to breathe. It is important that if the mother doesn’t break the sac, you should by following the above instructions. Fortunately, most puppies break the sac as they are born.
Should I keep the puppies warm?
The puppies have been living in a temperature of 38.5oC (101.5oF) which is pretty warm by human standards. However, immediately after birth puppies are unable to control their own body temperature and are dependent upon external warmth. Many puppies lack the strength to move away from a heat source. Be sure to use a thermometer, especially if you are using heat lamps. Keep the area around 30ºC (100ºF).
Should I continue the heat source if the mother is nursing her puppies?
Usually not. This depends on the breed but if a heat lamp is used, care must be exercised otherwise the mother and puppies can become overheated.
So when should I worry and call the veterinarian?
-Black, red or snotty green discharge, or malodorous discharge.
-Hard straining for more than 45 minutes with no puppy being born.
-More than 2 to 3 hours between puppies.
-Immediately if a puppy is ‘stuck’ in the birth canal.
-More than 68 days of gestation past breeding dates OR
-More than 66 to 67 days beyond ovulation timing.
-Decreased milk production, lack of interest in puppies, or aggression towards the puppies.
-Trouble nursing or lack of weight gain.
How do I contact the veterinarian on call in the case of an emergency?
Call the office at 208 466-4614 during office hours, or after hours to obtain the emergency on call cell number which is 208 899-1503. The 24 hour care emergency clinic, WestVet’s number is 208 375-1600.