Several weeks before your dog is ready to whelp, it is wise to supply her with a whelping box. The box should be large enough for the mother to stretch out in and also allow room for the puppies. Place the box in a warm area. The area should be warm enough to keep the temperature about 80 degrees. Do not use a heating pad in the box, as this will potentially burn the puppies or mother. Newspapers are an excellent bedding on the floor, as they are easily cleaned.
Close to whelping, you may want to take your pets temperature using a rectal thermometer. Normal temperature is approximately 102 degrees. About 24 hours before labor begins, the mother dog’s temperature will drop about 2 degrees. Also, you will notice milk production from the breasts.
Just before labor, your pet may act restless. You may see a greenish discharge from the vaginal region. During labor, even though you have spent all this time making her a whelping box, she may choose another area. Do not move her. Let her deliver where she chooses.
At this time you will notice uterine contractions. The expulsion of each puppy is preceded by a greenish, fluid-filled sac. Each pup is attached to a placenta by an umbilical cord. It is considered normal for puppies to be born either head first or breach. Most mothers will instinctively break the sac covering each puppy and clean each pup. She will also bite off the umbilical cord and eat the placenta. Eating the placenta, gives the mother oxytocin (the hormone to stimulate contractions of the uterus) allowing further contractions.
If she does not eat or break open the placenta or disengage the umbilical cord, she will need assistance or the puppy may die. You will be required to remove the sac and clean the puppies face, mouth, and nose. The umbilical cord should be tied off with thread 1-2 inches from the puppies body and cut off beyond the thread. Towel rub the puppy gently to stimulate breathing. When the puppies begin to move, place them close to the mother.
Most puppies are born at 30-60 minute intervals. After the last puppy is born, the mother will appear relaxed. She will have a vaginal discharge that will appear bloody or greenish for several days.
Problems that may occur during whelping will require either your assistance or a veterinarians care. If a puppy becomes lodged at the external opening of the birth canal, wrap a clean towel around the part of the puppy you can grasp. Gently pull the puppy in an outward and downward direction. If the pup can not be moved, call your veterinarian immediately.
If the puppy appears weak or is not breathing, hold it firmly and swing it up and down between your legs with its head down. This will help drain fluid from the lungs. To stimulate breathing, rub the puppy briskly with a towel. Blow into the puppies nose gently to help induce breathing.
We recommend having an examination by your veterinarian within 48 hours after whelping. This will insure there is no breast infection, retained placentas, or fetuses. An injection to reduce the size of the uterus will be administered
There are several diseases to look for after whelping. Uterine infections, mammary gland infections, and calcium deficiencies (eclampsia). Dark colored material will be expelled from the uterus for several days to two weeks.. This is normal. If the uterus becomes infected, the discharge will become foul smelling. Also, she may develop an elevated temperature and act depressed.
Breast infections will be evident by appearing hard , swollen, reddish-purple and painful. This will require immediate veterinary care.
Because of the increased demands of milk production and the nutritional demands of the puppies, the mother may suffer from a decreased calcium level in her body. This is called eclampsia. The clinical signs are muscle incoordination, tremors, excessive panting, and seizures. This is an emergency and must be treated by a veterinarian immediately.
Care of the puppies initially is done by the mother. The most important point to remember is keeping the room temperature no less than 70 degrees.
The puppies eyes should open at 10-14 days. At this time , you may begin to offer a mixture of a gruel of puppy food and formulated milk made for puppies.
We recommend handling the puppies as little as possible during the first 2-3 weeks of life.
As they get older and begin to wean, 3-4 weeks, give them more food on regular schedules. The weaning process should take about 2-4 weeks. This is done by gradually replacing the mothers milk with a well balanced puppy formula.
Veterinary examination of the puppies, if not done earlier, should be performed at approximately 6-7 weeks of age. They will be examined, vaccinated, and have an stool analysis for worms and be dewormed prophylactly if your veterinarian chooses.