The mother-to-be should begin to get used to the place where she is going to give birth about two weeks before her due date. She will need a heated, spacious place where she can lie down with her legs stretched out and move around comfortably. It should be easily washable, as it will be very dirty after the birth and the puppies will do their business there.
What is the birth of a dog like?
Preparation of the dog whelping area
Generally, a wooden pen is built to allow her to pass through but to keep the puppies enclosed. The height of the walls should be approximately the length of the mother’s legs; she should be able to pass over them without hurting her breasts, which will be enlarged during the nursing period.
The bottom of the pen is covered with newspaper for the delivery of the dogs. Afterwards if you prefer, towels, blankets or any clean cloth can be used. For very large breeds it is necessary to add a bar or shelf along all the inside walls of the pen to prevent the mother from crushing the puppies. It should be of sufficient height and width so that the puppies can crawl underneath to escape the weight of the mother’s body.
First stage of dog whelping
The cervix dilates, there are small contractions that are not normally perceived by the owners. The bitch is restless, panting and trembling. She may vomit. Some mothers prefer company and others want to be alone, respect their wishes at this time. This stage can last between 6 and 12 hours, or a little longer in first-time bitches.
Contractions to expel the puppies begin. Inexperienced bitches may mistake this for urination or defecation. As the contractions become stronger the bitch will lie on her side and push, licking her vulva frequently. She may whimper or even yelp and pant rapidly between contractions.
The bag of water first emerges from the vulva. It either ruptures on its own or is ruptured by the bitch and releases fluid. Then comes the puppy, wrapped in the amniotic sac (either the head or the tail may appear first, it is indistinct), once the first part comes out, the rest of the body slides out quickly. Then the mother breaks the sac, licks the newborn vigorously and bites the umbilical cord. This whole process lasts between 15 minutes and an hour (the amniotic sac must be broken as soon as the puppy is born so that it does not drown).
It is the expulsion of the placenta, which is often ingested by the mother. This can be delayed until after the birth of the next puppy, and this is perfectly normal. However, you must pay attention so that none is retained once all the babies have been born.
After each expulsion the mother rests and relaxes, as if everything is over. In these lapses it is necessary to let the puppies feed, as this stimulates more contractions. The interval between births is very variable, from 15 minutes to 3 hours. The complete delivery, therefore, can last up to 24 hours. There is no need to intervene or worry unless the bitch pushes without results or has obvious discomfort.
Assisting a normal dog delivery
It is better not to intervene if everything is fine, but it is advisable to be close by in case it is necessary and to accompany the bitch, especially if she is a first time bitch. If a puppy gets stuck in the birth canal, it should be removed as soon as possible; take it firmly but gently by the body and pull it in the direction of the mother’s hocks (downwards, following the direction of the vagina) until it comes out.
Sometimes the mother does not take care of the newborn; in this case you should break the amniotic sac and rub the puppy vigorously with a towel until it starts to breathe, once it does, return it to the mother to be licked. Similarly, if she does not cut the umbilical cord within ten minutes of the birth, you should do it yourself. Make a ligature 2.5 cm from the body with a cotton thread, taking care not to pull the cord so as not to hurt the abdominal wall. Then cut the cord on the placental side with clean scissors. As soon as you are done, return it to the mother for nursing. If the bitch ignores the babies, you will have to take care of the feeding.
Problems during dog birthing
Always consult your veterinarian before delivery, as there are bitches in risk groups and breeds that are predisposed to have problems and in these cases he/she may advise you to perform a cesarean section. In a normal whelping you should be concerned if the bitch has strong contractions for 3 to 4 hours and fails to expel any puppies; if the whelping is interrupted and the bitch appears weak or sick or if you observe a dark green vaginal discharge that is not followed by the birth of a puppy.
This color is normal, but if the puppy is not born right away, it may be trapped in the birth canal and will choke to death, as well as impede the passage of other puppies. In these cases you should consult a veterinarian quickly, as the life of the mother and puppies may be at risk.
Days prior to whelping dogs
Check with your veterinarian to find out if your dog needs an ultrasound prior to whelping. Also find out if you can call him/her in case of difficulties during whelping; if this is not possible, ask him/her who to call. Approximately one day before whelping, the bitch’s rectal temperature drops by one degree. You can start taking her temperature twice a day a few days beforehand to know the normal fluctuations and to be able to detect when whelping will occur.
Prepare the items you might need: a cotton thread and scissors for tying and cutting the umbilical cord and clean towels for rubbing and drying the puppies. Signs that the time of parturition is approaching in dogs are a loss of appetite since 2 or 3 days before, a small enlargement of the vulva or a slight vaginal discharge. Some bitches begin to pile up material as if to prepare their nest. Sometimes milk production or a clear discharge from the breasts is observed. These signs are not present in all bitches.
Stages of gestation of a dog
A dog’s pregnancy can last between 60 and 63 days approximately. During this time there are changes that you will be able to notice so you will be able to identify if something is wrong, and in that case go as soon as possible to a veterinarian.
During the first few days you will notice a change in her behavior. The bitch will not want to play and will be more tired than usual. Vomiting is common in the first phase of gestation. You will also feel that she is more affectionate and cuddly, but mostly with the family, as she will be distant with the male dogs. In addition, she will not have an appetite, so you must offer your dog the correct food for her nutritional needs. From the 25th day of gestation, the veterinarian will be able to check the bitch regularly to know how many pups she will have.
- From day 35 the bitch will gain weight and may reach up to 50% more than her usual weight.
- From day 40 you will notice a swollen belly.
- 10 to 15 days before whelping, the mother will look for a corner of the home to be safe, quiet and protected with her puppies.
You should know that the changes are not very visible in first-time mothers and in bitches that are pregnant with a small litter.
Frequently asked questions about giving birth to a dog
My dog is whelping and has a bag hanging down, should I be worried?
Do not worry, as this sac is the placenta and the bitch will expel it little by little. However, if she cannot expel the sac, she will need your help, so you will have to break it yourself. You should put on some gloves and gauze pads to help her, but you should only do this when contractions occur. If the situation becomes complicated you should contact an emergency veterinarian.
Is it normal for my dog to tremble before whelping?
It is totally logical and normal, since during labor the bitches feel a lot of nervousness and are therefore restless and uneasy.
What is that green liquid before the birth of a dog?
In principle, you don’t have to worry. That green fluid means that the placenta has separated, so the calf will be born soon. In many cases it depends on the breed of dog, but if your dog has expelled the green liquid, about four hours have passed and labor has not yet begun, you should call your veterinarian. The green secretions may come out before or after delivery, and the fluid may appear at times when the mother is resting.