Be prepared for whelping

The act of giving birth to young ones in dogs is known as whelping. Here’s how you can help your mother dog bring these tiny bundles of joy into this world.

Pre-whelping preparations

  • Speak to your vet for a pre-whelping examination and consultation. He can provide the last minute advice and it would be better for the mother dog to become familiar with him if she needs assistance during whelping.
  • Keep whelping quarters ready 10 days before the date of whelping to make the mother dog accustomed to the new area and ensure that the place is warm, dry, quite and private.
  • The whelping box should be double size of the dog and it should be lined with newspapers, which can be changed easily, removed comfortably when it becomes soiled.
  • The box should be free from debris and in a sanitary condition and the newspapers used should be replaced with non-skid bath mats or something that should be comfortable for better footing to the newborn pups.
  • A heating pad to maintain the temperature of 70-72ºF is required.

Preparing the mother dog for whelping

  • Few days before whelping, give the mother dog a good bath.
  • She should be free from skin disease which might be transmitted to pups.
  • l One week before whelping, clean her teeth and gums every other day to reduce the chances of naval infection in the newborn puppies.
  • Give physical and emotional comfort that she will need during this period.
  • Do not allow her to jump over object as it can cause a misplacement (or) wrong positioning of the foetus.
  • If she wants to be picked up, she should not be picked up in the middle (abdomen), but by placing one hand between her foreleg and one under her hind quarters.
  • Normal exercise is desirable to maintain the tone of the muscle and to keep the bowel functioning normally, but avoid car rides as hitting bumps (speed breakers) may cause premature labour pain.
  • During pregnancy the mother dog should be given a dose of milk of magnesia once a week to ensure regular bowel movements.
  • Add one teaspoon full of soda bicarbonate in drinking water during the last half of her gestation period to keep excessive acidity out of her system.

Items to be kept ready before whelping begins

  • Good supply of clean water.
  • Clean towels for drying the puppies and to grasp them to relieve the puppy in case of dystocia.
  • Hot soapy water (to clean the dam after whelping is over).
  • A pair of scissors, thread (or) dental floss for cutting off umbilical cords.
  • Boric acid powder, alum powder (or) any antiseptic powder (or) antiseptic solution.
  • Medicine dropper to suck out fluid from nostrils and mouth of puppy.
  • Heating pad to keep the puppies warm.

Do’s & Don’ts…

  • Normal body temperature is 100 to 102OF, within 24 hours, it might begin to drop to 99OF, then the puppies will born within 24 hours, for this check the temperature of the mother dog one week to 10 days before the expected date of whelping.
    Pic courtesy: White Knight Kennels
  • Let the dog lie on her side for about 12 hours as her uterus will be contracting in this period and the puppies inside get into positions for birth.
  • Check the dog wants something to eat. Usually mother dogs refuse to eat 12 hours before whelping. But some do eat right upto labour pain.
  • If she is eating normally, seems lively and has no off colour discharge such as black, brown (or) green, there is nothing to worry about. Clear discharge signifies a normal delivery.
  • In case the discharge is of black, green or brown, it’s the sign of dystocia, call your vet immediately.
  • Foetal head is delivered first then rest of the puppy slides out easily. Instantly, the mother removes foetal membranes, severs the umbilical cord and begins to lick and clean the puppies. Do not interfere with maternal care. This is an important part of the mother-puppy bond. She is learning that this is her puppy and she must take care of it. If she appears rough, it is only to stimulate breathing and blood circulation.
  • If the dam forgets to tear open the bag, we have to step in to break the amniotic bag.
  • When the second puppy is ready to appear, remove the first puppy to another box to allow her to concentrate the next birth.
  • Placental deliveries usually occur following delivery of every 1 to 2 puppies.
  • A placenta follows in a few minutes the birth of each puppy. The dam will try to eat some placentas; here important thing is to count the placentas since retention of placentas cause serious postnatal infection.
  • Normally all the puppies should be delivered within 10 minutes to 2 hour interval.
  • The placenta which normally follows after each birth is expelled by the mother dog within 15 minutes after each pup is born.
  • Water should be presented to her in whelping box.
  • After the delivery of her last puppy, clean her so that the pups are not exposed to any soiled materials that could upset their digestion. Then put the pups close to her so that they can begin nursing.
  • The mother dog severs the umbilical cords by shredding it. If the cord is cut too closely to the puppies naval, it may continue to bleed.
  • You should be prepared to clamp (or) pinch off the cord and tie a thread around the stump. The stump should be cauterised with iodine (or) or some other suitable antibiotics.

Time to seek a vet…

The following are common signs that might help pet parents/veterinarians to recognise an animal with dystokia:

  • Prolonged gestation.
  • No active stage within 24 hours of temperature drop below 100ºF.
  • Visible abdominal contraction for 30 minutes (or) more without passage of foetus.
  • Visible foetal membrane for 15 minutes (or) longer.
  • Weak and non-productive abdominal contraction for four hours after onset of 2nd stage labour.
  • More than three hours between puppies without signs of labour.
  • Abnormal discharge (foul smelling, purulent, green, without delivery of puppy).
  • Crying or biting of flanks or vulval area, with repeated attempts to urinate.

If you notice any of these, seek urgent attention by a veterinarian.

(Dr Khaja Mohteshamuddin is Veterinary Officer at Department of Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Services, Government of Karnataka, Bidar).