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1. The place where the bitch (mother dog) is to whelp should be prepared a week or so in advance, allowing her to sleep there at night and rest there during the day so that she will be well accustomed to the strange surroundings when the time comes for her to whelp. Many places may be used for whelping. It should be away from activity, noise, and other pets. Think of ease of cleaning (no carpets), and access to the outside for larger breeds.

2. A whelping box should be constructed using either plywood or sturdy cardboard packing cartons. For a medium sized bitch, a whelping box of four feet square is adequate. Make the sides high enough to prevent drafts and line the box with several thicknesses of newspapers. An old mattress pad or quilt in the corner of the box will afford an excellent bed for the puppies to lie on with their dam. The front of the box should be cut away so the bitch can enter and leave the box unaided.

3. Provide a warm place to put the puppies as they are born, such as a basket with a hot water bottle or heating pad. The puppies can later be transferred to the whelping box when the mother dog has completed giving birth. If the puppies get too hot they will "scream" and cry, and if too cold they will whimper. Make sure that you do not take the basket out of mother's sight, since this would upset her and interfere with the remainder of whelping. If the puppies are hungry, they will make "angry" cries.

4. It may be necessary, in the long haired breeds, to comb out or preferably cut the hair around the mammary glands and nipples about a week in advance. Most bitches will start to shed some hair around the nipples about 2 weeks before whelping. The underside of the mother should be gently and thoroughly washed and rinsed clean before the whelping. Any abnormal discharges such as bloody milk, or greenish yellow pus in the milk coming from the nipples and mammary glands should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian.

5. Have iodine or suitable disinfectant on had for the opened end of the umbilicus on each puppy.

Some dental floss will work to tie around the base of the cord if its bleeding. Tie a knot 1/4 to 1/2 inches from the puppy's abdomen. Plenty of clean towels and a human nasal aspirator for nasal mucus removal are also handy to have. An accurate way to weigh the puppies is essential. You may need a gram scale for smaller breeds, dams under 20 pounds. A milk supplement and bottle feeder may be needed.

6. Smaller breeds will definitely need a heat source in the whelping box. Covered heating pads work best. Be careful of heat lamps. Some gradient of heat should be provided, so the pups and dam can move to their own comfort zone.

7. Prior abdominal radiographs of the dam during her 8th week will help at birthing to determine the end point and exactly what to expect. This is especially helpful for first time owners. Ultrasouding is not as accurate especially in large litters.

8. Have emergency phone numbers handy for regular and after hours handy.

9. It is assumed that with the breeding of this pregnancy, consideration of the parents genetic contributions, venereal disease transmissions, and recent deparasitizing and immunizations just prior to insemination took place in the bitch. If these were not taken into account, let your doctor know. Puppies may be at risk of diseases unnecessarily.


There may be a pre-labor period 8 to 24 hours in duration. The following signs may be seen during the pre-labor period, indicating the approaching whelping.

1. The bitch becomes restless, getting up, lying down, and changing her position frequently. She may vomit from nervousness.

2. She may paw and scratch at her bedding as if she were preparing a nest. She may tear newspaper up into little pieces in her attempt to make a nest.

3. Lack of interest in even the most tempting food is usually a sure sign that whelping is approaching.

4. Rectal temperature, taken with a rectal thermometer, will fall below 990 twelve hours or less prior to whelping. If' you start taking the bitch's temperature twice a day after the 59th or 60th day of gestation, her temperature will begin to decrease from a normal of 1010-1020 to 990-1000. When it finally goes below 990, she will start giving birth within 12 hours.

5. Milk can be expressed from the nipple near or at the time of birth in those bitches having their first litter and about 4 days prior to whelping in those bitches which have had one or more litters previously.



Most bitches will whelp alone and without assistance, needing only supervision by you to see that all is going well. If you bother the bitch too much or interfere you will make her nervous. Be ready to help her or seek help when labor begins if any abnormalities should develop. When in labor, you will see her begin to undergo contractions; she may lie on her side and strain or stand in a "urination stance" (squatting as if to urinate) as she strains. YOU SHOULD TAKE ACTION IF YOU SEE:



These situations may develop during any phase of the birthing period. Before you panic and call, wash your dominant hand well with good soap and water, and try to determine if and what is present vaginally. Having someone muzzle the dam and holding her will reduce the risk of fear or pain bites. Gently ascend a finger or two vaginally and determine if there is something already committed vaginally. If so delays in the delivery may damage the fetus, so try to help the dam pull it out if you can grasp a puppy body part. Try this before calling, you may just save a pup from brain damage or even death Packing up and travel to an emergency visit takes precious time.


1. Abdominal straining in the urination stance if lying on her side.

2. Appearance of the "water bag" at the vulva. (The bag is part of the placenta).

3. With continued straining the "water bag" should be forced out within 15 minutes. The puppy will be contained within this membranous sac. The mother should chew the membranes from around the newborn puppy and free it from the sac. She should then bite the umbilical cord in half and lick the puppy dry. This will stimulate the puppy to breathe and cry. She may then eat the membranous sac. (placenta) These membranes will not harm her, but don't allow her to eat more than one or two of the placenta since they may cause some indigestion. Some mothers fail to break the sac and free the puppy. If so, you should help her to break the sac and free the puppy and encourage her to lick the puppy. If she fails to lick the newborn pup, you should gently but vigorously rub the puppy with a rough towel until it starts breathing and crying. Then, sever the umbilical cord about 1/2 inches from the puppy's abdomen with a clean scissors. It is better to "crush" the cord in half rather than a clean cut. You should tie clean thread around the end of the cut cord to prevent bleeding. The cord will shrink up as it dries and will fall off in a few days. (Make sure you have left the cord at least 1/2 inches long) Keep a bottle of alcohol handy for rinsing the scissors before use. A shallow dish of Iodine or bactine solution can be used to dip the end of the umbilical cord after you have tied it.

4. Afterbirth (placenta) should follow each pup within 5 to 15 minutes. Keep a count of the number of afterbirths. Not every puppy is followed by it's placenta, and you may have placentas retained that will be a part of the post delivery discharge. This and breech birthing is normal in the bitch. This can last up to 4 weeks and be normal. Don't allow the mother to eat more than one or two afterbirths since she may get indigestion and diarrhea if allowed to do so.

5. Another puppy should follow in 1 to 2 hours. If the mother continues to strain and have contractions for more then 2 hours without giving birth to another puppy, CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN.

After the puppy has been dried, umbilical cord severed, (and tied if you severed the cord) encourage the mother to lick her puppy, but she may be disinterested in her puppies until she is through giving birth to all her puppies. Then, place the puppy in the small box or basket containing the heating pad or hot water bottle that your have prepared before hand. Make sure the heating pad is not too warm and cover it with some towels. It is not necessary that the puppies nurse until the mother dog has completed whelping all her puppies. (unless complications develop during whelping)

6. After the mother has completed whelping she will lie down and rest with no further straining or contractions. Then, take her out of the whelping box and allow her to urinate outside. Return her to the whelping box and give her the puppies to nurse.

7. The mother should be examined within 24 to 48 hours after whelping and given a Posterior pituitary extract (P.O.P.) injection.

8. In breeds that require tail docking and dewclaw removal, 4 or 5 days of age is the recommended time for this procedure.

  IV Post Whelping Chores

There are two common killers of new born puppies: Lack of heat, and lack of groceries! If you find puppies restless, sucking at everything they can for long time periods, crying or fussing all the time, cold to the touch or lethargic, or rejected by the dam you must make sure these two things are fullfilled. Place a thermometer rectally, it should be close to 97 F no cooler. Puppies should be warmed to close to 100F if failing for any reason, and kept there for the first week. Healthy pups at 97F to 100F can be normal the first week and left normally. Once body temperature is taken care of you must be certain that weight gain is occurring. WEIGH THE PUPPIES ACCURATELY and in large litters identify the puppies with a marking system that the bitch can't lick off. Check the mother's nipples and breast for milk. If its not adequate to satisfy complaining puppies or registering a weight gain, you must supplement. There little bellies should be full looking. Supplement and bottles can be purchased in good pet shops.

  1. Determine the happiness of each pup hourly. The first eighteen hours are the most critical.
  2. Weigh the pups often the first few days especially.
  3. Determine slower puppies rectal temperatures often.
  4. Leave the dam alone to work. If you interfere too much it's counterproductive.
  5. Check the dam's mammary glands daily for signs of mastitis. They should be soft.
  6. Puppies need to be stimulated to urinate and defecate. If the mother is not, do so.
  7. Check the pups for congenital defects cleft pallets, abnormal extremities, etc.

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