Whelping

My bitch appears to want to hide in strange places. Is this normal?

During the last week of pregnancy the bitch often starts to look for a secure place for her confinement. Some pet bitches appear to become confused, wanting to be with their owners and at the same time wanting to prepare their nest. It is therefore a good idea to get the bitch used to the place where you want her to have her puppies well in advance of whelping. Even so, there are a number of bitches that insist on having their puppies in close proximity to the owner. This may be in the middle of the night, on your bed. Be warned!

If she does start whelping in my bedroom, what shall I do?

It will be far less stressful for all concerned, including you, the owner, to allow her to continue in her chosen place. Make sure you spread lots of old newspaper and if possible cover the carpet with a polythene sheet which is then covered by the newspaper. Remember it is normal for foetal fluids in the bitch to be coloured green. Stains from this are difficult to remove.

Once the bitch has finished whelping try gently moving her and family to your chosen place. This she should be well acquainted with prior to whelping.

If she is determined she wants to share your living space, endeavour to achieve compromise. A whelping box in a quiet corner of the living room which has been well covered with newspapers is preferable to an anxious bitch constantly leaving her puppies.

Should I be present during the whelping?

Some bitches like the owner to be with them the whole time they are in labour. Others prefer to get on with it in seclusion. Decisions can only be made at the time. The same person should the only one in contact with your dog and ideally is the person she is most used to

How will I know when my bitch is going to start?

Some bitches stop eating during the last 24 hours before labour although this is by no means universal. However if she does appear to be restless and starts bedmaking it is worthwhile contacting us just to let us know you think she is starting. These signs may last for up to 24 hours and are part of first stage labour.

Second stage labour is the stage of delivery. Your bitch will start to strain and if straining continues almost continuously for two hours and no puppy is delivered, nor any sign of a water bag, you should contact us. However most dogs experience no complications with delivery. Nevertheless first time mothers should be attended by their owners until at least one or two puppies have been born.

If there are no problems, further attendance will depend upon the bitch. As mentioned previously, some prefer you to be there.

My bitch has not had puppies before. Do you think she will be all right left?

Bitches having puppies for the first time, should be kept under surveillance until you think they have finished, just in case they get into trouble. Make sure the puppies are being cared for by the bitch, particularly if she is still in labour. Some bitches are more concerned with straining to produce the next puppy than to be bothered with those that have already been delivered. If that is the case, a small cardboard box with a bottle filled with warm, (not hot), water, wrapped in a towel on to which the puppies are placed and then covered with another towel is a useful method of ensuring they do not chill while the bitch finishes her delivery.

How long will whelping take?

Delivery times vary. Dogs with fairly slim heads such as Shelties, Collies and Dobermanns 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 labour starts again.

If your bitch 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 a couple of hours and not produced a puppy it is important that she receives veterinary help.

Should my bitch 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 often is unnoticed since it is normal for the bitch to eat them and the hormones they contain help with milk production. Sometimes a bitch will have two or three puppies and then pass several of the afterbirths together.

I have heard that some bitches will have a puppy still attached to the afterbirth and run away and leave it.

This can sometimes happen particularly in bitches with their first litter in which case it is important that you ensure the puppy's mouth and nostrils are clear of any afterbirth or membranes. Remember the puppy is born in a fluid filled sac that usually breaks during birth. If the puppy is delivered still in the sac break it as quickly as possible. Then clean the puppy's face and nostrils and then gently blow to try and get it to breathe. If the afterbirth is still intact hold the 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.

Then, holding the puppy in a towel covered hand gently rub it with the towel until the hair coat starts to dry. The puppy should then start to whimper and be breathing normally. The tongue should be pink. You can then offer it to the bitch. If she is more interested in delivering further puppies, place it in a box with a warm water bottle covered by a towel. Also cover the puppy to keep it warm.

What happens if the puppy is visible but the bitch does not produce it?

Speed is of the essence in such situations particularly if it is a posterior presentation. If the puppy is coming head first make sure that the membranes are removed from the visible part of the mouth and face. At least then when the bitch contracts the lungs will be stimulated and the puppy will get some oxygen.

If the puppy is coming backwards, speed is important otherwise it will suffocate.

What should I do?

No matter whether the puppy is coming head first of hind first, with a piece of clean tissue or clean cloth gently take hold of the puppy and apply traction at approximately 45° to the angle between the spine and the hind legs. Do not just pull when the bitch strains. Gentle traction will stimulate her to help by pressing. Once the puppy has been born, clear the membranes and then cut the cord. If the afterbirth is still inside the bitch, 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 with a towel until it starts to breathe.

If you cannot move the puppy or if it appears to be painful to the bitch, veterinary help is needed urgently.

Is it true that the puppy will die if it is not stimulated immediately after birth?

If the puppy is born within the foetal sac it will be unable to breathe and that it is why it is important that if the bitch does not break the sac, you should do so and follow the instructions given above.

Most puppies break the sac as they are born but this is not always so.

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