It’s both thrilling and scary to have a pregnant dog! Here’s how to help your dog when she’s giving birth to her puppies – plus signs of problems for both mom and puppies, which means it’s time to call a veterinarian.
Before the tips, a quip:
“Happiness is a warm puppy.” ~ Charles M. Schulz.
And when the puppy had a safe, healthy birth, everyone will be all the more happy! These tips will help ensure your pregnant dog gives birth safely…
How to Help a Pregnant Dog Give Birth to Puppies
Most female dogs do not have any trouble giving birth to their puppies, but here are some tips to help ensure your dog is comfortable while she gives birth, plus what to do in case of complications or emergencies. If you are unsure about what to do or if there are serious or unnatural complications when your dog is giving birth, you should call your veterinarian immediately.
Prepare the “whelping box” – the box in which she’ll birth her puppies
About a week before your dog give birth (her due date), introduce her to the box that she will give birth in. The box should be able to comfortably accommodate her lying down and have extra room for her puppies. One side should be low to allow her to easily enter and exit the box. The box should be placed in a private, warm, and quiet area with soft towels at the bottom and plenty of fresh ones available. A guard rail a couple of inches from the floor and away from the sides of the box should be installed to prevent your dog from accidentally crushing her puppies against the sides of the box.
Note your dog’s physical changes
A few days before your dog gives birth, you will see noticeable enlargement of her mammary glands, and milk may also appear on her nipples. About 24 hours before she goes into labor, she should begin to dig and nest in her box. At this point, you should carefully trim the hair around her nipples so her puppies will be able to easily find them. Excessive hair around the vulva may also be clipped. About 12 hours before the birth, her body temperature will dip below 100 degrees fahrenheit and she will refuse to eat. As she enters labor, she will most likely seem restless, pant, strain, and even vomit. Once her water breaks, you will notice a puddle of water. Within two hours, her contractions will become more frequent and she will give birth to the first puppy.
While Your Dog is Giving Birth – the Delivery
Natural delivery of the first puppy
Your dog may give birth to her first puppy either standing up or lying down. The first puppy will usually be born head first and be covered in placental membranes, which the mother will remove with her mouth and eat, allowing the puppy to take its first breath. The mother will then bite off the umbilical cord and eat the placenta that comes out a few minutes later. Make sure that there is one placenta expelled for each puppy that comes out, as a remaining placenta may cause an infection.
Should you help your dog give birth?
If your dog does not do all the above herself, then remove the membrane sac within the first few minutes, tearing it from the puppy’s face first and then the body. Clean any mucus from the mouth and nose and help the puppy to breathe by rubbing it with a towel. Tie the umbilical cord with dental floss and cut it off 2 inches from the puppy. At this point, you should return the puppy to its mother right away so she can lick it. Dogs will naturally lick their puppies to keep them dry and warm and to improve their breathing, which they will keep doing for the first couple of weeks. Between each puppy, the mother may rest from 10 to 80 minutes. If any unborn puppies remain inside her after a few hours, call your veterinarian. If she is straining and unable to give birth to a puppy, it may be too large. You should call your veterinarian.
Nursing the puppies after giving birth
At this point, the puppy usually finds its way to the mother’s nipples to nurse. If it doesn’t, you should gently guide the puppy in the right direction. The mother’s milk provides important antibodies for the puppies which protects them from disease. Sometimes, if the litter is too large, the stronger puppies might push the weaker ones out of reach of the nipples. If this is the case, make sure that every puppy gets a chance to nurse.
Signs you should call your veterinarian, to help your dog have puppies
There are no indications of birth, and it has been 70 days since your dog mated. Your dog seems to be in extreme pain and is biting at or licking her vulva. Your dog is showing no signs of producing a puppy 12 hours after her water breaks, 24 hours after her temperature drops, or 30 minutes after the start of strong contractions. You notice an unusually large amount discharge from her vagina that smells foul or has blood in it.
To learn more about pregnant dogs, read Puppy Intensive Care: A Breeder’s Guide to Care of Newborn Puppies by Myra Savant-Harris.
When should you start training your puppies? Immediately! Read 6 Puppy Training Tips for help.
Do you have any questions or thoughts on helping your dog give birth? Please comment below…
About the author: George Castor is a budding freelance writer.
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello below - I can't give relationship advice, but writing can bring you clarity and insight.