Dog giving birth: sixty three days have passed since your dog has been bred and you think the big day has come. Your dam has reported the typical rectal temperature drop of 99.0 or lower. She has also lost her appetite, appears restless and has started the nesting behavior; basically looking for a good spot to give birth. You kindly remind her of the nice whelping box you have so carefully created for her comfort and the comfort of her babies.
Most births luckily are uneventful. Nature takes its course and your dam and puppies will likely be just fine. Many times no human intervention is necessary, however, staying besides your dam will be helpful. By staying near by you will be available there to assist her should she need help and you will be able to recognize promptly signs of something going wrong. Remember also to keep your vet’s number handy should you need to ask any questions or alert your vet that you are bringing your dog in as an emergency.
The dam will have involuntary contractions that may last from 6 to 12 hours. These contractions may cause your dog to appear restless but this is a normal process. Later the contractions will be more forceful, your dog will appear anxious and may even pant and vomit. She may also repeatedly lick her vulva. But nothing worrisome, this is still considered normal.
The dam may then start straining or may lay down pushing. Shortly, you may see a bag showing out from her vagina. This is the water bag, in some cases this bag ruptures before the puppy is actually born. When this happens, a typical straw colored fluid will be secreted.
After the water bag breaks the puppy should follow. Most puppies are born in a diving position. Dark green fluid may be passed after the puppy exits the birth canal.
Mommy at this point will take care of cleaning up, she will remove the fetal membranes and the secretions from the puppy’s nose and mouth allowing the pup to breath freely.
Finally, the umbilical cord is bitten off.
The dam may now expel the placenta. This takes place after each puppy is born. Some dams may ingest the placenta. This is an old instinct to remove any evidence of birth that may attract predators.
The next puppy should appear usually from 15 minutes to 2 hours later. You should see first signs of straining resume within 5-30 minutes after the precedent puppy.
Once done, the dam may exhibit a bloody or dark green discharge for the first few days following birth.
Things you can do at Home to Assist:
- You can disinfect the umbilical cord with iodine, this will prevent infection. Should the umbilical cord be still bleeding you may want to clamp it or tie it with thread to stop the bleeding.
- You can help remove the amniotic sac from around a puppy should your dam be still busy with another pup. Simply tear the sac open and remove. Do this within 30 seconds after birth. This will allow the puppy to breath.
- You may help remove the secretions from the nose and mouth with a cotton swab or with a special suction device or you may turn the puppy gently upside down supporting his head and allowing the secretions to drop out with gravity.
- You can rub the pup shortly after birth with a soft towel after the secretions are cleaned off. This mimics the mom’s licking.
- You may want to remove some of the placentas if your dam is ingesting too many. In excess they may cause diarrhea.
- You may want to count the placentas after the birthing process is done. There should be one per pup. Should you miss and you know the dam has not eaten it you will need your vet to give an oxytocin injection to help her expel it.
- You may want to place the pups while the dam gives birth in a nice warm box, so they will stay warm and the dam avoids accidentally laying on them as she continues to give birth.
- You may place the pups near the nipples to start feeding during the interval between births.
- You may lubricate the birth canal with K-Y jelly should she seem like having difficulty delivering a puppy. The pup may be stuck in the birth canal.
- You may help deliver the puppy by gently gripping the puppy’s skin behind his neck with a cloth. You may also rotate the pup one way and then the other to help the puppy be expelled.
Signs of an Abnormal Delivery
There are various signs that may indicate trouble. A physical blockage takes place when a puppy is too large or it is positioned incorrectly, such as rump first. A mom may also have a narrow birth canal, a tumor or a fractured pelvis that makes delivery difficult.
Straining actively for about 30-60 minutes without a puppy may indicate this sort of problem. A veterinarian may be needed to correct the position or perform a C section.
A vet should be called should the dog:
- Strain for 30-60 minutes without producing a puppy suggesting an obstruction
- Refrain from producing puppies within an hour, yet you know she has more inside suggesting uterine inertia
- Expel a purulent or bloody vaginal discharge suggesting a hemorrhage or uterine rupture
- Expel a dark green fluid BEFORE the first puppy is born suggesting premature placental separation
- Exhibit muscle weakness, tremors, spasms, muscle rigidity or seizures suggesting eclampsia
- Exhibit signs of shock, pale gums, severe abdominal pain, drop in temperature suggesting uterine torsion
Most births go pretty smoothly. Many times an owner concerned about their dog having puppies for the the first time, will wake up in the morning only to find mommy with her new born puppies in the whelping box doing just fine.
Usually it is best not to intervene, so to allow the puppies and mom to bond together. However, in cases where mom appears to be struggling, a little help will not hurt.
Being prepared and knowing what suggests trouble, is almost like going half way through the process, the rest then is left to your dam and the miracle of birth provided by nature.
For Further Reading: Dangers of Low Calcium in Dogs After Giving Birth