What to do when your dog is giving birth? You have her healthy, fit and now it is time for the whelping to begin. Here are a few tips that I found helpful when our girl Piper had her litter.
Puppies are generally born 12-24 hours after her water breaks
Once the first puppy is out, the rest should emerge with 20-30 minute intervals.
If she takes longer than an hour between puppies, consult your veterinarian for advice. She is most probably fine but you don’t want to risk losing her or any of the puppies.
If the female is old (more than 6) she can sometimes give birth to a puppy a day later.
Once all the puppies are born, (this can take anywhere from a couple of hours to all night depending on how many she has) do a head-count.
This is very important. If there are a lot of puppies (in our case 11) it is easy to lose track of how many there are. You don’t want any escaping and getting lost.
Over the next 8 weeks there will be a lot of counting.
Once the puppies are all out and she is nursing comfortably, give her some room. She will want some alone time with them to bond. If she gave birth outside the whelping box, gently and quickly move them back to the box.
This is where they will live for the duration and it is best to get them there and settled as soon as possible.
Only intervene if necessary
It is best to leave her alone and let her do it herself, dogs have been having litters for eons and instinctively know what to do. This will reduce her stress levels as she will be protective of her puppies and worried you will take them.
However, if it is her first litter and you are like I was, you will want to be there to supervise. This is fine, she can use the emotional support, just stay quiet and intervene only if necessary. Tell her often that she is a good girl and once the puppies are all born how clever she is. It can be very bewildering for a dog and a little positive reinforcement goes a long way.
You may need to help her with birthing the puppies
Sometimes a first-time mother can be shocked when her puppy comes out. She wonders where it has come from and what to do. If the sack doesn’t break by itself, you will need to break it open. You will need to open the sack enough to get its head out so that the puppy can breathe, but that is all.
Don’t remove any of the sack, it is important for her to do it herself for bonding purposes. After delivering the puppy, the mother might eat the afterbirth which is part of the sack. While it is not a pleasant sight for us, it is normal for her. She will want a clean area and there are a lot of nutrients in the afterbirth.
Cutting the cord
Often (especially with first-time mothers) she doesn’t remove the sack herself. Normally the mother will lick the puppy and eat the afterbirth, which will in turn cut the umbilical cord.
If you need to help her, gently remove the puppy from the sack, wait 30 seconds and cut or tear the cord. The reason it is necessary to wait 30 seconds before cutting or tearing the cord, is to allow time for the blood to flow from the sack back into the puppy’s body.
It is better to tear the cord with your nails if possible, leaving a jagged cut as this seals the umbilical cord, minimizing any bleeding.
If you use scissors, make sure they are sharp and sanitized.
Hemostats can be useful to stop the bleeding. I didn’t have a need for them.
Piper’s puppies came out in really strong sacks so we had to use scissors to open them and cut the cords.
The cord should be trimmed to around half an inch / 12mm in length.
Remember to leave some goop on the puppy, the mother needs to lick it clean herself for bonding purposes.
Encourage her to lick the puppy shortly after it is born
This is important, as the puppy can’t afford to get cold. Being wet, its little body will cool down quickly. Not only can the puppy die, but she won’t accept it as her own if it is cold.
The aim is to get her licking the puppy within 2 minutes of the birth. It is ideal to have the mother nursing them in between births, but don’t worry too much if she doesn’t.
All dogs behave differently, some suckle the pups between births, others wait until they are all out. If she doesn’t nurse them in between, move the puppies close to her body for warmth. This will encourage her to nuzzle them, speeding up the bonding process. Once she has had the first one or two, has them clean and nursing, she will be fine to do the same with the rest.
Don’t handle the puppies to begin with
Yes they are cute and you will want a cuddle but the mother will be very protective of her new litter. She may even cover them with her body so you can’t touch them. If you handle them she will become very upset and you will change their scent. Scent is everything to a dog, it’s how she tells them apart and even senses danger.
It will be hard not touching the little ones, who doesn’t find a puppy adorable? But it truly is for the best. After a week or two, depending on your dog, you will be able to hold them for very short amounts of time. Piper wouldn’t let me touch them for 2 weeks and then only for 5 seconds at a time, limited to 1 puppy. It made it extremely hard to find out how many boys and how many girls she had.
If you push the issue before she is ready, you run the risk of her moving the puppies elsewhere. Patience and knowing your dogs’ behavior will help you to recognize if she is stressed.
Once the puppies reach 6 weeks of age she will be happy for you to babysit while she takes a break and by week 8 is more than ready for them to leave for their new homes.
Birthing puppies can be stressful, more so for the owner than the dog. Keeping as calm as possible is beneficial as she will feel your tension. This is easier said than done, but remember, if you are freaking out, so will she.
Why a whelping pen with pig rails is beneficial for a first-time mother
Puppies are often lost within the first week or two. There are many reasons they might die. The most common is they get squashed, especially if it’s a first-time mother. A whelping pen with pig rails will help to prevent that. Buy or Diy article
The pig rails line the whelping box, preventing the mother from resting against the side of the box, and creates a little shelf the puppies can scoot under to avoid being smothered.
We lost 3 puppies in the first 2 weeks. It is devastating but no matter what you do, it is impossible to watch them 24/7. All you can do is regularly check on them and hope for the best.
We were left with 11 beautiful babies which were a handful for Piper but she did really well. Having her fit and well-fed helped a great deal.
There is a lot to know when your dog has puppies, but if you remain calm and prepare in advance, it can be an exciting and memorable time.
Keep your veterinarians number handy in case of an emergency but most of all, enjoy the experience!