What to think of when your dog is giving birth
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What to think of when your dog is giving birth

Giving birth is a stressful time for both mothers and owners, but in most cases goes smoothly. Here we shall discuss how to prepare as well as possible and what to expect.

Preparing for your dog’s approaching labour

It is a good idea to stock up on absorbent sheets, towels and blankets – birth is a messy process! Your dog should ideally give birth in a warm, comfortable, enclosed and secure area that she is used to. Everything needs to be clean – make sure you have gloves or hand washing facilities available. It is a good idea to know what to expect (see below) and make sure you know who to call in an emergency. 

What to expect during your dog’s labour

Stage OnePreparation (6 to 36 hours).

  • Your dog will be restless, panting and trying to nest. 
  • Small contractions start and you might see clear discharge from her private parts.

Stage TwoDelivery of puppies (usually 3 to 12 hours).

  • Strong contractions begin. Puppies are born inside a thin sac with a black/green discharge after them and a small amount of blood. 
  • The first puppy can take 2 hours or so to appear, but after that puppies are usually born at intervals of about an hour.
  • Mum will naturally lick her puppies and consume most of the afterbirth – this is normal! 
  • Mums should not be in significant discomfort or distress and should not be pushing hard without progression. 
  • If any puppies do not appear to be making noise or moving fairly quickly, it is a good idea to scoop them up in a towel and give them a firm rub to try and stimulate them. 

Stage Three – Delivery of Placentas (within a few hours)

  • Usually, the placentas (green/black afterbirth) come out after each puppy but can come out as a clump at the end. If afterbirths do not all come out then dogs can get an infection in the womb, so it is worth contacting your vet if you are concerned. 
  • Mum is usually hungry and tired at this point so provide water and a light meal!

What if something goes wrong?

Progression of labour is most important. If your dog is straining and seems uncomfortable but is not making progress (for example, if there is a long wait between puppies), something could be wrong. Equally, large amounts of unexpected discharge or blood are also not normal. If you are concerned, call your vet as soon as possible.

The next few days

Your dog should be relaxed, eating and comfortable. If she is not or shows any signs of ill health it is important to contact your vet for a check-up. She will still have small amounts of discharge and blood from her vulva, but large amounts or a bad smell are not normal.  She should be producing lots of yellow/white milk from her teats, which will make the teats swollen but should not make them very hot or painful.

Puppies are blind initially but are inquisitive and noisy! They will feed regularly from Mum and spend a lot of time asleep. If they seem quiet or are not drinking enough, contact your vet for a check-up. Weighing them regularly (once or twice a week) can be helpful too as they should always be gaining weight.

Written by veterinary Greg Steele, MRCVS.

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