Dog pregnancy and whelping

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A basic how-to-guide on Whelping and what to do for the pregnant dog.

To begin with I would like to make one thing clear before going into detail on Whelping.

Please do not let your dog get pregnant just so the kids can see puppies being born.  Take a long hard look at what is going to happen.  Puppies take a lot of work and you won’t get rich and the kids will soon forget about them.  It’s a major responsibility to take care of puppies until they are adopted out if they are adopted out.  Not all puppies go to homes so make sure you are also ready to take on the responsibility of more than one dog.  Now with that out of the way let’s begin.

Whelping is different from each breed but the basics are the same for all.  We have only had experience with Shelties (Shetland Sheepdogs).  It was a family event everyone was looking forward to it and everyone knew of the responsibility that would soon befall us.  One thing the kids were not ready for was the absolute beauty of these little lives as they entered our world.  

With Shelties and other breeds with multi-colored coats, you will be amazed at the beauty of these little treasures.  And it’s the coming out that starts the real work!  Whelping at a respectable hour when everyone is available to help if needed and no one is tired, Nah I don’t think so.  Most likely it will begin around 6 to 8 PM and last till midnight or later. Forget sleep for this night and make sure you have access to the Vets home phone if needed.  

One thing you can do before your bitch is ready to whelp is contacted your vet the week or so before and ask for any supplies that you might need to have on hand in case of any type of emergency and for any information they can give you that might help.  One particular question you should definitely ask is what to look for in case whelping is not going to happen the normal way.  In other words, when do you know it’s time to get to the vet for a C-section.  

Okay.  Now on to some more about the beauty of whelping.  How do I know when the time will be and taking temps.  To know the time you must also be sure to know when the first breeding took place.  You must know when your bitch will be in heat and this happens twice a year.  And you must also know when she is actually bred.  Usually, there is a ten-day window with the last couple of days being the best time for the bitch to actually allow the male to breed.  Once this happens we have about 56 to 60 days of waiting.  Around day 50 you can start taking temps.  We all know about that right, we do that with the wee little two-legged ones right.  Well, now it’s rectal time for the four-legged mama.  A temp under 99 degrees means that something is pretty close to happening.  

Some common things most bitches do when they are close to whelping:
·    They begin to eat less and sometimes refuse food
·    They will also start acting nervous and panting a lot
·    They will begin pushing the papers and such around in the whelping area
·    They will have watery discharge and it will have a smell to it.
·    They will begin to have contractions when they are really close.
·    They will also have false labor just like some women do.

Okay, so now she has begun labor and almost two hours have passed and nothing is happening, this is when the information from the vet comes in handy or the phone call to the emergency vet is needed.  The puppies can sometimes be too big for mama to push them out.  There could also be quite a few in there which will also tire mama out so much she can have trouble pushing.  So beware things can happen quickly that will need immediate vet attention.

As the puppies come out you must pay close attention to each one.  Each one will have a sac and that sac needs to be broken and accounted for.  Sometimes the sac can remain in the bitch and this can cause serious problems.  Other times the sac doesn’t break and mama is resting and doesn’t realize it this can cause stillbirth.  You will have to break the sac.  Get instructions from your vet as to how to handle this.

Okay, that’s about all I can really explain without going into great detail so let’s talk some about the whelping box and supplies you will need on hand.  The list I’m giving you is not a complete list your vet may request that you have other items also:
·    Plenty of newspapers shredded up and not shredded
·    Blankets
·    Rugs or some type of carpet to place under the whelping box or under the papers
·    You can build a box from cardboard or you can utilize something from the yard or garage.  Just make sure that whatever you use is big enough for the bitch to move around in without laying on the pups and easy to clean.  You will have to change the papers a number of times.
·    You should have a lot of towels that are not good
·    A heating pad or heat lamp, space heater and a vaporizer
·    A pan of water with some antibacterial soap
·    Alcohol, scissors, dental floss, q-tips, cotton balls
·    A flashlight especially if she whelps at night and you need to take her out in between to go potty.  They sometimes can drop a puppy without knowing it and it would be left outside.  So take a flashlight with to check the ground.
·    A baby scale and paper to write weights on is very important especially if you are going to sell the puppies, buyers will want this information.
·    You might also want some clippers if you have whelped before or have the experience in removing dewclaws, otherwise leave this for the vet.  It could be a disaster if you have never done this before.

Now the fun begins. Making sure they all get some of mama’s first milk and then cleaning up the whelping area and then as they grow you will soon need to take them outside to go potty.  And if you have a herding breed this can be fun because mama will not let them out of her sight and will herd them all into the area she wants them to be, not where you would like them to be.  And remember to keep them warm.

Now one more brief thing is never, never buy a puppy from a person that wants to sell you a puppy before its time.  Puppies should remain with mama till at least 8 to 10 weeks, 10 weeks is preferable because then mama has had time to help you with the necessary training and will be fully weaned.