Delivering puppies can be fascinating, fun and frightening all at the same time. If you've never helped a dog deliver a litter before, learning all the steps will make the process much less stressful for you and your dog.
About Delivering Puppies
There are few things in life that compare with seeing a new puppy make its way out of its mother and into the world. The moment is filled with joy, as well as a fear that something might go wrong, but once you understand the entire process, it's easier to relax and let nature take its course.
For the most part, the bitch does all the work, and will simply rely on you for a little comfort and encouragement throughout the entire whelping. That said, it's always best to interfere as little as possible, but your assistance is sometimes required.
The first thing you should have ready before delivering puppies is a clean, comfortable and secure place for your bitch to whelp. This spot should be in a quiet area well away from household traffic. Keeping your bitch calm and focused is essential for smooth whelping. You might choose to use:
- A professional whelping box purchased online
- A DIY whelping box that you have built
- A cardboard box with a section cut away for easy in and out access
- A large plastic storage container with sides low enough to accommodate your bitch
- A small children's swimming pool
Whatever you choose to use, line your box well with newspapers so your bitch has something to shred for nesting before delivering puppies.
Here is a list of whelping supplies to have on hand. Make sure that everything is immaculately clean to keep germs to a minimum as you're delivering puppies. Sterilize items whenever practical.
- A small plastic container lined with paper and a baby blanket to use as a warming box for the pups until mom is finished delivering
- A warm water bottle or heating pad set on low to set the puppy box on
- A light baby blanket to drape over the box to cut drafts
- Plenty of clean hand towels to help dry or grasp wiggly pups
- Extra newspapers to layer over wet ones until the delivery is concluded
- Sterilized round tip scissors for cutting cords
- An unopened package of thread for tying off leaky cords
- A jar of petroleum or KY jelly to help lubricate a stuck puppy
- Paper and pencil to note the time of birth and keep track of the amount of time between births
- Your vet and emergency clinic phone numbers
Optional items include:
- A small food scale suitable for weighing puppies and keeping track of their development
- Latex gloves
Dog Birth Video
It helps to view an actual birth beforehand so you're not unaware of what it looks like when the time comes.
There are several signs that a dog is ready to give birth. Once your bitch is truly in labor, you'll notice that she begins to push intermittently, and then more constantly as the first puppy makes it way through the canal. If your dog is ready to go into labor but has not and is passed the normal 60 day period, discuss with your veterinarian. He or she can prescribe oxytocin which can make labor come faster in a dog.
What That First Puppy Looks Like
The look of that first puppy is not what most people expect to see. The first thing to emerge from the bitch's vulva is a dark bubble that fills with amniotic fluid. It's extremely important that you do not break this bubble yourself because it is assisting with loosening the vulva for the puppy's escape. The puppy will also suffocate if the sac is breached and the pup remains in the birth canal too long.
Breaking the Amniotic Sac
Once the puppy has cleared the vulva, the placenta may also come out after the pup, but this is sometimes retained within the bitch until she delivers it with a few more contractions. Don't be in too much of a rush at this point, but be prepared to break the sac within a few moments if the bitch shows no instincts to do this herself.
To break the sac, rip open a loose section near the puppy's neck and slide the sac away from the pup's head. Wipe the nostrils and mouth free of mucous and give the bitch a few more moments.
Once the placenta is delivered, your bitch should take over. Sometimes she has adequate time to clean the pup herself and rough it around the box a bit to get the lungs properly working. Other times, the next pup is in a hurry to be born, and you will need to assist the first pup. It's also alright to let her eat a few placentas if she wants to.
Clearing Fluid from the Lungs
While the pup is still attached to its cord, thoroughly rub it with a towel to dry it a bit. This also assists with expelling fluid from the lungs. Facing it away from you, tilt the puppy completely head up to lower the diaphragm, and then completely tilt the puppy head downward to fully expel any remaining liquid from its airways.
Clipping and Tying the Cord
If mom didn't chew the cord from the sac herself, pinch the cord between your thumb and finger about 1 1/2 inches away from the tummy and use your scissors to cut the cord on the opposite side of your thumb. If it continues to bleed, tie a section of thread around it as a makeshift tourniquet about 3/4 of an inch away from the tummy. Either let mom spend some time with the pup or put it in the warm box for safekeeping.
Caution: Pulling on the cord could result in an umbilical hernia.
Timing for All the Puppies
Once the first puppy has been delivered, the second should come out as little as 15 minutes later and as much as two hours. The dam will likely be showing labor pains during this time. The rest of the puppies will come out in the same general time interval. Dog delivery time can vary based on breed and size and also the health of the mother. It can take several hours and while you may want to know how to help your dog give birth faster, other than assisting her and make her comfortable, you'll have to let the process take the time she needs. If it is taken more than two hours between puppies, contact your veterinarian who may prescribe oxytocin to move her labor along.
Assist Delivering Puppies
You should definitely assist when a puppy appears to be stuck. Rub a little KY jelly around the vulva, grasp the pup carefully but firmly with a towel and pull out and downward only when your bitch has a contraction. Before you do this, you should be sure the puppy really is stuck, as often the mom may just be taking a rest before straining again. If it's been more than two hours, then the next puppy is likely stuck and you should contact your veterinarian before proceeding to help her.
When a C-Section May Be Necessary
A C-section and veterinary intervention may be necessary when:
- The bitch has been pushing hard for an hour with no results.
- There is a vaginal discharge that is a red color and has a bad odor.
- The mother becomes ill and weak and starts vomiting.
- A puppy presents rear end first, and the head is too large to clear the pelvic bones, in which case the puppies are too big to deliver on her own
- There has been more than two hours between births, but you can still feel puppies inside.
- Depending on the breed, she may have to deliver by C-section and not naturally.
Delivering Puppies at Home
Watching puppies come into the world can be an amazing experience, but only if you're equipped with the knowledge to help your dog. Even the healthiest dog can experience problems during labor and is relying on you to assist her in this special time.