Delivering Puppies

Kelly Roper
Newborn pup
Signs your dog is ready to give birth...

Delivering puppies can be fascinating, fun and frightening all at the same time. Once you read this article, you'll be better prepared for the task.

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 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.


Bitch's Accommodations

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 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.

Supply List

Here is a list of 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 time of birth and keep track of amount of time between births
  • Your vet and emergency clinic phone numbers

Optional items

  • A small food scale suitable for weighing puppies and keeping track of their development
  • Latex gloves

Delivery Time

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.

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.

Assist Delivering Puppies

You should definitely assist when a puppy appears to be stuck. Rub a little 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.

When a C-Section May Be Necessary

A C-section may be necessary when:

  • The bitch has been pushing hard for an hour with no results.
  • A puppy presents rear end first and the head is too large to clear the pelvic bones.
  • There has been more than two hours between births, but you can still feel puppies inside.

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Delivering Puppies