How to prepare your pregnant dog for whelping

Whelping is the physical act of birthing puppies and from the date you find out your dog is expecting, it’s important to estimate her due date.

During the gestation period, which can range from 57 to 65 days, you should prepare everything you need for the birth, including a whelping box.

At what age can my dog become pregnant?

Female dogs come into season from the time they turn six months, or later on for larger dog breeds. This means a dog is fertile and will normally attract males for mating.

How to tell if your dog is pregnant 

The way to find out whether your dog is pregnant is to contact your vet about four to five weeks from the time of conception to arrange a check-up. If she’s relaxed, the vet might be able to feel small lumps the size of table tennis balls in her womb. You can also have her scanned (around 25-30 days) to confirm whether she is pregnant or not.

Bear in mind, a scan just gives you a cross-section at any point, and for this reason, it’s not possible to know exactly how many puppies there are.

Her belly may also swell as it would during a woman’s pregnancy, but if your dog is carrying a small litter or she has a well-muscled tummy it may be difficult to tell just by looking at her.

How long are dogs pregnant?

Dogs are pregnant for an average of 63 days. The date is not from when she is mated but when she ovulated. Canine semen can remain in the womb for up to seven days, and because of this, it can be difficult to know the due date for sure, but you can prepare for it. With the variation in dog sizes, it is hard to tell how far along the pregnancy is.

How will I know when my dog has gone into labour?

The first stage of labour is nesting, you might notice your dog preparing the spot she’s picked to give birth to her puppies. She might appear restless for the first 24 hours and her body temperature will drop. She might also refuse food and have clear/watery vaginal discharge.

What should you expect?

Birth is a natural process, it might be quite daunting but there are things you should expect to see when it comes to your dog whelping. Here are some things that are completely normal to see from your dog:

  • Laying on her side straining and yelping
  • Puppies will come out of the birth canal in a small sac of fluid that will break
  • After the puppy has been delivered, mum will bite the umbilical cord and the placenta will normally follow within 15 minutes
  • Mothers will automatically eat the placenta to regain the nutrients lost from the birth, this allows them to regain their strength ready to deliver the next puppies. It’s best not to interfere with this, even if makes the mum sick, she will stop when she’s had enough
  • It’s normal for the mother to rest for up to two hours between puppies.

When should you seek medical assistance from a vet? 

There are warning signs you should be on the lookout for. Seeking veterinary advice as soon as you spot a problem will ensure the safe delivery of your dog’s puppies.

  • A green discharge but no sign of puppies – if you see green discharge, the placenta has separated from the womb and a puppy should arrive soon after. If there’s no sign of a puppy, it may be time to call the vet
  • Vigorous straining when pushing a puppy for over half an hour
  • If it’s been more than two hours before another puppy is born
  • If she looks unwell or exhausted.

How can I tell when labour has finished? 

It can be tricky to know when a dog has finished giving birth, even if she’s settled and stopped straining and especially if you’re not entirely sure how many puppies to expect. If you have any concerns a vet can tell with either a scan of her belly or an X-ray.

What if she needs a caesarean?

If the expectant mother is struggling to give birth normally, a vet will assess your dog and decide if a caesarean is recommended. In some cases, they might try an injection to stimulate contractions, as long as there are no puppies blocking the birth canal. For brachycephalic breeds, it’s more common for puppies to get stuck as their head is quite large compared to the pelvis.

When it comes to performing a caesarean for dogs, this would have to be under general anaesthetic, and therefore there are risks just like any operation. If this was an accidental pregnancy some vets will offer to spay her at the same time to prevent further pregnancies.

Mum and puppies will need to be carefully observed on recovery as the mum is likely to be disorientated from the anaesthetic.

Looking for further whelping advice?

Remember, if you have any concerns, always seek advice from your vet. For anything else, Woodgreen can offer free advice. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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