Human intervention is unnecessary in most cases of dog births, as the bitch's instincts must take care of everything. Despite this, it is important to know what to expect from the birth and to help the dog when necessary. Some pure breeds tend to have more problems during birth, such as pugs and bulldogs. As a general rule, take the dog to a veterinarian to monitor the pregnancy and perform checkups.
Part 1 of 3: Getting Ready
Step 1. Take the dog to the vet
If you are planning a breeding, get a checkup about a month before mating the dogs. If the pregnancy is not planned, take the dog to the vet as soon as you discover she is pregnant.
- It is recommended to only breed puppies over two years of age, as from this point onwards they are mature enough to exhibit relevant medical problems.
- Some breeds have a higher rate of genetic conditions, including dental problems, patellar dislocations, hip dysplasia, allergies, behavioral and spinal problems, and some heart conditions. Be aware of all this before mating your dog.
Step 2. Take care when medicating or vaccinating a pregnant dog
Only give medications indicated by the veterinarian, who will assess their safety, and do not vaccinate after fertilization.
- The ideal is to vaccinate the dog before pregnancy, as she must transmit antibodies to the puppies. Vaccination during pregnancy can harm fetuses.
- If the dog suffers from fleas, use only treatment products that are safe for pregnant animals.
- Don't forget to deworm the bitch. An untreated mother for worms can pass them to her pups.
Step 3. Understand the normal progression of pregnancy
The average period of canine gestation is 58 to 68 days. Try to pinpoint the date of conception accurately to anticipate the date of delivery.
- On the 45th day of pregnancy it is possible to carry out an x-ray to detect the number of offspring.
- In the last weeks of pregnancy, the bitch may begin to build a nest and become isolated; this is normal and expected.
Step 4. Discuss the animal's nutrition with the veterinarian
It is recommended that bitches that are not overweight eat puppy food in the last third of gestation.
- Puppy food typically contains more calories, helping to nourish developing fetuses.
- Do not give the dog supplements unless recommended by the veterinarian. Eclampsia is a common disease among small breeds and occurs a few weeks after giving birth. The chances of developing the disease increase due to calcium supplements during pregnancy.
Step 5. Request an x-ray of the puppies
The veterinarian will be able to count the puppies present in the dog's belly after the 45th day of gestation.
- Larger breed litters, such as German Shepherds and Labradors, usually have up to ten puppies.
- The litters of smaller breeds, such as chihuahuas and shih tzus, usually have between three and four puppies.
- If the veterinarian only identifies one or two puppies, be prepared for possible birth complications. The presence of a few puppies usually indicates that they are large and may not be able to pass through the birth canal naturally. In these cases, a cesarean is usually the best option.
- As expensive as a planned cesarean is, the procedure is still cheaper than an emergency cesarean.
Step 6. Prepare the nest area
A week before the due date, build a nest in a quiet, private environment where the bitch can give birth.
- Choose a large, comfortable nest box and place it away from other animals.
- A box or a children's pool are good options, just cover them with towels and blankets.
Step 7. Find homes for the puppies
Once you confirm the pregnancy, whether planned or not, look for owners for the puppies.
- Get ready to care for their puppies at home until you find their new homes. Many dogs are abandoned in shelters by irresponsible people who breed dogs without thinking about a home for the puppies. Don't make the current situation worse!
- You should keep the puppies at home for at least eight weeks, during which time they can move to their new homes.
- To ensure a good home for the puppy, set up a registration process and talk to interested parties. It may be a good idea to charge a modest fee per puppy to ensure the person is committed to adoption.
Step 8. Buy a breastmilk substitute in advance
Puppies need to eat every two to four hours and it's good to have artificial milk on hand in case something goes wrong with breastfeeding.
Look for milk replacer powder at pet stores
Step 9. Isolate the mother three weeks before delivery
To protect the dog and the puppies from diseases such as canine herpes, isolate her from other pets three weeks before the expected birth date.
It is also recommended that the bitch be isolated within three weeks after giving birth
Part 2 of 3: Helping During Childbirth
Step 1. Keep an eye out for signs of labor
The bitch will exhibit several signs that will indicate that delivery is imminent; watch her to be prepared when the time comes.
- Her breasts will increase in size as the birth approaches. The increase can occur between a few days and a few minutes before delivery, so keep an eye out.
- Her vulva will start to relax more in the days before delivery.
- Her temperature will drop about 24 hours before giving birth. Take a measurement in the morning for the last two weeks of pregnancy to get an idea of the normal temperature. Lubricate a rectal thermometer and insert it about 1.5 centimeters into the dog's rectum; leave it in place for three minutes to get an accurate reading. The temperature should range from 38.3 °C to 39.1 °C. When you notice a drop of 0.5 °C or more, be prepared as delivery should take place in 24 hours or less.
- In the early stages of pregnancy, the dog may hide or appear uncomfortable and whimper when walking. As much as she doesn't want to eat or drink, always provide her feed and fresh water.
Step 2. Watch the contractions
It is very easy to identify a canine contraction - a slight dimpling will appear in the belly.
When observing a contraction, allow the bitch access to the nest and observe her from afar. Many female dogs give birth at night for more privacy. There is no need to stay on top of it, but pay attention to the intervals between the contractions and the birth of the puppies
Step 3. Monitor the delivery
Keep your distance and intervene only if necessary.
Contractions will become more frequent and noticeable as delivery approaches. Do not force the dog to lie down; she will do it on her own
Step 4. Keep an eye on each birth
Watch the puppies closely for signs of trouble.
- Puppies can be born in two positions: tail first or head first.
- The bitch may whimper as the puppies are born; this is no cause for fanfare. If she appears to be in extreme pain, call your veterinarian right away.
- Puppies are usually born at intervals of half an hour, and the bitch will exert effort to give birth to them for 10 to 30 minutes (there are cases of intervals of up to four hours between births). Call your veterinarian if no pups are born after 30 minutes of strong contractions or if it's been more than four hours since the last birth and there are still pups in the mother's womb.
Step 5. Observe the puppies after giving birth
Keep an eye on them for possible signs of trouble; chances are you won't need to intervene.
- Puppies are usually born in bags; the mother must tear them apart, bite the umbilical cord and lick the baby. Let her do this without intervening, as this is a connecting experience with the puppies.
- If she doesn't tear the bag after a few minutes, open it using your clean hands. Remove fluid from the dog's muzzle and mouth and rub it vigorously (but gently) to encourage its breathing.
- Make sure the puppies are warm, but only intervene when you see a problem. Newborn death is common among many mammals and you should be prepared for it. When you see that a puppy is not breathing, clean its mouth and encourage its breathing by rubbing your hands over its body.
Part 3 of 3: Taking care of the mother after giving birth
Step 1. Continue serving a high-calorie kibble
Caloric food (such as puppy food) will keep you nourished during the nursing phase.
You must provide adequate nutrition for the mother and the puppies. This way, the bitch will recover from the birth and the puppies will develop in a healthy way
Step 2. Keep an eye on the mother in the weeks after giving birth
Some illnesses and complications are common after the birth of puppies.
- An inflammation of the uterus (metritis) may develop; symptoms include: fever, foul-smelling discharge, indifference, lack of appetite, reduced milk production, and lack of interest in puppies.
- Eclampsia, or milk fever, can develop; symptoms include: nervousness, restlessness, lack of interest in puppies and pain when walking. Left untreated, eclampsia can cause muscle spasms, fevers, seizures and the inability to stand.
- An inflammation of the breasts (mastitis) can also develop after childbirth; symptoms include: redness and hardening of the mammary glands. The mother may discourage her puppies from nursing, but you should make sure they don't stop. Breastfeeding helps to remove the infection; don't worry, the puppies will be fine.
Step 3. Expect the best, but prepare for the worst
Keep an eye on the mother so that she doesn't stop caring for the puppies or get sick.
If there are any complications, call the veterinarian
- Set aside a large, comfortable environment for childbirth.
- Keep the phone number of the veterinarian and a veterinary hospital with you for any occurrences in the days before delivery.
- If you have children at home, keep them away from the bitch and puppies. Some breeds often show signs of aggression to protect their puppies. Also, children can hurt fragile puppies. During labor, take the dog to a room away from small children and other animals to relax her. Soothe her with affection and words of comfort if she appears to be nervous or stressed.
- Most canine births go without serious problems; observe the process from a distance and interfere only when necessary.