Breeding, Whelping

Whelping or Birthing Puppies

November 29, 2022

Whelping or Birthing Puppies

Last updated: August 02, 2016

Raising a litter is about getting the puppies on the ground alive and in a timely manner. That goal is easily attainable! Once the birthing process is over, the end result is a healthy mom and babies.

Pregnancy Diagnosis

There are multiple ways to diagnose but here is a general timeline:

  • Embryo can be felt through the abdomen at 30 days gestation but too big to feel after 35 days (2″ vesicle on a 10 lb mom).
  • Fetal movement can be felt after day 50.
  • Witness Relaxin Test can be used during days 28 to 30. Relaxin is the only pregnancy-specific hormone in the dog and is often used to help detect a false pregnancy (in which case the test will be negative).
  • Ultrasound 18 to 20 days or X-ray after days 45 to 50 when bones are present. Baby will be exposed to radiation but the risk is minimal. Ultrasound is often used to count the number of fetuses.

Drugs During Gestation

It is best to avoid drugs during pregnancy as most of them will get to the embryo somehow.

General Guidelines

  • If antibiotic is needed, the Penicillin family and Cephalexin are considered safe.
    • Never use Sulfa or Metronidazole, especially in 25 to 35 day gestation. This leads to Cleft Palate.
  • Dewormer – Use for three to five days after 50-day gestation. Prevents transfer of parasites to babies.
  • Pain meds and NSAID drugs are not safe. Don't use arthritis preventatives during gestation.

Clues that Labor is Imminent

Move mom to whelping area seven days before giving birth so she is comfortable and secure with area. If mom is uncomfortable with babies' safety, she will try to move them or mouth them excessively. Look for the following signs:

  • Mom's temp will decrease 1°F 24 hours before the start of labor. This is the most reliable sign. This drop is in response to progesterone drop.
  • Nesting – 48 hours to one week
  • Milking – one to five days

Stages of Labor

  • Cervix dilation – six to 12 hours
    • Mom is restless, nervous, off food, may seek owner's companionship.
  • After first puppy is delivered, an average of one every 30 minutes is optimal.
    • Once delivery starts, mom should not push hard longer than 30 minutes without an exam.
    • Placenta will pass five to 15 minutes after puppy. Can pass two puppies then both placentas. (There is no nutritional value in placentas, and mom will want to eat if you do not dispose of them.)
  • Directly following birth:
    • Clamp umbilical and use towel to remove membranes and fluid from nose and mouth. Bulb syringe is best for removing fluid in mouth.
    • Rub each puppy vigorously with towel. Place head slightly down to stimulate breathing.
  • Once breathing:
    • Umbilical cord – Cut ½ inch long – keeping a plastic clamp on puppy 48 hours is okay.
    • Give baby to mom to “mother” until she wants to tuck.
    • Rub nose sideways on nipple if needed to get puppy to attach and nurse.
  • All puppies are born – Iodine or Chlorhexidine on the umbilical cord within 24 hours.

Some breeders like to remove puppies from the whelping area and transfer them to a box with a warm water bottle or heating pad until all puppies are born. This is good to do as it ensures no pups get squashed during labor.

After Labor

When your mom is all done with birth, Long Acting Penicillin or Oxytocin can be given to start uterine involution and foster milk production.

Discharge is seen after nursing in response to Oxytocin milk let down. Uterine discharge or involution will happen for four weeks. Discharge should be less every week, and it should never have an odor.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.

-Dr. B
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.