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· Dogs Corner » Celebrate Seniors » Normal Birth in Dogs (Whelping) ·

Preparations for Whelping

Begin preparations for delivery of puppies before the female gives birth. A whelping box should be provided for the mother to begin sleeping in to ensure birth of puppies in the area you have chosen. The box should be relatively small, with sides 6 – 8 inches high to keep the pups from crawling out of the nest. Place the box in a secluded yet familiar area of the home, away from the family traffic, to allow the mother solitude.

Newspapers make excellent bedding because they can be changed easily, are absorbent and can be shredded by the mother as she makes her “nest”. If such materials as old quilts, blankets, rugs or towels are used, they must be washed frequently.

If you want to know more precisely when delivery is near, check the rectal temperature of the mother twice daily from the 58th day of pregnancy until labour begins. Normal rectal temperature varies between 100.5 & 102'F. Within 24 hours before the onset of labor, the rectal temperature drops nearly 2 degrees.

Labour & Delivery

Labour in the female dog (bitch) can be divided into three stages. The second and third stages are repeated with the birth of each puppy.


During the first stage, the mother seems extremely restless and very nervous, and often seeks seclusion. She may refuse food even if offered her favorite treats. This stage may last 6 - 24 hours. This is a good time to exercise the mother to allow her to urinate and defecate.


In the second stage, contractions and expulsion of the puppies begin. Usually a small greenish sac of fluid protrudes first from the vulva. This is followed by the puppy and its attached placenta. The normal presentation of the puppy is nose first, stomach down. About one third of all puppies, however, are born hindquarters first. This presentation is considered normal in the dog.

After delivery, the mother opens the sac, cleans off the pup and severs the umbilical cord. You may have to perform these functions for the mother (see Obstetric Care). Make sure the sac is removed from the puppy immediately if it is unbroken during delivery.


The third stage of labour is the resting stage, which follows each delivery. Mild contractions and delivery of the afterbirth should take place in this phase. This stage usually lasts 10 - 30 minutes, but it may range from a few seconds to an hour.

Obstetric Care

After a pup is delivered, remove all membranes covering the puppy, clean the face and remove mucous from the mouth and nose. Rub the puppy with a clean towel to dry it and stimulate respiration and circulation. After a few minutes of rubbing, the puppy should begin to squirm and cry loudly.

The umbilical cord should be tied about an inch from the puppy’s body with fine thread and then cut on the side of the knot away from the puppy. Apply a drop of iodine to the cord end after it is cut.

Assisting With The Birth

If a puppy seems to be lodged in the birth canal and the mother cannot expel it, rapid assistance is necessary. There may not be time to call your veterinarian and drive to the clinic.

Grasp the puppy with a clean towel and exert steady, firm traction. Do not jerk or pull suddenly. Traction may have to be applied for as long as five minutes. If you cannot remove the puppy, call the vet.

Behavior of the Mother

During whelping and nursing, your pet may not be at her usual self. She may be very nervous and filled with a sense of protectiveness for her new family. Any aggression she may exhibit usually fades as time passes.

Notify the Vet if ANY of the Following Occur

  1. You cannot remove a puppy lodged in the birth canal.
  2. There is strong, persistent labor for 30 minutes without delivery of a pup.
  3. There is weak, intermittent labor for 6 hours without delivery of any pups.
  4. It has been more than 4 hours since the last birth and it is probable that more puppies are still inside.
  5. There is a greenish – black discharge and no labour or puppies within 3 – 4 hours. The greenish – black colour is normal, but such a discharge should be followed very soon by the delivery of the pups.
  6. The pregnancy lasts more than 65 days.

Cesarean Section

A caesarean section is a procedure to surgically remove puppies or kittens from the uterus when natural (unassisted) delivery is impossible or potentially harmful to the mother or babies. The reasons for a cesarean section are numerous and varied. The female may be too sick to deliver the young. Mechanical obstructions in the birth canal, caused by such things as old fractures, tumors or abdominal masses, may prevent normal passage of babies. Or, the babies may be unusually large. Sometimes this surgery is planned well in advance because of known problems. At other times, difficulties develop at the time of birth and the decision to perform surgery must be made immediately. After full recovery from a caesarian section, the mother usually assumes her normal maternal duties. The incision and sutures from the surgery rarely interfere with nursing. If problems arise, the vet will advise you regarding proper action. Please Contact Us immediately if your bitch has trouble whelping.

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