Whelping is the term used for a dog giving birth.
It can be difficult for an inexperienced dog owner to know how to help their female dog after she has given birth to a litter of puppies. It is natural for a good owner to want to do everything that they can in order to help their dog when it is seemingly in difficulty. If it was a woman you would be driving her straight to hospital and having doctors and nurses helping to deal with the experience. So when a dog is giving birth in the home we feel we need to do something constructive. It can be difficult to just stand around and wait while nature takes its course.
Something constructive that you can do in the run-up to the big event is prepare to help your dog to clean herself once she begins delivering the puppies. She will also need help to clean the puppies. You should begin thinking ahead to how you can help with this and what materials you might need.
Each puppy is born in a fluid filled embryonic sac attached by an umbilical cord to its mother’s placenta. The mother will know that she should lick each puppy clean to free it of the embryonic sac and gnaw the umbilical cord to sever the link.
All this should come as natural instinct to the dog giving birth. However, close attention should be paid to first-time mothers to make sure that they do carry out these necessary steps. Additionally you can help her to separate the pup from the placenta, or afterbirth, which is made up of a blackish-green tissue. Make sure you discard this material in a suitable fashion.
Something else you can do to help your dog during whelping is to help to make sure the puppies can breathe. As mentioned before, the puppies are born in an embryonic sac which the mother needs to remove. Normally this is done by her licking the sac away. What this licking action also does is stimulates the puppy to encourage it to breathe independently.
You need to keep a close eye on this. If the mother does not clean the pup straight away you should be ready to get involved. Don’t hesitate too long before taking up the clean cloth, that you set aside earlier, and clean the puppy’s face for her.
After being cleaned up and able to breathe the puppy should instinctively seek out its mother’s nipple. While the mother continues to give birth to the remaining puppies the first puppy will start feeding. Hopefully you will have taken heed of advice to have an x-ray performed in the run-up to the birth. The x-ray will have determined how many puppies you should expect the mother to deliver.
Renowned dog behaviorist, Cesar Milan says ‘The presence of the mother is what sustains puppies when they are first born. They are not to be separated from the mother under any circumstances during this critical period. Given that the mother has just given birth, she should be given time to rest with her puppies undisturbed.’
Amongst your prepared items you should also have food and water available for the mother. Don’t be worried if you find your dog vomiting, defecating and urinating excessively during the whelping process. This is completely natural and to be expected. You can help by cleaning up the whelping area.
Perhaps she has not delivered as many puppies as the x-ray indicated. Or, in the absence of an x-ray perhaps your own instinct is telling you she has not delivered all the pups. If this is the case you should immediately seek out the advice and help of your veterinary doctor.
Once the birth of all puppies is complete your dog will be in severe need of rest. You have to give her time and space to recuperate - don’t expect her to be chasing balls just yet.
If initially she doesn’t appear interested in her puppies this may be a sign that she has an infection or some other medical issue. Consult your vet to get to the root of the problem.
For several weeks after their birth you should continue to closely monitor the health of the mother and pups. If the mother continues to appear very tired or has any other symptoms that you are concerned about you should definitely err on the side of caution and take them up with your vet. He or she will advise you accordingly.
From about three weeks old puppies should be able to start to play with toys. Having a chewy toy will help their teeth to develop and will encourage the pups to be playful and active. For at least the first four weeks the puppies should have only their mother’s milk.
Also bear in mind that the mother may need extra food in the weeks after she has given birth. The event of the birth and needing to feed the puppies will have taken a lot out of her. You should be sure to have plenty of food on hand to help her rejuvenate.
Remember that taking good care of the mother and puppies will help to reduce the risk of infection or any other complications. Look after your pet and look out for the signs that anything is wrong.