Whelping is the term used to describe the process of a dog giving birth to puppies. A bitch is a female dog giving birth.
It can be difficult for an inexperienced dog owner to know what to do in order to help a female dog after she has given birth to a litter of puppies. It is natural for a good owner to want to do everything possible to assist a pet that appears to be in such distress. 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 inside our home we feel compelled to do something to ease the process. Standing around waiting for nature to do its course can seem unrealistic and quite difficult.
Something constructive that you can do in the run-up to the big event is help your dog clean itself once she begins delivering the puppies. She will also need help in cleaning the puppies. So start thinking ahead and know what materials you might need.
Each puppy is born in a fluid-filled embryonic sac attached via the 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, you should closely monitor first-time mothers to make sure that they do carry out all of the necessary steps. Additionally, you can help your dog to separate the pup from the placenta which is made up of a blackish-green tissue. After the birth, make sure you discard this material in a suitable fashion.
Something else you can do to help your dog during whelping is to make sure all the puppies can breathe properly. As mentioned before, puppies are born in an embryonic sac which the mother needs to remove. Normally this is done by the bitch licking the sac away. What this licking action also does is stimulates the puppy to breathe independently.
You need to keep a close eye on this process. 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 delicately clean the puppy’s face on its behalf.
After being cleaned up and being able to breathe, a 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 yet. If this is the case you should immediately seek out the advice and help of your vet.
Once the birth of all puppies is complete your dog will be in extreme need to rest. Give it time and space to recuperate - don’t expect it to be chasing balls just yet.
If initially your dog doesn’t appear interested in the puppies this may be a sign that it has an infection or some other medical issue. Consult your vet to get to the root of the problem ASAP.
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 choose to be cautious and take them all to the vet. He or she will advise you accordingly on what to do.
From about three weeks old, puppies should be able to start playing 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 only have their mother’s milk.
Also, bear in mind that the bitch may need extra food in the weeks after it has given birth. Giving birth and needing to feed the puppies will have taken a lot out of your dog. Be sure to have plenty of food on hand to help it rejuvenate and recover swiftly.
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 signs of anything going wrong.