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Use our Animal Care Library for quick, easy access to our most common animal care problems. Use our Animal Care Library for quick, easy access to our most common animal care problems. Use our Animal Care Library for quick, easy access to our most common animal care problems.

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Whelping Species: dogs

Frequently asked questions and answers

How do I prepare myy dog for breeding? Questions to ask yourself first:

Are all of her vaccinations, worming and flea control needs up to date?

Do I have potential homes for the puppies/kittens? What will I do if I can’t find homes for all of them?

Have I researched the health risks and what do I do if there are whelping problems or if my dog or the pups get sick?

Am I prepared to bear the cost of an emergency after hour’s caesarean as well as the cost of micro-chipping, vaccinations and worming for the pups prior to selling?

Do I have my nearest after hours emergency vet clinic phone number on hand?

How do I know when my bitch is ready to whelp?

‘Nesting’ behaviour begins during the last week prior to whelping. Here the bitch searches for somewhere safe, quiet and cosy for her to have the pups. It is a good idea to provide a whelping box and encourage her to use this leading up to whelping time. During the 24 hours before whelping, the bitch usually becomes restless and may begin to pant. She may go off food and her temperature usually drops 1 degree a few hours prior to whelping.

What happens during labour/whelping?

Stage 1: The cervix dilates to allow passage of pups.

Stage 2: The birth of the puppies. This usually occurs within 2-6 hours.

Stage3: Afterbirth (placenta) gets passed after each puppy is born. The bitch usually removes the placental membranes and eats these; she will also chew through the umbilical cord. If all appears to be going well, it is best to observe from afar and allow the bitch to care for her puppies.

How do I know if she needs help from a veterinarian?

On and off straining for a few hours before the first pup is born is common and normal. However, if there is 20 minutes of constant intense straining without delivery of a pup the bitch requires assistance.

Normally subsequent pups should be born within an hour of the first pup being born. If 1-2 hours pass before the birth of the 2nd pup she requires help.

If there is 10 minutes of constant intense straining when a pup can be seen in the birth canal she requires assistance.

If she suddenly becomes depressed, lethargic or weak or there is a lot of fresh blood coming from her vagina she needs to be looked at by a veterinarian.

It is normal for pups to be born head first, however sometimes they can be born in the reverse, with back legs presented first. If a pups rump or back is presented without any legs this is called a breech and this can occur in a successful birth, although she may require assistance.

If a green discharge is present without the birth of any pups, she requires immediate veterinary attention because this occurs when the placenta separates.

After whelping the vaginal discharge appears dark green due to pigment for up to 12 hours. This then becomes red or reddish-brown and after a few weeks only random spotting should be seen.

How do I assist with whelping?

If a pup or placental sac can be seen and the pup is not born by 10 mins, she requires assistance. You can help by putting on some latex gloves, breaking the sac and grasping the pup. Gently pull the pup in a downwards action towards the bitches back feet with each contraction. If the puppy does not come after a few gentle attempts or the bitch becomes stressed, she requires veterinary attention.

Sometimes the bitch does not remove the placental membranes and if this occurs the puppy can suffocate. You need to quickly clear membranes and debris from around the nose, mouth and the body with a towel. You then need to stimulate breathing by rubbing it with the towel. If the pup does not appear to be breathing and it turns from a nice healthy pink and becomes blue, you can give mouth to nose resuscitation.

If the umbilical cord is not severed by the bitch, you need to cut it a few cm’s from the pup. Be sure not to put too much pressure on the cord when you do this.

While you are waiting for the rest of the litter to be born, each newborn should be placed into a clean, warm, dry box. Use a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel or a heating pad to keep the pups warm, but ensure they can’t be burnt. Once all pups are born, clean out the whelping box and return the puppies to their mum as soon as possible and try to monitor from afar. Ensure that all pups can access the mums’ teats and that they get multiple feeds in the first 24hours is crucial to their development.

We recommend a vet check on your dog and her pups within the first 24hours to ensure all is going well and that Mum and pups are healthy. This also gives you a chance to ask any questions regarding worming, vaccinations and what to feed the new Mum and her newborns.

The most important point is if you are in any doubt call your vet. Vet Cross has a 24 hour emergency service on (07) 4151 5044.

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