Whelping (birth, queening)

It’s your dog’s big day. The dog is showing signs of whelping. The supplies – towels, dental floss for the umbilical cord, non-toxic disinfectant and scissors are ready. The whelping box lined with old towels is already placed in a quiet warm area. Dogs normally give birth easily. Dogs normally don’t need the help of humans. But something can go wrong, delivery problems can arise. It is necessary to know what must be done and to know when it is time to call a vet to save the life of the dam and the puppies.

Give or take a degree, a dog’s normal body temperature is about 101.5F. This temperature will drop by about 2 degrees 24 hours before the dog whelps. The water bag will break and there will be a greenish vaginal discharge. Active contractions will make the dog strain. A puppy should be born 30 minutes after these signs are seen. The inability of the dam to produce the first puppy two hours after the contractions have started is indicative of a whelping problem. Non-appearance of a puppy can be due to pelvic canal obstruction. The puppy may be too large or malpositioned or stuck half in and half out. A dead pup may be lodged in the birth canal. It is also possible that two puppies are being presented at the same time. Call the vet as immediate assistance is necessary. A few minutes delay can mean the loss of a puppy thus you have to try to get the puppy out. Basic first aid knowledge would prove to be very useful.

A puppy may get stuck half out of the bitch because the knee or the hip gets snagged in the dam’s pelvic bone. Using a clean towel, firmly grasp the protruding part of the puppy. Gently rotate to free the puppy and then pull in a downward and outward direction. It is necessary to free the pup not only because it is extremely painful for the dam but also because the compressed umbilical cord restricts the flow of blood from the mother to the puppy. But if the puppy remains stuck after all the efforts, then the next move would be to head to the nearest vet facility.

A dead puppy blocking the birth canal will endanger not only the life of the unborn litter but also the life of the dam. A dead puppy can no longer be killed thus you can be persistent and aggressive in the efforts to get the dead pup out. Of course this must be done without creating undue harm to the dam. A K-y lubricating jelly or the soap dish would come in handy in this case.

A puppy may be born weak or the too tired dam simply ignored the pup. The dog may be a first time mom and does not have the instinct to tear the membrane and to clean the newborn pup. Normally, the dam’s licking will help stimulate breathing. Cleaning the pup will be your job. Remove all the membranes and thoroughly rub the pup with a towel. This action is supposed to stimulate breathing. Pups that are stuck for a while in the birth canal are often still born… no signs of breathing can be seen. Check for a heartbeat. It is still possible to revive a pup with a faint heartbeat although this could take about 30 minutes for the newborn to come around. Clear the mouth and the nose by holding the pup’s head down. Breathe into the mouth and the nose but remember to be extra careful with the resuscitation. The new born pup is very small and can only take in small buffs of air.

The bitch is supposed to clean the newborn pup and bite the cord. The biting of the cord will cause the muscular tissue to spasm stemming the flow of capillary blood. But because of a difficult delivery the dog may not be able to lick clean and to break the cord. Again, cutting the cord will be the pet owner’s job. Tightly tie the cord with a thread or a dental floss about half a centimeter from the body and using a sterile blade or a scissors, cut the cord one centimeter away from the knot.

The whelping can have serious complications that would warrant immediate veterinary attentions. The dam may be hemorrhaging because of uterine torsion or uterine rupture. The too tired dam may have stopped pushing. Caesarian sections are always the last option. In these cases surgery will be inevitable. Difficult whelping can be prevented. X-rays and ultrasounds are invaluable tools that will determine ascertain the number and the size of the puppies inside the dog’s womb. With this information, a pet owner can evaluate the whelping and be prepared for any eventuality.

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