to Breed Puppies - The Birth
Twenty-four hours before the birth, the dog’s temperature drops. She may shiver and have a doleful look on her face. Labour has begun! She may be restless, pacing up and down, too uncomfortable to lie down. Speak to her soothingly, and don’t leave her alone. Many dogs will not relax until their owners are at their side to support them through the birth.
When delivery day comes, she may refuse food. She may vomit or have a discharge from her rear end. She will pant at times. She begins to heave, arching her back. Nothing happens, but you know that the contractions are becoming strong. Stay by her side and comfort her. Encourage her to lie down in the whelping box. Get yourself a book to read, or listen to some quiet music. It may take a long time, so be patient and calm!
Have the vet’s phone number handy just in case. You will want a notebook and pen to write down the time the labour started. This will help the vet if you need to call him. You may also want to write down the time of the first birth and whether it was a boy or a girl.
A prayer never goes wrong at times like this.
If the dog is still straining after 2 or 3 hours, and no pups are delivered, phone the vet for advice. You may have to take her in to the veterinary hospital for a shot to make the contractions stronger.
After much heaving and moaning, just when we thought it was all a false alarm, suddenly, to our wonder, a wet bulge appears at the vulva, under the dog’s tail. A whelp—a pup is being born! Another heave and a slippery thing plops out amidst a flood of blood and yuck! The whelp, or pup, is encased in a membrane, which looks like a see-through plastic bag. The mother bites this and breaks it, allowing the pup to take its first breath. The pup is attached by the umbilical cord to the placenta (afterbirth), which comes out following the whelp. Each puppy has its own afterbirth. The mother bites through the cord and eats the placenta. This gives her strength to carry on with the next delivery. It also produces hormones to stimulate milk production. Let her eat it if she wants to.
If she hasn’t the strength to break the cord, cut it with a sharp pair of scissors two centimetres from the pup. After licking up the blood and guts, she commences to clean up the pup, licking it vigorously with her tongue. If she is unable to reach the pup, pick it up and put it to her mouth. The licking is essential to stimulate the pup’s lungs and circulation. She licks the pup’s behind to make it pass its first poo and piddle, which is a vital part of the birthing process. If the mother is unable to do this, take a wet tissue and wipe the pup’s behind until it passes something.
If the mother is too tired to see to the newborn pup, tear the sac from its head and rub it with a towel until you are sure it is breathing. If it appears to be dead, try swinging it back and forth with its head hanging down to clear fluid from the respiratory tract. Keep it warm. Try squeezing it in your hand & letting go, squeezing & letting go several time a minute to try to get the lungs to inflate. Try mouth to mouth. If all efforts fail and the puppy cannot be revived, we just have to accept it. It may have been born with a defect that is unknown to us, like a weak heart. Sometimes it is better if the pups die at birth, rather than after a lifetime of weakness, suffering, and medical bills,
God gives healthy pups an amazing instinct to suckle the minute they are born. What comes out the teats initially is colostrums—a liquid that contains antibodies, which will give the pups immunity to some illnesses. Put the pup to a teat if it cannot find one. The mother may sleep after this exhausting performance, or she may need to go out to the toilet, or to drink water. She does not need food yet. The afterbirth keeps her going. She just needs clean water available.
The next birth may take place from twenty minutes to several hours after the first delivery. Make sure the pups are kept away from the mother’s rear end, or they will be soaked with blood from the next birth.
If the mother is heaving and pushing, obviously having contractions, and the next pup has not come out after two hours, phone the vet without delay. She may need to be hospitalised for a Caesarean section. If pups are left too long in the birth canal, they can all die. Worse still, the mother can also die.
Pups are usually born head first, but sometimes the bottom comes out first, which is more difficult for the Mum to deliver. You need to stay by her side to help if necessary. If a pup is half out and seems to be stuck, you may be able to peel back the lips of the vulva and waggle the pup back and forth to dislodge it. Try pressing the dog’s back above the tail. A last resort is to pull the pup out. Make sure your hands are clean and nails short. Wash your hands with a disinfecting soap or dip them in weak bleach solution. Or wear disposable rubber gloves.
How do we know when the birth is over? We don’t! Feeling the tummy near the vulva may help, but if the dog is fat, sometimes it’s impossible to feel if there are any whelps still to be born. Sometimes one can feel if a whelp’s head is in the birth opening and waggling it back & forth can stimulate the mother to heave it out.
Eventually, the labour throes
stop and the dog sinks into a peaceful, deep sleep, oblivious to the hungry pups
sucking away. You can now relax—but only for a short while!