A Typical Delivery
Although every birth will differ, there are several stages of a dog’s birth that are standard.
It’s important to know these stages so that you can look out for the signs. But also so you know if it is going well and, most importantly, if it is going wrong.
When your dog is close to giving birth, her rectal temperature will drop below 100°F. So it’s important to make sure to regularly check your dog’s temperature as she gets closer to giving birth.
Once her temperature has dropped below 100F, you should expect labor to begin within 24 hours.
The time between the beginning of labor and the first puppy can vary. Once the first puppy has been birthed, the others should follow every 45 to 60 minutes.
But, again, this will vary depending on the size of the litter. If your dog is birthing a large litter, then she might begin to take longer rests. Giving birth is incredibly difficult and strenuous.
So, unless she appears to be in distress, then even taking a rest of several hours (for a large litter) is normal.
If you haven’t attended a dog’s birth before, it can be concerning. Especially if you’re not sure how many puppies will be birthed. So make sure to keep watching the clock. Maybe even set a timer.
If you are concerned, the time in between each puppy’s birth can seem like an age.
So it’s important to make sure you’re aware of the time between each birth so you don’t become unnecessarily worried. But, it can also help you to know if something has gone wrong.
When to Call a Vet
Although large gaps between births are relatively normal, you should contact your vet if they are longer than four hours. You should also call your vet if labor lasts longer than 24 hours.
You should definitely contact your vet if your dog appears to be in distress at all. It is very possible that she is struggling with birthing the next puppy
Giving birth might be the most natural thing on earth. But it is still a serious medical procedure. So, if you are concerned about your dog, then call your vet.
Signs of Labor
So, now you know some of the specifics of labor, how can you tell exactly when your dog is about to give birth? We have already mentioned that her rectal temperature will drop below 100°F.
But then you may have to wait up to 24 hours before your dog will actually begin to birth her puppies. So what other signs should you look out for?
Once your dog’s temperature has dropped, she will begin to become restless. She will appear anxious and might start to pace and pant. She might refuse food or even vomit.
Nesting. When your dog is close to birth, she will begin settling into a safe space. Your dog needs to have a whelping box.
A whelping box is essentially a wooden or cardboard box with three tall sides. One side will be partially cut out so that your dog can easily get in and out.
When you know that your dog is pregnant, it’s a good idea to get her a whelping box so she can become used to it.
This will allow her to feel as comfortable as possible as she gives birth. Your dog might try to move soft furnishings and clothing to her whelping box.
So try to make sure that it is soft and comfortable enough for her already (else your things may become damaged or stained).
This stage can last between 6 and 12 hours. This stage (stage one) will end when the cervix has become completely dilated.
If your dog reaches the end of this stage and hasn’t begun nesting and whelping, you should call your vet for help.
Caring for Your Dog During Labor
The second stage of labor begins when the first puppy is born. This stage begins when your dog starts experiencing contractions.
Your dog’s stomach will become tense and you will see her begin to strain. This will appear to be similar to her passing a bowel movement.
Generally, your dog will not need help while giving birth. But, there are a few things you should do if she does not begin to do them herself. This can involve:
- Removing the membrane. This is a substance that covers the puppy when it is born. Normally the mother would remove this but if she doesn’t, you will need to do it yourself. This is incredibly important as the puppy will suffocate if the membrane is not removed.
- Discard the afterbirth. After every birth, your dog will pass an afterbirth. This can be discarded. Your dog may try to eat the afterbirth. This is fine and entirely natural. But try not to let her eat too many of them.
- Cut the umbilical cord. Your dog might bite the umbilical cord herself. This is very natural. If she doesn’t do this herself, however, you will need to do it for her. Make sure to use sterilized scissors for this and cut the cord around an inch from the puppy’s stomach. Then, using something thin and sterile such as thread dental floss, tie off the stub.
Once each puppy is born, they will try to nurse immediately. This is not ideal for the mother if she is still giving birth.
So it’s a good idea to have another box, or even a washing basket with towels and blankets, to keep the puppies in until she is done.
But make sure your dog can always see her puppies.
Your dog will be anxious when giving birth. But she should cope with it well instinctually. That said, you might not notice her going into labor (you might wake up to find her having done it all herself).
Try to keep an eye on her so that you can help her if she needs it. But she will be able to do most of it herself, so try to give her the space that she will need.