May 23 2015

Labour and delivery for the canine patient

Female dogs will deliver between 63-65 days of fertilisation. 

It may be helpful to provide a whelping box, which should be available 7 to 14 days prior to parturition.  Ensure that the material is safe, without sharp edging and with relatively high sides to prevent puppies from jumping out when mom tries to escape for a breather!  This box should be placed in a familiar and comfortable environment, where there is not a lot of traffic and should be large enough to allow mom to stretch out comfortably with plenty of room for her litter.  

It is important to keep this area warm, ideally about 24C, to prevent health issues.

About 10-24 hours prior to the onset of labour, the bitch’s body temperature will start to drop, often below 37.5C. 

Stage 1 labour will then begin, and averages 6 to 12 hours, but may go up to 24h.  During this phase, the dog will appear restless, nervous and may not want to eat.  She may shiver, pant, vomit, chew, and scratch at the floor or pace.  Often, near the end of this phase, she may seek seclusion and build a nest.  Beyond providing some privacy and the whelping box, no intervention is needed.

Stage 2 of labour occurs when the cervix is fully dilated and ends when the fetus is expelled.  

Stage 3 is defined as the time between expulsion of the fetus and the placenta.  When more than one puppy is present, the bitch will alternate between stage 2 and stage 3.  The timing of these phases is highly variable, but the overall process should not take more than 24 to 36h.  The vast majority of females will deliver within a few hours.  Generally contractions are visible, and straining to expulse a puppy (stage 2) averages between 10 and 30 minutes.  More than an hour of straining may be worrisome.  There may be a lag of up to 4 to 6 hours between fetuses, more than this warrants a visit to the veterinarian.  As a generally rule, the placenta is expulsed within 5 to 15 minutes of the puppy (stage 3).  On occasion a pup will be born without a placenta, but usually the next puppy will be preceded by that lagging placenta.

After birth, the mother may eat the placenta.  There is no advantage or disadvantage to this practice.  She should vigorously lick each newborn within 1 to 3 minutes to remove placental membranes and stimulate spontaneous breathing..  If this does not occur, the owner can intervene by rubbing the pup with a dry, soft towel to remove membranes and get him or her to breathe.  A soft rubber suction bulb can be used to remove fluid from the mouth and nose.  Generally the mother will sever the umbilical cord with her teeth, although if this does not happen, the owner can tie 2 knots with sewing thread in the cord and cut the cord between those knots.  The puppies should be left in their mother’s care as much as possible and handled as little as possible, only intervening if mom is not doing her job.

mflynn | Reproduction Center

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