Labor in Dogs

August 6, 2012
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Labor in dogs usually occurs with relatively few problems. Dogs can usually deliver their puppies with little help from their owners. Here is some information to help decide if an abnormality is present:

  • Most dogs will go into labor between 59 and 63 days. I do not recommend going beyond 65 days.
  • Normal temperature for her is between 101-102.5°F. When her temperature drops below 100°F (usually 99°F), she should begin to deliver puppies within 24 hours (usually will start in 4-6 hours).
  • You should have a place set aside for her that is warm and private. She could voluntarily stop giving birth if she is disturbed, so make sure she is in a quiet place.
  • When you see hard abdominal contractions, you should give your dog 2 hours to deliver the first puppy. Once you see fetal tissues protruding she should have a pup within 30 minutes.
  • Remember, Breech (tail 1st) deliveries are normal.
  • The puppies are born covered by a membrane that the dog ruptures with her teeth. She also bites through the umbilical cord of each puppy. The dog usually expels the placenta for each puppy after it is born and sometimes expels two placentas after delivering two puppies. There is no good psychological reason for allowing the dog to eat the placenta.
  • You may need to help the puppy if the mother does not. If a puppy appears to be stuck, you may try to pull the puppy with steady pressure. Use a lot of lube around the puppy. If the mother does not clean the puppies, you should dry them with a towel, wipe them clean of all fluid from the nose and mouth and rub the puppies vigorously. If the mother does not sever the umbilical cord, you will have to do it. Tie the umbilical cord in two places with thread or dental floss. The closest tie should be 1 to 2 inches from the puppy’s body. Cut between the two ties and dip the end of the cord with Iodine.
  • After all puppies are delivered, make sure all the puppies nurse within the first few hours. The first milk they receive from the mother is important in providing them with immunity to many common diseases. It is also important to make sure the puppies are warm enough; they should be kept in an environment around 85° for the first week of life. Be careful using heating pads, they could easily burn the puppies. Heating a plastic topped soda bottle ¾ of the way full with water in the microwave makes an excellent hot water bottle.
  • The mother may have a green to reddish-brown vaginal discharge up to 3 weeks after delivering. The discharge should not have a foul smell and the amount should decrease over time. This is normal, provided the mother seems to be fine otherwise.
  • Inspect the mother’s mammary glands daily to check for the presence of milk. The glands should not be red, hot or painful to the touch. The puppies should be weighed at birth and daily thereafter. They may lose a small amount of weight the first day but should gain weight steadily after that. They should be doubling their birth weight by 10-14 days.

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