You Are At: AllSands Home > Pets > Dogs > Canine pregnancy: helping your dog with labor and delivery
Helping to bring newborn puppies into the world can be a thrilling experience. Unfortunately, your dog can't always tell you when things aren't going as smoothly as planned. While it's your dog that will still do most of the work, there are some simple measures you can take to ensure that all goes smoothly during labor and delivery and there are no major complications.

The Basics about Doggie Pregnancy
Dogs generally give birth 58-68 days after conception. It's always a good idea to have a veterinarian check over your pup during pregnancy, just to be sure she's eating enough, getting all the nutrients her growing body requires, and there are no obvious complications. You'll know your dog is nearing the birthing time when her appetite increases and her need for playtime and attention decreases. During this time, she may begin hiding in various areas of the house, trying to nest.

The Making of a Maternity Ward
Most dogs will decide on their own where they're most comfortable giving birth. Pets seem to favor enclosed areas that are void of noise, distraction and foot traffic. Favorites include closets, stairwells, and behind objects. If this is conducive to your lifestyle, by all means, let her go where she's comfortable. If not, it's okay to set up a Maternity Ward of your own.

A kiddie sized swimming pool makes an excellent birthing space. The pool will be easy to clean and will also prevent the newborn pups from tipping out. Line the kiddie pool with old sheets or fresh towels and newspapers that you can quickly throw away and or replace during labor and delivery. Boxes also make excellent spaces for giving birth. Experts use what's called a "welping box," which is nothing more than a box in which the dog will have adequate privacy. You can make your own box at home with a cardboard oven or refrigerator box. The box you use should be large enough for mom to stretch out and still leave enough space for small pups. One side should be low enough for the mother to crawl in and out of, but high enough to prevent the puppies from doing so. Whatever you decide to use, try to acquaint your pet with her maternity ward early so she'll be more likely to feel comfortable there when the time comes.

Make Her Comfortable
Line your box or pool with as many towels or sheets that you can find. Remember, your dog has a long night ahead of her. Tossing in her favorite toy or blanket will encourage your pet to use her whelping box. Making your dog comfortable during this time should be your top priority.

Keep the Noise Down
Your pet will want some privacy on the big day. Loud noises, company and constant interruptions will only make your dog nervous. As much as small children (and even adults) would like to experience the delivery, try and keep human contact to a minimum.

Is it Time?
Approximately 6-24 hours before giving birth, your dog may begin shivering, pacing, panting or acting out of character. She may trot around nervously or claw at the floor, looking for a place to nest. If your animal does begin to nest elsewhere and refuses to use her whelping box, let her go. Provide fresh bedding and newspapers where she is and move the whelping box close to her. As the puppies are born, you can move them into the box, which will encourage mom to follow.

A note about emergencies:
Most births go smoothly. There are occassions, however, during which the mother may need help. Watch for these danger signs and act immediately, if necessary:
1. Your dog passes dark green fluid before delivery.
2. Your dog has been straining (without delivering) for more than one hour.
3. Your dog is weak, restless and nervous for more than thirty minutes after labor stops.
4. Your dog begins shaking, trembling or begins vomiting days or weeks after delivery.

Should your pet exhibit any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately. These are emergency symptoms and time is of the essence.

The Birth
Dogs generally take care of themselves during birthing and delivery, and there is rarely a cause for human intervention. There are a few instances however, when you may need to act as midwife for your friend. Follow these guidelines for a safe delivery:

1. If a puppy seems to only come out half way, despite extensive straining by it's mother, you'll need to jump in and assist. Have someone hold your pet's head and gently grab the puppy with a clean towel and pull firmly. If the puppy doesn't immediately slide out, call your veterinarian immediately.

2. The mother will get more and more tired during large litters. Though dogs instinctively tear off the amniotic sac and bite the umbilical cord off, your dog may be too weak or tired by the end of delivery to do so. If you find that a puppy has not been cared for after delivery, remove the amniotic sac by peeling it from the puppy. Start at the baby's mouth and work toward it's tail. You can clean the mucus from it's mouth with your finger. Also, be sure to vigorously rub the puppy for several seconds with a clean towel. This will keep the puppy's heart beating and help to integrate him in the outside world. If need be, you can cut the umbilical cord yourself with a sterile scissor or tie it off with sewing thread.

The Aftermath
Now that your dog has given birth, you have a whole new family to watch over. Remember, your dog will be protective of her new pups, so for at least the first few hours, keep traffic to a minimum. Your dog may also not want to leave her whelping box after birth. Let her actions guide your behavior, but also make sure she has an adequate supply of water and food and is allowed outdoors to relieve herself whenever needed. It's helpful to place the dog's food and water close to the whelping box, so she feels comfortable enough to care for herself.

And that's it. Now it's time to enjoy all the new, noisy life in your house!