How to assist while your dog is giving birth. Tips on getting puppies to breathe and actual delivery.
Your dog is giving birth in the middle of the night. Regardless of whether it was a planned pregnancy or the result of a neighborhood traveling salesman, the mother and puppies deserve the best care possible.
To start off, make sure the mother is in a dry, clean environment. If possible, move the mother inside to a quiet spot and build her nest or whelping box. A child's wading pool makes a wonderful whelping box. It can be lined with papers, old sheets or towels and cleaned as needed by simply taking it out and spraying with water.
There are many signs a dog is about to start her labor. She will become restless, start panting and needing to urinate more often. Her temperature will usually drop below 100F. There will be a discharge from her vagina.
When the labor has actually commenced, the discharge will turn a deep, greenish black color. This means there has been placental detachment and the puppies are on their way.
The mother will stop what she is doing at times and you can actually see her abdomen swell and as well as her efforts at pushing. This pushing can go on for several minutes or even hours.
When a puppy has entered the birth canal and is about to be born, the mother will usually start licking her vulva. It will swell open as the puppy reaches it. Puppies can come head or tail first. It often makes no difference in the delivery time.
As the puppy slides out, let the mother lick and tear the amniotic sack off. Unlike humans, puppies usually are born still inside this sack. If the mother seems confused as to what to do, gently tear the membrane itself and allow the fluid to be released. Give the mother time to take over but if she doesn't, you will have to tie the cord and get the puppy breathing.
Tying the cord is a simple procedure in which heavy -duty thread may be used. Approximately one inch from the belly of the puppy, tie one knot around the cord using the thread. Then moving away from the puppy another half inch, tie a second knot. Stretch the cord with your fingers and cut between the knots.
If the puppy hasn't started breathing on its own, it is time to assist it. With a small towel or washcloth dry the puppy in an aggressive manner. This is to stimulate it so crying will begin. Crying is the natural way to clear the mouth and trachea of amniotic fluid.
If the puppy still doesn't start to breathe, lay it flat on it's belly in your cupped hands. The head should rest on your fingers so you can grip the entire body. Close your hands around the puppy and raise over your head. In a sharp jerking movement, bring your hands toward the floor. BE SURE YOU HAVE A GOOD GRIP ON PUPPY. Doing this procedure will clear remaining fluid from nose, mouth and throat. It will also cause the intestines and other organs to push upon the diaphragm. Usually, this is all that is needed to get the puppy going.
If no sign of breathing is seen though, check for a heart beat. This is easily done, by feeling the chest of the puppy. If no heartbeat is found, there isn't anything to be done. If there is a beat, repeat the aforementioned steps.
Occasionally a puppy is hard for the mother to push out. This can be often be seen in breeds such as the Boston Terrier, Pug, Bulldog and other flat nosed dogs. It can also be from a puppy that is too big for the mother to deliver alone or when there is a dead puppy in the canal. Movement from a puppy stimulates contractions so dead puppies are often harder to deliver.
If you see part of the puppy but the rest won't come out, you can try a gentle tug on the puppy. This is done with the mother standing up and imagining a clock face. Picture her tail as being 12 o'clock and her body 3 o'clock. Take the puppy by the exposed area and pull with a steady tug towards where the 8 o'clock would be. Continue tugging through contractions. This is usually adequate enough to get the puppy out. If not, call your veterinarian immediately.
There are times when dogs will take a break during the delivery. This isn't uncommon in dogs trying to deliver a large litter. This break can last about fifteen minutes. If the mother is steadily pushing and no puppy arrives, or you know there are more puppies to come and pushing has not recommenced, it is then time for medical help.
Most of the time, the dog needs no assistance. Instinct tells her what needs to be done and how to do it. Some dogs prefer their owners to be in attendance and others would rather be left alone. One important consideration is to remember the birth is not a sideshow. Children and strangers can often upset the dog and impede the labor.
Regardless of ease or difficulty of the actual birth, mother and puppies need to be checked by a veterinarian, within twelve hours. This is to insure no puppies or placentas have been retained. If any are left in the uterus, a uterine infection (pyometria) will set in. This infection can be deadly to the dog if untreated.
The trip to the doctor will also give you time to ask questions and receive advice on the care of the new mother and puppies.