of a whelping box ....
whelping box does not have to be “a box”, but should be a method
of containment of the bitch and her forthcoming litter which provides
a quiet, warm place, free from moisture and excessive heat or cold.
Often layers of newspapers are used as a cheap, easy to clean base.
Often internal rails are provided around the box to prevent the
bitch from lying directly against the sides of the box so as to
prevent her from pinning her pups against the side and suffocating
or crushing them. Rather than a solid wooden box with internal railings,
some breeders will use a child’s inflatable pool (which has flexible
sides) as a whelping containment. The size of the box will depend
on the size of the bitch, but it must be long enough for the dam
to be able to lie down at full stretch. Ideally the sides of the
box should be high enough to prevent the young pups from escaping,
yet enable the bitch to leave when she desires. The box should be
disinfected before use. Bitches can be introduced to the box one
to two weeks prior to whelping. Boxes should be lined with bedding
material, or newspaper that the bitch may shred as part of her nesting
behaviour which occurs shortly before whelping.
the litter is whelped, the initial bedding material may be replaced
with other bedding, such as sheepskin, or towels, as the bitch will
be less likely to shred them. Newspaper can continue to be used
as an insulent beneath the new bedding, as it is cheap and easy
to dispose of, but something offering traction is required to provide
developing puppies secure footing. Some breeders add external sources
of heat to keep the newborn pups warm. A heat pad is placed into
the whelping box but it should not cover the entire area so some
relief from overheating is available. Heated whelping boxes are
also available for hire or purchase. Hot water bottles, wrapped
in towels, and refilled as they cool may also be used. In all instances,
care must be taken to ensure the dam and pups are able to move away
from the heat when required.
For most dogs,
the average length of gestation (pregnancy) is 64-66 days following
a surge in leutenising hormone (LH) levels, or 62-64 days post ovulation.
Ovulation is triggered by the LH surge, and ova are then released
over the following 1-2 days. The normal time frame between breeding
and whelping can vary between 55 to 70 days, depending upon the
time when the bitch was mated. If a bitch was mated before she ovulated,
she can still become pregnant, as spermatozoa can remain viable
within the reproductive tract of a bitch for over a week. It is
assumed however, that the sperm reduce in number or fertility within
a few days of mating. When the eggs are released by a bitch, they
are immature and require 2.5 to 3 days after ovulation to mature.
Bitches bred after they have ovulated and the egg has matured will
therefore conceive much earlier. Therefore, don’t always assume
your bitch will deliver pups exactly nine weeks after being mated.
that whelping is imminent ...
Many bitches may display “nesting” behaviour in the few days,
or week preceding birthing. They may collect papers, clothes etc
together, may seek shelter beneath chairs or other furniture, or
may dig a burrow. Some may become restless or “clingy”. Production
of milk is not a reliable sign that whelping is imminent, as many
bitches may exude watery secretions up to two weeks prior to whelping.
24 hours of whelping, levels of a hormone called progesterone decrease,
with a concurrent drop in rectal temperature of 1 degree C. Twice
daily (or three times, if possible) monitoring of temperatures,
starting several days to a week before expected whelp date will
normally detect this drop in temperature.
- First stage of labour ...
This is the initial phase of labour, where the cervix begins
to dilate. Bitches may refuse food, appear restless, pant, shiver
or occasionally vomit during this time. (So may novice breeders!)
This stage can last a variable amount of time, from hours to more
than a day. Weak contractions of the uterus may also occur.
stage of labour ...
The second stage of labour is when the cervix fully dilates,
contractions will be easily seen, and finally, pups are born. When
the pups pass through the cervix, this creates the urge to push
and visible straining of the bitch can be observed. Bitches will
often move around between whelps, but most will lie down as each
pup is born. Bitches can be expected to pant and may lick their
genitalia, or shiver, prior to the birth of a pup. The first pup
to be born is usually from the side of the uterus (uterine horn)
containing the most foetuses. The next pup is usually from the other
horn, and so forth.
to the birth of the first pup, a greenish-black discharge (lochia)
may be observed. This is normal, and results from the placenta separating
from the uterus. Whelping should occur within the next one to two
hours. Whilst in the uterus, each pup is surrounded by two sacs.
The outer one ruptures as the pup enters the birth canal, releasing
a small amount of fluid. The second sac may, or may not, rupture
during birth. If it hasn’t ruptured, the dam who will also bite
the umbilical cord will usually remove it. The bitch will also vigorously
lick fluid from the pup, which stimulates it to breathe and assists
bitch will normally suckle pups between whelping the following pups.
Nursing stimulates release of the hormone called oxytocin, which
in turn stimulates milk let down, and contraction of the uterus.
The newborn puppy will also receive colostrum. This is specialised
milk, which is rich in antibodies and produced within the first
24 hours of whelping. The antibodies are absorbed by the newborn
pup, providing it with immunity to infectious agents.
stage of labour ...
This final stage is the passing of foetal membranes and placenta,
and often occurs as subsequent pups are being whelped. The time
between second and third stages is extremely variable. Some bitches
may deliver puppies 5-10 minutes apart, others 20-60 minutes apart.
The time intervals between pups usually increase as labour continues.
As the whelps are often delivered alternately from each of the two
uterine horns, two pups are often born close together. When this
happens, the placenta from the first pup may not be passed until
the second pup has been born.
vary as to whether bitches should be allowed to eat all the placentas.
The placenta is rich in nutrients, so there is no medical reason
to prevent this from occurring but ingestion can result in dark,
loose stools and/or vomiting.
time it takes for a bitch to normally whelp her litter will depend
on the breed, her fitness and age, number of pups in the litter,
etc. Once the bitch assumes strong straining, a pup should be whelped
within 30 minutes. As labour progresses, normally the time between
delivery of pups increases. If the bitch has strong contractions
and strains for an hour without producing another pup, veterinary
assistance should be sought. If the bitch has weak contractions,
the interval between puppies will be longer. Veterinary assistance
should be sought for bitches with weak or intermittent contractions
who do not produce their first pup within four hours after the start
of stage 2, or within two hours between later pups*. Some bitches
may rest after delivering the majority of the litter, to resume
some hours later. It can therefore be difficult to distinguish between
genuine rest, and uterine inertia.
quoted from: Johnston, S.D., Root Kustritz, M.V. and Olson,
P.N.S. Canine and feline theriogenology. Philadelphia: W.B.
Saunders, 2001. These times may vary in different books. You
should discuss with your veterinarian at what time they feel
assistance should be sought. It would also be prudent to have
either your veterinarian’s after hours contact details, or the
phone number of the after hours clinic to which they would refer
you, should assistance be required.
Following completion of birthing, the dam will require rest.
She may also be hungry and thirsty. She and her pups should be taken
to your vet within the next 12-24 hours for a thorough check. Your
vet will check the pups for obvious signs of congenital defects,
such as cleft palate.
the first few days after delivering the litter, there will be a
red, watery vaginal discharge from the bitch as the uterus starts
to reduce in size. During the following weeks this amount decreases
and becomes brownish-red. Discharge occurs for about 3 weeks.
bitch’s mammary glands should be regularly checked for signs of
inflammation, or mastitis. They may become reddened feel warm and
lumpy, and when gently expressed, the milk may have an abnormal
colour. If you are at all concerned, seek veterinary advice.
whelp between 55-70 days after mating, or 62-64 days after ovulation.
whelping area should provide a safe, warm, dry environment.
drop in rectal temperature of 1 degree C occurs within 24 hours
of whelping. Within 1-2 hours of whelping, a small amount
of greenish black discharge (lochia) may also be seen passing
should be born within 30 minutes of strong straining. For the
first born, a pup should be produced within 4 hours of
weak or intermittent contractions. Subsequent puppies should
be whelped within 2 hours of weak contractions. Seek veterinary
assistance should times fall outside these parameters.