How Do You Take Care Of A Female Dog After Giving Birth?

Preparing for the Birth

Preparing in advance for your dog’s birth is crucial to ensure a smooth delivery. The most important preparation is making a whelping box. The box should be in a quiet, private area and large enough for the mother dog to lie down and fully stretch out. Line the box with absorbent material like puppy pads or newspaper that can be easily changed when soiled (The Kennel Club). Gather supplies like scissors, dental floss for tying umbilical cords, and clean towels. Take the mother dog’s temperature twice a day as her due date approaches – a temperature drop below 100°F signals that labor will likely start within 24 hours (Puppy Starts).

Recognizing the Signs of Labor

There are several signs that indicate your dog is about to go into labor. These signs typically start 24-48 hours before whelping.

One of the first signs is restlessness and nesting behavior. Your dog may seem anxious and start gathering bedding material, pillows, or blankets and arrange them into a nest to prepare for delivery [1]. She will also likely lose her appetite and stop eating a day or two before going into labor [2].

Another significant sign is a drop in body temperature. Your dog’s temperature will drop below 100°F within 24 hours of labor starting. You can monitor her temperature daily as her due date approaches. A temperature below 99°F indicates labor will likely start within 24 hours [3].

Some other signs include panting, pacing, vomiting, and the abdomen hardening as contractions begin. Knowing the signs will help you be prepared and ensure you are there to assist if needed.

The Stages of Labor

A dog’s labor typically consists of three stages:

Stage 1: Contractions

This is the start of labor. During this stage, the cervix begins to dilate and the dog will exhibit nesting behavior and signs of restlessness or anxiety, including panting, pacing, and refusal to eat (Rochester Hills Vet). Contractions may be visible as the abdomen tightens. Stage 1 generally lasts 6-12 hours, but can vary (Purina).

Stage 2: Pushing

This is the active labor stage when stronger contractions move the puppies into position for delivery. The mother dog will exhibit pushing behaviors and strain to deliver the puppies. Puppies should deliver within 1-2 hours of pushing. Contact your veterinarian if straining goes on for over 30 minutes without a puppy being delivered (Purina).

Stage 3: Delivery of Placentas

After all the puppies have been delivered, the mother will normally expel the placentas. This usually occurs 15-30 minutes after delivery of the last puppy. The mother may eat the placentas, which is normal. If a placenta is not expelled within 2 hours or the mother still appears in distress, contact your veterinarian (Purina).

Assisting with the Delivery

Most of the time, it is best to allow the mother dog to deliver her puppies naturally without human intervention. However, there are some cases where assistance may be needed:

Signs that intervention may be required include if the mother strains for longer than 45 minutes without producing a puppy, if she seems extremely fatigued or distressed, or if there is excessive bleeding during labor. In these cases, contact your veterinarian right away.

If a puppy is stuck in the birth canal or the sac hasn’t ruptured, you can gently grasp the puppy with a clean towel and pull very gently in a downward and outward motion as the mother pushes. Take care not to pull too hard as this can harm the puppy and mother. Only assist at the same time the mother dog is actively pushing.

Make sure any puppies that have been successfully delivered are kept warm by placing them on a clean towel near a heating pad set on low. Gently wipe fluids from their face, but be very careful not to interfere with the mother and newborns as they continue the birthing process.

It’s always best to consult your veterinarian before assisting with delivery. Only interfere when absolutely necessary, as the mother dog knows best when it comes to birthing her puppies.


Caring for the Newborn Puppies

Once the puppies are born, it’s important to take proper care of them to ensure their health and survival. Here are some key steps:

Clear the airways. When puppies are first born, gently wipe their mouth and nose with a clean cloth to remove any fluids or mucus so they can breathe easily.

Dry the puppies. Use a clean towel to gently dry each newborn puppy. This helps stimulate blood circulation and breathing.

Monitor and weigh. Weigh each puppy on a kitchen scale soon after birth to track their weight over time. Healthy puppies should gain 5-10% of their body weight daily. Contact a vet if weight gain is inadequate.

Keep puppies warm. Newborns cannot regulate their body temperature. Keep them in a warm whelping box with a heating pad set to low. The environment should be around 90°F the first week.

Make sure the puppies stay close together and with the mother. This helps them regulate temperature and bond.

Caring for the Mother

After your dog gives birth, she will need extra care and attention to recover and care for her puppies. Here are some tips for caring for the mother dog after delivery:

Provide high-quality nutrition. Your dog’s caloric needs will dramatically increase after giving birth, so she will require 2-3 times her normal amount of food. Make sure she has unlimited access to high-protein puppy food and fresh water to support nursing and recovery. According to Pedigree, “Your dog will need plenty of protein and fat in her diet to meet the high energy requirements of nursing” (source).

Monitor her temperature, pulse, and respiration. For the first few days after birth, take your dog’s vital signs regularly to ensure she does not have an infection. Contact your vet if you notice any irregularities. Her temperature should be between 100-102°F.

Assist with nursing. Gently pick up puppies and place them on the mother’s nipples if they are struggling to nurse on their own. Make sure they are latching on properly and getting enough milk. Weigh the puppies daily to ensure they are gaining weight.

Provide a quiet, comfortable area. Let your dog rest and limit disturbances in the first few days after delivery. Place food, water, and puppy pads nearby so she does not have to leave the area.

Watch for postpartum discharge. It is normal for dogs to have a dark, bloody vaginal discharge called lochia for up to 3 weeks after giving birth. Contact your vet if the discharge has a foul odor or she is excessively swollen or inflamed.

Monitoring for Complications

While most dog births go smoothly, it’s essential to monitor the mother and puppies closely for any signs of distress or complications. Some warning signs indicating a potential problem include:

In the mother dog:

  • Excessive straining or pushing for over an hour with no puppy produced
  • Green or bloody discharge before the first puppy is delivered
  • Signs of illness like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy
  • Signs of shock such as pale gums, weakness, or rapid heart rate

In the puppies:

  • Meconium staining (early passage of fecal matter) indicating stress
  • Weakness, limpness, or lack of movement
  • Lack of suckling reflex or ability to nurse
  • Abnormal appearance such as cleft palate or feet turned inwards

If you notice any concerning signs in the mother or puppies, contact your veterinarian immediately. Puppies can die quickly if stuck in the birth canal too long or unable to breathe after delivery. Likewise, prompt medical care is crucial if the mother shows signs of uterine inertia, hemorrhaging, eclampsia, or other complications. With rapid treatment from a vet, many delivery emergencies can have positive outcomes. Don’t hesitate to seek emergency vet assistance if problems develop during labor and delivery.


Ensuring the Puppies are Nursing

It is crucial that newborn puppies nurse frequently in the first few weeks of life to receive the colostrum and milk they need for proper growth and development. The mother dog’s first milk, called colostrum, contains important antibodies to help strengthen the puppies’ immune systems.

Puppies should nurse at least every 2-3 hours for the first 2 weeks. You may need to assist weak or smaller puppies to latch on and nurse. Gently pick up and place the puppy on one of the mother’s nipples, holding it there briefly until it starts suckling. Be patient as some puppies take time to get the hang of nursing.

Check for adequate nursing by feeling the puppies’ tummies – they should feel warm and round after feeding. If you notice a puppy is not nursing or fails to gain weight, you may need to supplement with bottle feeding formula. Talk to your veterinarian about the right formula and frequency of supplemental feeding.

Make sure the mother dog is eating a high-quality diet and drinking plenty of water, as nursing requires extra nutrition and hydration. Keep a close eye on all puppies in the first 2 weeks to ensure they are getting enough milk to thrive.

For more details on assisting puppies with nursing, see this in-depth guide:

Keeping the Area Clean

It is crucial to keep the whelping area clean to prevent the spread of diseases and infections. Changing the bedding frequently and disinfecting the whelping box is key.

The bedding material should be changed at least once a day, or more if heavily soiled. Soft bedding like blankets or towels that can be laundered work well. Remove all soiled bedding and replace it with clean, dry bedding. Any areas heavily soiled with urine, feces, vomit or other bodily fluids should be cleaned and disinfected immediately.

The whelping box should be fully disinfected at least once a day as well. A diluted bleach solution or other pet-safe disinfectant can be used to thoroughly clean the walls, floor, and surfaces of the box. Allow time for proper disinfecting and rinse thoroughly. Remove any solid waste right away.

Launder any reusable bedding, blankets, towels, whelping pads, etc. in hot water and detergent to sanitize. Replace any bedding that is overly worn or stained. Keep multiple sets on hand for quick change-outs.

Watch for excessive dampness or odors as signs that more frequent changing or cleaning is needed. Maintaining cleanliness will keep mom and puppies healthy.

Next Steps

Once the puppies are a few weeks old, there are some important next steps to take for their health and wellbeing. The first is to start their vaccination schedule. Puppies should receive their first round of core vaccines starting at 6-8 weeks of age. Vaccinations help protect against serious and potentially fatal diseases like parvovirus, distemper, and rabies. Follow your veterinarian’s recommended schedule for completing the full series of puppy shots.

You’ll also want to start deworming the puppies around 2 weeks of age, and repeat every 2 weeks until they are 8 weeks old. Intestinal parasites are common in young puppies and deworming helps eliminate roundworms, hookworms, and other parasites. Your veterinarian can recommend a safe dewormer for puppy use.

At around 8 weeks of age, the puppies will be ready to be adopted into their forever homes. Screen potential owners carefully to ensure the puppies are placed in responsible, loving homes that suit their needs. Provide new owners with health and vaccination records as well as informational guides on puppy care.

Finally, once the puppies have been weaned and placed in new homes, it’s important to spay the mother dog. This prevents future accidental pregnancies and has health benefits like reducing her risk of uterine infections. Discuss the ideal spay timing with your veterinarian.

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