The Whelping Bitch
- Gestation period of bitch 63 days +/-24hrs from day of ovulation – OR 61 days from fertilisation.
- You should be prepared from day 58.
- Environment for Normal Parturition:
- Draught free
- Room temp approx 26°C
- Whelping box (or inflatable round paddling pool is a good alternative – soft edges, easily cleaned)
- Bedding – easily removable and disposable/washable, preferably ‘vetbed’
- Quiet and stress free
- First stage labour: 0 – 36 hours
- Bitch can be restless 2 – 3 days prior to parturition
- Noticeable discomfort and nesting before birth (0 – 24hrs or up to 36hrs with 1st litter)
- Usually milk present in mammary glands
- Uterine contractions start but not very frequent
- Usually no discharge at this stage
- Let bitch chose own birthing place/position → bitch doesn’t always chose an appropriate place!
- Gradually contractions become more frequent and cervix dilates
- Allantochorion of the first puppy ruptures → ‘waters break’
- Abdominal straining is stimulated
- Second stage labour:
- Amnion (sac) of the first puppy is usually seen soon after straining (within 30 minutes) – may appear and disappear with contractions.
- The amnion sac either ruptures during birth or it remains intact and the puppy is born within it.
- Puppies are not breach unless the legs are not coming and only the tail can be felt/seen.
- Backwards presentation is not so good if its the first puppy, as it will not open the cervix as well as the puppy’s head would
- Malpositioning can occur (breach) and is very difficult to correct as birth canal is so small and puppy very fragile → seek veterinary advice
- Do not pull a puppy out! Very easy to break jaw or pull a limb off
- Sometimes lifting bitches forelegs up may help gravity to assist
- KY jelly may be used (or other water based lubricant)
- Problems more likely to occur in single pup pregnancies (but may not know this at the time) and brachyocephalic breeds.
- Third stage labour:
- Not clearly defined as placentas may be expelled at various times after the puppy or sometimes with the puppy.
- Eating of the placenta is not necessary and may cause diarrhoea
- Bitch should lick and rupture the amnion(if not ruptured already) and umbilical cord. Licking will also stimulate the puppy.
- If bitch does not break the amnion sac, she might need assistance as puppy will die → max 5 minutes!
- It is NOT advisable to leave a bitch alone during labour → if problems occur then human intervention (breeder or veterinary) could prevent dead puppies.
- Care when letting the bitch go out to urinate – always follow with a torch and check outside for puppies (bitches most commonly whelp at night).
- Check car for puppies if travelling to vet → journey may stimulate bitch to give birth in car.
- Unproductive straining should NOT go on any longer than 30 minutes → bear in mind how long it would take to get to the vets, usually at least 10 mins, bitch may well give birth in the car on the way.
- Interval between each puppy can be up to 2 – 3 hours → If approaching 3 hours phone Vets as veterinary assistance most likely needed.
- Remain calm as a nervous owner will make the bitch nervous → bitches adrenalin may block effects of oxytocin. Bitch needs to be kept calm.
- Avoid having too many people around.
- First time bitches may be stressed by pain and stop pushing when in pain.
- Hypothermia is the most common cause of death in neonates → keep them warm!
- If Bitch needs to be brought in for Veterinary assistance any pups already born should be brought along too.
- All puppies should be checked for cleft palates and any other abnormalities.
Urgent Veterinary Attention Required if:
Unproductive straining for 30 mins or more
Interval between puppies greater than 3 hours
Greenish/black discharge from vulva
Absence of pushing – inertia
Puppy stuck in birth canal – dystocia
If in ANY doubt → Seek advice from a Vet