The Charlesworth Veterinary Surgery home page

Pet Care - The Whelping Bitch

Pet care advice about The Whelping Bitch

dog with her puppiesThe average gestation (time from mating to parturition) in the bitch is 64 days with a range of 58 to 70 days considered normal. Pregnancy may be diagnosed from 21 days after mating (and often earlier) by ultrasound scan and at 21 days by palpation (feeling the abdomen).

The process of giving birth is typically divided into three stages:-
Stage 1 - 24-48hrs before parturition the dam may begin nesting behaviour, carrying toys around, may act restless or begin to shiver. First time mothers may be particularly confused and anxious during this time. During the 24 hours before whelping the bitch's body temperature may drop from about 101.5F to less than 100F and there may be a clear mucousy discharge from the vulva.

Stage 2 - Contractions and straining start to become obvious. A clear fluid (waters breaking) signals the arrival of the first puppy or kitten within the hour. The first puppy should be delivered within an hour of obvious straining starting and the waters breaking. If this is not the case then phone us. After the first pup the mother may rest for as long as four hours between pups however she should not be straining for more than 30 minutes without a pup being delivered. If there is a rest period of greater than two hours between pups or the mother is straining without passing a pup for more than 30 minutes then phone us.

Stage 3 - The final stage involves the expulsion of the placenta and foetal membranes. This usually occurs within 15 minutes. As this occurs after each foetus stage 2 and 3 occur concurrently. It is normal to see a green to brown discharge indicating placental separation.

Care of newborn - The dam should remove the membranes, clean and stimulate the puppies into breathing. Only intervene and assist if the mother is not paying attention to the pups as they are delivered. This is most common with first time mothers. If she is ignoring the puppy then remove any membranes that may be covering the pup, make sure that the pups nose and mouth are clean of mucus and then rub with a clean dry towel to stimulate the puppy to start breathing. Once the puppy is breathing return it to its mother and try and encourage her to sniff and lick the pup and encourage the pup to start suckling a little colostrum (first milk).