How do I know my dog is in pregnant?
After breeding, your dog may be extremely tired throughout her pregnancy. So if she's tired, this is a great sign! She may get some boughts of "morning sickness". For most dogs this period is brief and subsides, but if a dog is really struggling with continual sickness, it may be worth going to the vet for anti nausea medication. You can do an X-ray or ultrasound to confirm a late pregnancy. Personally, I don't bother as it doesn't change the outcome. About three weeks before her due date, you'll see a filling out in her physique and her belly will grow rapidly until delivery. Her mammery glands will fill and enlarge and typically 24 hours before delivery, milk can be expressed from the back mammery glands.
What are false pregnancies?
A dog is capable of exhibiting all of the symptoms of a pregnancy (including homone changes!) and not be pregnant. These dogs can go as far as having a false labour, producing nothing, but finding some toys to nest with, "feed" and mother afterwards. Thankfully, I've found our dogs really fertile and I've only experienced one missed pregnancy, so this isn't something I have a lot of personal experience with.
Does my dog need any special care during her pregnancy?
Her weight needs to be managed so if you see her losing weight, start adding puppy food into the diet. She may have a greater desire to cuddle and a lower play need. She also may crave a soft spot towards the end of her pregnancy and want to lay on her back. Pregnant dogs should not be allowed to jump off the couch, out of cars, etc after about week 4 of their pregnancy. Restrict their ability to get somewhere high and help them off of elevated locations. A fall can result in a miscarriage or burst uterine horn and this is an emergency.
How do I know my dog is in labour?
Pregnant dogs tend to exhibit certain behaviours the day their labour begins. They may start scouting out the house for a spot to whelp. This could be under your bed, squished behind a shelf, in a storage room... wherever! So it's important to keep the dog contained to an area near you for the last week of their pregnancy. Additionally, the dog should be escorted out to the bathroom for the final week, sleep in their kennel in your bedroom each night and be kennelled whenever you leave the home or will be out of eye shot for more than half an hour. We have gone to church (thinking the dog was not in labour) and come home to puppies, so in cases like that, I'm certainly glad we kennelled the dog before departure! We have also heard horror stories from friends who left their pregnant dog out during the night and came out in the morning to find her dead puppies scattered all over their kitchen and dining room floor. So keep her contained and in her kennel, whether you think she's in labour or not if you aren't there to supervise.
Typical labour signs:
-nesting (digging up her bedding and moving it around)
-looking for a spot that's hidden to have her pups
-shivering and shaking
-needing you right beside her. Many pregnant dogs will shriek and bark if you leave them while they are in labour. They know they need you and they want you right there!
When will a dog typically have her puppies?
The middle of the night is the most common. You may see signs of labour through the day, but after 1 AM is typical. Dog can deliver up to 5 days before their first due date or until 5 days after their last due date. I've found the most common in their due date through 5 days after.
Once you see contractions (observable tightening of the muscles on the side her body) your puppies are on their way! Once the contractions are about a minute apart, stay close by.
Closing mom in her kennel is a great way to make sure she has her puppies where you can assist and doesn't hide somewhere. Set the kennel up on a counter or table and this will make it easy for you to reach in a help her. You do not want a location that is drafty or right under a window. Chilled puppies are more likely to die. Even after the birth is complete, you want the puppies (in their kennel) in an elevated position and away from drafts that are common to the floor, doors and window.
Puppies can come bum or head first. Both are totally normal and deliveries tend to be 50/50 for how puppies emerge. Head first pups deliver easier. Once you see the head emerge, reach in and break the sac and gently use paper towel to clean the puppies face so it can breath. If mom doesn't break the sac quickly enough the puppy can drown, so I never wait to assist with this. If the puppy emerges bum first and she goes through several contractions without the puppy making progress, put some papertowel around the exposed portion of the puppy (for grip) and gently see if some pulling pressure will help it emerge. If the puppy does not come out, an immediate vet trip is warranted. This puppy will likely be dead, but having the vet assist may save the lives of the other puppies still to be delivered.
Once the puppy emerges and the placenta follows, take the pup and plecenta from the mom and close the kennel door. Clamp the chord with your hemostat about 1/4-1/3 of an inch from the body. Cut on the placenta side with scissors and put "quick clot" powder on the end of the chord. Hold the puppy nose down and allow the fluid to drain from the pup. Some pups need rubbing to get them breathing. Personally, I hold them nose down for 3-5 mins, then I unclamp the chord. If it start bleeding again, I cover it in "quick clot" powder and reclamp it again. Set the pups beside mom's nipples when you are done.
It's important that puppies nurse shortly after being born. They get vital immunity from mom's first milk and missing out on this will lead to a greater chance of death within 24-48 hours. The intestinal lining of the puppy actually starts to change within 8 hours of birth and stops the absorption of the precious immune building element of the milk by 12+ hours, so doing all you can to help a puppy nurse promptly makes a big difference. Moving them beside mom's nipples helps and if a puppy doesn't seem interested after an hour or two, take the puppy's head between your fingers and "brush" the puppies mouth back and forth over the nipple. Sometimes this can stimulate them to latch. Hold them steady and support them for about 5 minutes while they drink and typically after that first drink they get the hang of it and do well on their own.
A few things are common in the days following a birth:
The dog may get excessive diarrhea. Add cottage cheese into her diet. This will help "constipate" her. It will also add calcium for milk production and give her an increase appetite. Add a few table spoons of yogurt as a probiotic source. Typically diarrhea starts 24 hour after the birth and last 2-5 days.
Her behaviour may change. She may be a "shivery" or pant for the first 24 hours. This is a result of the stress her body experienced from the delivery. It was also be mental stress of not being sure how to manage all these new babies! Keep the environment calm, disturb her minimally and be positive towards her to help her settle.
You may get an increased aggression response towards other dogs, children and possibility even yourself. She is PASSIONATE about her babies and may feel she needs to protect them from any threat. Children should never be reaching into her kennel and other dogs should not be approaching the kennel door. This will just heighten her stress. Her main care givers (adults) should be able to access the puppies... be confident and firm. Then handle the puppies, clean the kennel and then leave her in peace. I tend to clean out the kennel and check puppies while mom is on a potty break in order to disturb her minimally.
-There is the occasional dog who will have urinary urgency after a delivery. This doesn't necessarily indicate a problem but they may need out to the bathroom hourly all night and all day. If you miss their cries for help they will pee in the kennel and this makes for wet cold babies, which is dangerous. This urgency may last as long as 3 or 4 days and then subsides. Obviously, if this is happening, you need to be home to facilitate these frequent bathroom breaks.
Watch for infection! Any stinky discharge indicates a problem. Bloody discharge, turning brown over the next few days/weeks is normal. Really stinky discharge is not. She should NOT have a temperature and if you see discorrdinated gait, she should see a vet promptly
How long can mom be away from her puppy each day?
One hour per week of the puppy's age. So in week one, she can go for 6, 10 minute potty breaks and then back to her puppies. Week two she could have 6, 20 min breaks, etc. Essentailly she needs to be closed in her kennel with them the rest of the time. Generally house raised dogs have the attitude, "I'd rather be on the couch" after week one, and will not choose to be in their kennel as much as their puppies need to thrive and grow, so the owner has to make the decision for the dog. And for the sake of the puppies, that for the next month, the mom does have to spend the vast majority of their time in with their puppies.
Sadly, over 5% of puppies die either at birth or within 48 hours afterwards. The most common cause of still born puppies is premature detachment of the placenta and there is nothing you can do. This essentially means the placenta detached before they were born, delivery didn't happen quick enough for survival. Sometimes puppies will benefit from "draining" (holding them nose down after birth) and if they don't get this, they have too much fluid in their lungs and gasp endlessly and ultimately perish. Occationally mom will lay on a pup and smoother it and still others die of unknown causes. Smoothering can be prevented by keeping minimal bedding in the kennel. A small, single layered towel is sufficient. If you notice a dead puppy, take mom outside for a potty break and remove the puppy while she's not in the room. If she doesn't see you take her puppy, she won't feel sad about it or even notice it's gone. We will likely cry about it and feel terribly, but our thoughtful care for mom can prevent her distress.
How much should the new puppies be handled? For the first two weeks, once a day if it's in the case of kids or visitors wanting to see them. Any hands touching puppies should be WARM and yes, I do check peoples hands before they touch the pups. Handling should be 5-10 minutes max. Mom will not appreciate extra people handling the pups so this should be done while she is on a potty break.
The main puppy caregiver should be handling the puppies 2-4 times a day. This should be efficient and care taken not to let the puppies get cold. You are essentially checking to see if the puppy looks like it's nursing. When you turn the puppy on it's back, does it look "full"? The belly should look like it has a little egg in it. If it looks totally empty, you can help it get to the nipples more frequently.
Ages and stages:
Week 1: Puppies are in the kennel with mom, mom is fed cottage cheese/dog food mix for the first few days, heat pad is under the kennel and keeping the kennel warm at all times, mom gets brief 5-10 minute potty breaks, kennel is wiped out and bedding changed daily.
Week 2: Everything is the same except cottage cheese is no longer needed in the dog food and mom can have 10-15 minute breaks.
Week 3: Same as week two, but 15-20 minute breaks for mom. Puppies eyes will now open and they can finally find mom by sight.
Week 4: Puppies are becoming quite active. They are walking around and starting to play. By the end of week 4 you may need to transition out of the kennel into an exercise pen with peepad to alternative enclosed enviroment as we need to start allowing the puppies to leave their bed area and do their bathroom business elsewhere. Putting hot water on mom's food to soften it allows mom to eat and the puppies to join her in starting to eat out of the same dish. I'd suggest keeping the heating pad under the bed area you create, to keep the puppies warm and think through the location as being on the floor near a door can be drafty.
Week 5: Puppies temperaments are being much more apparent. Weaning begins in that mom can now have 1 hour potty breaks and puppies should have access to her softened food while she's gone. Adding Heinz "Chicken and Broth" babyhood while she is out, will encourage the puppies to eat more adult food. For their ease, the food should be mashed and the babyhood mixed in for better results. As puppies start eating adult dog food, mom may stop cleaning up after them. This includes cleaning their bums, which can result in serious and fatal "poop plugs". Trim the hair closely around the puppy's rectum to prevent this and check them daily. It's also a good time to trim the puppy's nails for the first time so they don't stretch their siblings eyes in play
Week 6: Time for weaning to be finished by the end of week 6 or the start of week 7. Most moms will actually start to "snark" at their puppies by now and begin the weaning process for you. Lengthen mom's break times until she's only nursing a couple times a day but still spending the night with them. At the end of week 6, she can nurse a couple times a day with no night time puppy time and finally she's done! Week 6 or 7 is time for vet visits and first immunizations.
Week 7: Keep those eyes, bums and nails trimmed. Adoptive families can plan to pick their puppies when they turn 8 weeks, if your weaning is complete.
Week 8: Puppies can depart for their new families. Your female will find their departure less distressing if she doesn't;t watch them head out the door. So I'd give her a good bone and take her to another part of the house for the pickups.
Congratulations! You've raised some wonderful puppies for some very excited families. Now you can sleep. :)
For a "suggested supply" list, see below.
What do we need for supplies:
What do we need for supplies?
Great question! There are several items that will give you a greater degree of success and ease with both your delivery and raising your puppies. So here's what you'll need and you'll find links to these products below:
- a large whelping kennel. You need just the right size. Too big and your puppies will burn valuable calories crawling around, looking for mom. We want them to be eating, not crawling around. Too small and she has more chance of stepping or laying on them. A 32-34 inch kennel would be a great size to raise the puppies in until they are around 4 weeks old.
-a heating pad. This is NOT a "pet" heating pad. Those are too cool in temperature to appropriately heat a litter. We want a human heating pad with multiple heat settings that STAYS ON. Most heating pads turn themselves off after a set number of hours and are useless. You want to put your heating pad UNDER your kennel (so between the counter and your kennel) and when you put your hand inside the kennel on the floor, it should feel clearly warm. The pad is positioned so 2/3s of the kennel has the heating pad under it and the back 1/3 does not. This is so mom can find a cool spot to lay, if she wants. Why don't we put the heating pad IN the kennel? The kennel will be messy and require daily cleaning. Your heating pad can't be washed this much without wrecking it. It will be too hot in the kennel. The chord is in the way and your dog may chew it. Under the kennel works best.
-kennel dishes. Your mom will spend almost every hour of her next few weeks in the kennel and needs easy access to food and water. Unfortunately, the kennel dishes we use regularly have been discontinued, so the ones I've listed in the "store" are just a suggestion.
-Thin towels. You want a thin towel in the bottom of your kennel. If you use a blanket or something bulky, mom may burry the puppy, or it will go under the towel on it's own and this is dangerous. If a mom can't see her puppy, she will happily lay on it and smoother it, so it's important the puppies aren't competing with bedding..
-Hemostat. These are awesome for clamping the chord after birth
-Clotting powder. Again, invaluable for the chords after birth
- Paper towel
-nursing soaker pads. This is not a neccessary item, but I LOVE them and have found they drastically reduce the mess. They are used for incontinent patients in the hospital. They don't allow liquid to leak through (so stop the birthing mess from going everywhere) but also absorb a lot of liquid. I generally use two for each delivery and then machine wash afterwards.
-cottage cheese and yogurt. This is added into mom's dog food until you see her stool return to normal a couple days after delivery.
-Heinz Chicken and Broth baby food. This is amazing for assisting with the weaning process.
-An exercise pen to contain your puppies in a larger space once they reach 4 weeks of age. At this point, they'll want to explore beyond the kennel and it's important they are no longer "trapped" inside as they need to learn to exit their bed area to go to the bathroom. Your kennel can be set in the exercise pen, or you can transition to a dog bed with peepads around the pen.