When your dog is nearing the end of her pregnancy (Fact: the act of giving birth is called whelping in dogs!), there are a few things that you should be ready with.

Let’s review the stuff you need to have ready before she gives birth.

  • Know the approximate number of puppies – An X ray after 50 days of pregnancy will tell you that.
  • Prepare a birthing space.  – This space should be a warm and quiet place, ideally with plenty of comfortable bedding, where you can observe her without disturbing her.  Show her the space well before her due date, so that she knows it’s a safe and familiar space.
  • You vet’s number on speed dial in case things go wrong. Also have a conversation (s) to clear any and every doubt you may have well beforehand, so that you’re as prepared as possible.
How do I know when she’s near giving birth?

About a day before she’s ready to deliver your dog might be restless, refuse to eat, and try to isolate herself. She might show “nesting behaviour”. This is the fancy term for when she starts picking up all the soft things she can find and trying to make a bed. This is the chance you take to try and lead her to her birthing space!

What should I do?

Keep an eye on her, from a distance! A lot of time, disturbing her often may not make her feel safe enough to give birth, and she may try to inhibit her contractions, which delays the process. Keep a bowl of fresh water near her in case she needs it.

What are the signs that something is wrong?

  • Extreme weakness
  • Straining for more than 2 hours with no progress
  • An interval of more than 2 hours between 2 puppies, even though more puppies are expected
  • Not straining at all, even though more puppies are expected
All these are signs to call your vet immediately!

Warning – once your dog has delivered, approach her with caution, keeping her temperament in mind. Every dog is different, and while some will have absolutely no problem with you touching her puppies, some dogs may be mildly annoyed, but let it go, and some may be downright aggressive. So whatever you do, do it with the momma in mind.

I think she’s done, what next?

Firstly, take her to the vet to get a follow up X ray, just to make sure that there are no puppies left inside. It seems improbable, but it’s perfectly possible to see a dog going around after giving birth like everything’s fine, only to have a puppy still inside. However, she won’t be fine for long. If left for too long, the puppy dies and, because the cervix is still open, bacteria enter, and the puppy starts decomposing inside her. This will lead to infection of the uterus, which will spread to the entire body. If led untreated, it will lead to severe illness and death.

Secondly, make sure she’s producing milk, or ask you vet to check that for you.  If she isn’t, or there are too many puppies, you may have to get a milk replacer made for newborns.

Lastly, get all the puppies checked out for any congenital abnormalities like a cleft palate (when the roof of the mouth doesn’t fuse, leaving an opening into the nasal passage) or hernias (organs being where they shouldn’t, causing swellings on the body. Your vet will give you options on how to proceed if there’s anything wrong.

Remember, your vet is your friend, and the best person to guide you and your dog through all of this.