Proper preparation for the birth of puppies can make the event much less stressful. Most dogs do well with minimal intervention. There are a few items, however, that should be available for proper care and emergencies. There can be problems, messes and special needs for the mum. Do a little research and shopping ahead of time to get ready for the big day you will feel confident helping your dog give birth.
Preparation is key and Items to Keep on Hand
It is incredibly exciting to witness a dog having puppies. If you are not a professional breeder, however, you may have many questions about how to prepare for the big day. Your dog may become pregnant accidentally, you may be a first-time breeder, or you may be helping a rescue or foster dog. Whatever the circumstance, it is important to be prepared. Thankfully, natural instincts usually take over when a dog goes into labor. There are a few things that can make things easier, however, if this happens in your home.
Whelping Box or Baby Pool
Your dog should show signs of nesting before the birth. This may happen occasionally about two weeks before the birth, as well as a few days before. Your dog may choose a closet, bathroom, or even a favorite corner. If she likes to rest on your bed or the couch, keep a close eye on the nesting activity. You may need to redirect her to another area. You can build a whelping box or use a large baby pool. These items are used for a large part of the nursing time, as well. They have short walls, so the mom can get out when she needs to walk around. The pups, however, remain safely contained for several weeks.
I have researched the disposable Whelping boxes together with the heavy duty play pen types and the latter offer the better value, easy access, together with multi purpose actions. There are many on the market but the attached offers the best star ratings and user comments
Pads and Towels
You can use disposable or washable pads to help control the blood and fluid during the birth. Place a shower curtain or tarp over your dog’s soft bed if you are concerned about comfort during labor. Soft blankets can also be placed under the pads. Washable pads are much softer than disposable. You can purchase dog pads or human ones for this event. Medical supply stores and baby supply stores have extremely absorbent pads for purchase.
Most people do not realize how much a dog moves around during labor. She may stand up and move around after each puppy is born. Be sure to have at least two pads available for each puppy you expect. This way you can keep the area as clean as possible. Keep changing them out as they become saturated. Towels are less absorbent but are great for soft padding and clean up.
Thread and Iodine
Your dog can be left to break open the sacks and bite the umbilical cords. Keep a close eye on the abdomens of the new puppies, however. Sometimes the mom may have a hard time getting the cord cut properly. If you notice it is still bleeding on the end, you can tie it off with some sterilized thread. You can prepare a bowl with iodine and some thread before the birth to avoid scrambling for it in an emergency. Soak the thread in iodine until you are ready to use it. Cut a few pieces so they are ready to go.
An Extra Person
Large litters may take a few hours to arrive, especially if this is the dog’s first time giving birth. While nature may take its course, you can often help a struggling puppy. You cannot, however, be two places at once. You may need to run to the vet quickly with a puppy that is bleeding or not breathing properly. An extra person can help by running to the vet for you or staying home to monitor the birth. It can also take two sets of hands to tie off the umbilical cord on a wiggling puppy. One person can tend to the mother dog while another keeps a watch on the pups. The first 48 hours are critical. Puppies that are not going to survive often pass quickly during this time. You need to be extra attentive and may lose quite a bit of sleep. An extra person can relieve you of puppy duty, so you can rest. Taking turns makes the early days much easier.
It is always a good idea to be prepared for an emergency. Even if your heater works fine, you may need a space heater to make the room extra warm. Newborn puppies cannot regulate their body temperature. Hot water bottles or instant hand warmers can help if you are experiencing bad weather and may lose power. Never let these items touch the puppies directly, however. Only use these in an emergency and keep plenty of layers of blankets on top of them. Moving puppies close to mom is the best way to keep them warm.
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You should not have to use supplemental feeding if you have a healthy mother dog. Giving newborn pup milk can disrupt the mother’s milk supply and make the pup dependent on bottle feeding. The first two days of nursing are the most important, as the colostrum made during this time offers important antibodies to help build the immune system. In case of an emergency, however, you should have powdered formula, bottles, and syringes ready for use. A weak puppy or one with a deformity may need to be bottle fed. Otherwise, the mom knows what to do.
Emergency Vet Information
Your dog may go into labor at any time of day or night. Your regular veterinarian, however, may not be open in the middle of the night. Find out what number to call if you need emergency service 24/7. You can also look for the emergency vet office that is closest to your home. This way you can rush a distressed puppy or mum to them if necessary. Keep their number nearby, as well.
Special Items for Mom
While your dog is caring for her new babies, someone needs to care for her. She may be reluctant to leave the puppies for any reason, even to go outside for the toilet. Place puppy pads in the room with her so she can relieve herself without straying too far. Nappies/Diapers can also help to control some of the mess from the bleeding that occurs after the birth. This can go on for weeks. The first two weeks are usually the messiest.
Your dog also needs to have proper nutrition to support her litter. Provide her with puppy food so she gets extra calories. She may eat up to four times her normal serving as the puppies grow. She also needs to stay hydrated. You can supplement her food with a powder for nursing dogs, bone broth, and fresh meat. Some caregivers also offer goat’s milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese. Check with your vet before adding dairy, however. Offer a meal often, even if she refuses. She may not eat much during the first 24 hours.
Most dogs give birth at home with minimal complications. Nature is an incredible thing. There are a few things, however, that can cause difficulties. Even most of these can be handled at home. A vet visit exposes newborns to many unnecessary germs. A puppy that is bleeding profusely or struggling to breathe, however, must be seen. Get your supplies ready and enjoy your new babies.
I have found a really useful whelping kit with everything you may need to assist your dog giving birth. It is called a Whelping kit. Its like The First Aid box equivalent, it has absolutely all that you require for a safe home birth.
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Until next time
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Couldn’t resist this picture of a litter of Border Collies
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