How to Deliver Puppies

By Jane Meggitt

As your dog's due date approaches, prepare yourself for the blessed event. Most canine births proceed normally, but have all of your veterinarian's contact information on hand. Delivering puppies -- or whelping, in canine parlance -- consists of helping the mother and coming to the aid of newborns in distress. Take mother and puppies to the veterinarian for an examination within 48 hours after delivery.

Preparing for Puppies

A whelping box.

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Starting three weeks prior to delivery, keep your expectant dog away from all other canines -- even the ones sharing your home. Create a safe, warm, draft-free space for her to deliver her puppies, away from household traffic. Place her whelping box lined with newspapers in the area. After the puppies are born, you can throw out the dirty newspapers and replace them with blankets. A few days before her estimated due date, take your dog's temperature rectally in the morning and evening. Normal canine temperature ranges between 101 and 102 degrees. When her temperature drops below 100 degrees, expect labor to start within the next 24 hours. Keep an iodine solution on hand along with cotton swabs, to disinfect the navels. You'll need unwaxed dental floss to tie the umbilical cords.

Signs of Labor

Puppies immediately after birth.

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As she goes into labor, expect your dog to stop eating and become restless and clingy. Take her to the whelping box and try to keep her calm. The initial stage of labor can last up to 12 hours. When she starts to experience contractions, she's entering the second stage of labor. Expect the first puppy's arrival within one to two hours after the beginning of strong contractions. If no pup arrives after two hours, call your veterinarian.

Here They Come

A dog has just given birth to puppies.

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When a gray sac emerges from your dog's vulva, that's puppy No. 1, enclosed in his water sac. He should arrive within an hour of the sac's presentation. When the puppy comes through the birth canal and into the world, he's covered with a membrane that the mother dog should lick off. If she fails to do this, wipe this amniotic fluid off his mouth and nose with a clean, damp cloth so he can breathe. His afterbirth exits next. Be sure to count each afterbirth to ensure one came out with each puppy. The mother should chew off her pup's umbilical cord. If she doesn't, tie the cord with the dental floss and cut the cord with sterilized scissors about half an inch from the puppy's body, daubing the end with the iodine solution. After the first puppy arrives, each subsequent puppy should come out at approximately hour-long intervals.

After Birth

Newborn puppies are nursing.

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Have a box lined with towels or blankets in which to place puppies after birth, while the mother continues birthing babies. Place a hot water bottle under the towels or blankets to keep the puppies warm. Sometimes mom takes a break in between having puppies, up to four hours or so. While she's resting, allow her puppies to nurse. Once all the puppies are born, place them with their mother in the whelping box.

Birthing Problems

Newborn puppies.

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If your dog is in hard labor for over two hours with no puppies forthcoming, take her to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital. If labor stops for more than four hours with puppies left inside, call the vet. If a puppy appears lifeless after his mouth and nose are cleared, start rubbing him vigorously all over with a soft towel or washcloth. There's a chance he'll revive.