Having puppies is one of the most enjoyable parts of dog ownership. Labor and delivery is normally a very smooth process for most dogs, although occasionally problems arise. Gestation in dogs normally lasts for 9 weeks, or approximately 63 days from breeding to birth. Gestation lasting more than 65 days or the declining health of your dog can make inducing labor necessary. Inducing labor in your pregnant female can be a bit of a challenge, but a litter of happy, healthy pups is worth the time and effort.
Schedule an appointment with your vet to have your dog examined. He will palpate her abdomen to feel for the puppies, will draw blood work to make sure she is receiving adequate nutrition, and listen to her with a stethoscope to check for signs of life in the pups. Your vet will advise you on what signs to look for when your dog goes into labor and will tell you how to care for her during the birthing process.
Ask your veterinarian for a prescription of oxytocin. Oxytocin in the hormone released during a normal pregnancy that tells your dog's body that it's time to start labor, causing the uterus to begin contracting and pushing the puppies out. It is injected intramuscularly with a needle and syringe, and your vet can show you how to properly administer it to your dog.
Set up your whelping box in a quiet area of your home. Your dog will start nesting a few days before she gives birth, preparing a delivery spot for her puppies. Line the whelping box with clean bedding and encourage your dog to relax in the box, familiarizing herself with it and making it her own personal space. You can include a few of her favorite toys to make her feel at home.
Observe your dog closely for signs of labor. Restlessness, licking of the genitals and the reluctance to eat are typically seen within 24 hours of labor. Begin taking your dog's temperature twice a day at day 60, watching for a drop in her baseline temperature. Normal temperature for a dog ranges between 100 and 102 degrees, and will drop by at least two degrees as her body prepares for labor.
Monitor your dog's labor to determine if it is progressing properly. The first pup should be born within an hour of her initial signs of labor. If she seems restless and uncomfortable but not having strong enough contractions to push out a puppy, give her a dose of oxytocin. The oxytocin will stimulate her uterus, making contractions more forceful and helping her to expel the puppies. Inducing her labor with a dose of the drug will help speed up your dog's labor and prevent the loss of any puppies due to stalled contractions. If the first dose of oxytocin does not have any effect on her contractions, administer another dose 30 minutes later.
Massage your dog's abdomen if her labor seems to have slowed. Rubbing her and the puppies can put her at ease and relax her muscles, making labor proceed. Do not rub her hard or push down forcefully on her abdomen, as this might injure her or the pups.
Encourage your dog to walk if she seems uncomfortable. Slip her collar and lead on her and gently walk her around your home, making sure to stay near the whelping box in case she needs to lie down. Exercise helps relax your dog and can help the pups settle lower in the birth canal, stimulating the need to push. It is also thought that exercise stimulates the pituitary gland to release more hormones, helping to speed along the birthing process.
Leave your dog alone and do not disturb her after labor starts. The first puppy can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or two to appear, but the remaining pups will come in quick succession. Make sure your dog is cleaning them and severing the umbilical cord in between puppies. If she is having trouble or the pups are coming too fast, you can help her by breaking the sacks and drying the puppies in warm, clean towels.