How to Pull a Stuck Puppy Out of the Birth Canal

After watching your dog progress through her pregnancy for the past few weeks, watching her give birth is the ultimate reward. Most of the time, her body does exactly what it's supposed to do and her puppies will be born with no problems. Sometimes, though, things don't go as nature intended. When a puppy becomes stuck in the birth canal, quick action on your part can save the puppy's life and save your dog from discomfort as well.

Golden Retriever bitch with her litter.
Most of the time, a dog does exactly what it's supposed to do and her puppies will be born with no problems.
credit: Catherine Falls Commercial/Moment/GettyImages

Help the pup out?

Purina says that dog births are normally straightforward and uncomplicated. Before you intervene, be sure that there actually is a problem that she needs help with. A dog's labor normally lasts three to 12 hours, and happens in three stages. The puppies are born during the second stage, and normally are delivered within 20 minutes of each other.

For a dog giving birth to a puppy that is stuck and not coming out may not actually be stuck — she may just be taking a break. Before you intervene, time how long your mother dog has been at her labor. It's common for her to have a rest in between puppies, for perhaps up to two hours. Definitely get in touch with a vet if she has not delivered puppies for more than two hours and you are certain there are more puppies to come.

Dead puppy inside mother

If your dog is giving birth to a puppy stuck in the birth canal, the puppy may die. If there is a dead puppy inside mother and you can't reach it, you'll need to take your dog to an emergency veterinarian so that the vet can remove the puppy and, possibly, hopefully, deliver the other puppies. The website Dog Breed Info says that if the puppy is partially out, you have everything to gain by working hard to get that pup out whether it is breathing or not.

With gloved hands, hold the part of the dog that you can reach. Try to hold on to the head, if it is presented, so the puppy's body does not go back inside the birth canal. Dog Breed Info says stuck puppies are common, and some kind of lubrication helps them to come out a lot easier. This site recommends dish soap, but having a general lubrication on hand during puppy delivery would be a good idea.

Cesar's Way says puppies are born in a thin membrane that looks like plastic wrap. If the mother does not remove this membrane, you'll need to do it within six minutes so the pup doesn't suffocate. With a gloved hand, remove the membrane. Place the puppy near the mother so she can lick it, which stimulates it to breathe.

How to cut the cord

If you have to help a pup out, the mother may not chew through the umbilical cord like she normally would, so you may have to cut the cord also. Using sterilized scissors, cut about an inch from the pup's belly, and tie the cord off with thread or dental floss 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the puppy's body.

Dog labor complication signs

Hopefully, you won't have to intervene and pull out a stuck puppy, but if you do, look out for these dog labor complication signs. Purina says to contact your vet if:

  • Your mother dog fails to go into labor within 24 hours of her temperature dropping.
  • No puppy comes out after contractions lasting for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Your mother dog passes her green or red/brown vaginal plug and no puppy is born within four hours.
  • Mother dog is resting for more than two hours and you know there are more puppies inside.
  • You can see a puppy about to come out, but the puppy isn't delivering.
  • Your dog has been in second stage labor delivering puppies for more than 12 hours