Caring for a Puppy's Umbilical Cord

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When your dog gives birth to her puppies, your dog should instinctively chew each pup out of their placental sac and bite the umbilical cord in half. If the mother dog doesn't do this 30 seconds to one minute after birth, break the puppy's placenta sac and then wipe down the newborn puppy with a clean, dry towel, especially the nose and face. This must be done so the puppy doesn't suffocate and is able to breath properly.


Within a few days of birth, what's left of the umbilical cord will fall off.
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Wash your hands thoroughly before touching the puppies. Try to keep intervention to a minimum because too much human involvement during whelping can upset your dog. However, if the mother dog doesn't sever the umbilical cord, you might have to tie and then cut the puppy's umbilical cord yourself.


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Do puppies have umbilical cords?

Yes, like other mammals, including humans, dogs have umbilical cords when they are born.‌ The umbilical cord connects the puppy's circulatory system with the mother's placenta and provides nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood to the fetus. This is how puppies receive nutrients in the womb. The mother dog usually chews the umbilical cord to sever this connection seconds after the puppy is born.


Do puppy umbilical cords fall off?

Puppy umbilical cords must be severed to disconnect the puppy from the placenta, but the remaining stub will dry up and fall off by itself.‌ This should happen whether the mother chewed the cord or you helped by tying and cutting the cord. In both cases, the the remaining nub will fall off within a few days, leaving behind a puppy belly button. This is similar to what happens with humans and other mammals.


How to tie a puppy's umbilical cord

If the mother dog has not chewed off the umbilical cord, you will need to do it. Ideally, you will have been able to seek medical advice before you try to do this for the first time. But if no help is around, this is something that does need to be done. You'll need to tie off the umbilical cord once your dog has licked her new puppy dry or after you have dried the puppy with a clean towel. Tie off the umbilical cord using unwaxed dental floss or clean thread at least 1 inch from the puppy's abdomen, taking care not to tug on the umbilical cord.


Do not tie the cord too close to the puppy's abdomen, and make sure to leave an inch of the umbilical cord attached to the puppy. Once the first knot is done, tie a second knot about one quarter of an inch away from the first knot. Alternatively, you can tie the entire umbilical cord in a knot rather than using thread or dental floss.


How to cut a puppy's umbilical cord

Sterilize a pair of scissors with alcohol and then use them to carefully cut the umbilical cord between the two places you have tied off with dental floss or thread. Or, if you have tied the umbilical cord into a knot, cut the umbilical cord with a clean pair of scissors on the other side of the knot.



Whatever the method you chose to tie the cord, gently pinch and then cut the cord until it is severed. You can use sterilized scissors or a razor. Then, if you have iodine available, dab the end of the umbilical cord with iodine to prevent infection.

Then, follow these steps:


  1. Sanitize your hands with antiseptic or wear surgical gloves.
  2. Using alcohol, sanitize a pair of sharp scissors.
  3. Using thread or dental floss, carefully tie the umbilical cord 1 inch from the puppy's body and then less than an inch from that tie.
  4. Cut the cord between the two ties.
  5. Dab the umbilical cord stump with iodine to prevent infection.
  6. If the remaining piece of the cord is still bleeding, apply a gentle pressure with gauze until the bleeding stops.

How long will a puppy's umbilical cord bleed?

Since a blood vessel flows through the umbilical cord, some bleeding can occur after the umbilical cord is cut. However, ‌bleeding should stop within the hour,‌ especially if you've tied off the cord with thread and cleaned it with iodine.

If you see just a small smear of blood over the next several hours, that's normal and it's fine to just keep an eye on it. If the umbilical cord is actively bleeding you can try tying it off again just behind the initial knot. If this doesn't work, follow the directions in the next section and call your veterinarian.

How to stop a puppy umbilical cord from bleeding

If the umbilical cord does not stop bleeding quickly, place gauze over the umbilical stump.‌ Wrap a bandage gently around the puppy's abdomen to stop the bleeding. A small amount of pressure should stop the bleeding. If not, veterinary attention is needed because excessive or prolonged bleeding is dangerous. Also, watch for signs of infection, which include swelling, redness, and colored discharge.

Puppy umbilical cord care tips

If you have to help the mother dog remove the umbilical cord, wait until all the puppies are born. Keeping the first puppy attached to the placenta can actually help other puppies to be born.

The bottom line

Usually, dog mothers instinctively know how to take care of newborn puppies. However, if your mother dog doesn't sever the umbilical cord after all the puppies are born, you will have to do it. Seek medical advice from a DVM before you attempt to do this on your own. Tie the newborn pup's cord tightly with thread or unwaxed dental floss 1 inch from the puppy's body and then cut the cord using sterilized scissors. Once this is done, continue to observe the mother and puppies but avoid disturbing them unless absolutely necessary.



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