Tips for Helping a Pug Deliver Her Puppies

By Betty Lewis

As a pug owner, you're likely familiar with the issues a brachycephalic dog faces: sensitivity to heat, potential breathing challenges and vulnerability to eye injury. Birth is also an ordeal for pugs because the puppies larger heads and shoulders can cause delivery problems. If your pug is pregnant, your vet should determine if a cesarean section is necessary. If you get the go-ahead for a home birth, be prepared to be present and ready to help, if necessary.

Predelivery Care

While your pug waits for her delivery date, she should be eating a healthy diet to meet her body's growing demands and enjoying daily walks to get sufficient exercise. Veterinary care is especially important for pregnant pugs. The vet will monitor her progress, including:

  • Performing an ultrasound after six weeks to determine how many puppies she's carrying
  • Evaluating her to learn if her hips and pelvis are wide enough for a natural delivery
  • Checking for blood sugar irregularities.

If the vet determines your pug can deliver her puppies without a cesarean section, your job is to prepare her a birthing spot and understand the signs that she, or her puppies, need a helping hand.

Preparing for Birth

A pug is pregnant for an average of 63 days, or about 9 weeks. Litter sizes typically range between three and five puppies, though it's not unusual for a pug to produce just a single puppy. Put together a whelping box, using a cardboard box and a thick layer of newspapers, choosing a quiet, comfortable space in your house. After the puppies are born, you can remove the soiled newspaper and provide comfortable bedding, such as a dog bed or blankets or towels for your pug to use for nesting and caring for her litter. Watch for signs your pug is ready to give birth during the first stage of labor, including:

  • Nesting behavior
  • Appetite loss
  • Drop in rectal temperature to below 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the second stage of labor, she'll show physical signs, such as:

  • Heavy panting
  • Whining or whimpering
  • Straining
  • Watery discharge.

If your dog strains for more than 30 minutes without her water breaking or delivering a puppy, you should call your veterinarian.

Puppies on the Way

If the vet thinks your pug's hips and birth canal will accommodate her puppies, your role likely will be limited to providing comfort and monitoring progress. It's wise to be prepared and have a few supplies on hand, just in case your pug needs some assistance. Your whelping supplies should include:

  • Clean towels
  • Sterile thread
  • Suction bulb
  • Heating pad
  • Scissors
  • Rubbing alcohol.

When all goes well in the birthing process, a puppy comes out head-first, enclosed in an amniotic sac. The sac usually tears during delivery, however if it's not broken, the mother usually tears it open. Normally, a mother will vigorously lick her puppies, removing any remnants of the birth sac and mucus from the puppy's mouth and stimulating him to breathe. It's common for the mother to chew the umbilical cord, eating the placenta and afterbirth. If the puppies are crying or whimpering within a minute or two of delivery, that's a good sign that everything's normal.

Helping Out

Your pug may not be tending to the normal post-delivery duties. If she does not chew through the umbilical cord, you should use sterilized thread to tie it tightly around the cord, pulling the ends quickly to cut the cord. Another option is to wipe scissors with alcohol and cut the umbilical cord on the mother's side after tying it with thread about an inch from the puppy's body. Occasionally, a dog may not remove the amniotic sac; you'll need to gently open the sac using your fingers. Use the suction bulb or your finger to remove mucus from the puppy's mouth. Carefully wipe the puppy with clean towels and put him in the whelping box with his mother.

Watch the puppies to make sure they are breathing and eating. If their tongues are blue, their eyes are swollen or have discharge, their gums are pale or they aren't able to nurse, contact your veterinarian immediately.

If a puppy is being born tail and hind legs first, or breech, contact your vet because your dog may need professional help or a cesarean section.

Difficult Delivery

Pugs and other brachycephalic dogs are prone to difficult delivery, referred to as dystocia, because of the puppies' large heads and shoulders relative to their mother's pelvic size. Signs of dystocia include:

  • Delivery doesn't start within 24 hours of a decrease in temperature below 99 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The first puppy hasn't been delivered within three hours of the beginning of active labor.
  • Subsequent puppies are not delivered within two hours of active labor.
  • A puppy does not appear after 15 minutes of consistent straining.
  • Labor appears to be over, yet the expected number of puppies haven't been delivered.
  • A puppy protrudes from the birth canal for more than several minutes, despite constant straining.

Dystocia is a veterinary emergency requiring immediate assistance.