A dog's normal length of pregnancy (gestation period) is 61 to 63 days. However, delivery 1 or 2 days earlier or later is not unusual and presents no cause for alarm as long as the general health of the dog is good.
In preparation for whelping, the dog will make a nest with newspapers and rags if they are available. If they are not, she may dig into the carpeting with her front paws, almost as if she were digging a hole. This is termed "nest building" and is a fairly consistent sign that delivery will follow soon, usually within 2 to 3 days. To make your pet feel comfortable about delivering (and to save your carpet!) provide a whelping box with plenty of newspapers and rags.
At about the same time the nest building occurs, you should also notice an enlargement of the breasts with milk production. Another fairly consistent method of determining when the dog will deliver is to take her temperature each day. Approximately 24 hours before delivery, her temperature will drop about 2 degrees Fahrenheit/1 degree Celsius.
When she is getting close to labor, a mucous discharge appears at the vulva followed by a greenish discharge. At no time should there be a brown or foul-smelling discharge. If this is present, contact your veterinarian immediately.
The onset of labor will make the dog somewhat restless, but it is not until the second stage of labor that she will actually lie down and have abdominal contractions. Once the second stage of labor begins, delivery should begin within 3 hours. If no pups are delivered by that time, professional help should be obtained.
A puppy may be born in one of three ways. The most common presentation is head and feet first. The second most common is rear legs and tail first, not to be confused with a true breech birth. In a true breech only the rump is presented, with the rear legs folded under the body of the puppy. In a small bitch, this type of presentation can cause problems and should be watched for carefully.
Complications may arise during the birthing process that you can handle quite easily by using the tips below.
If the Puppy Is Stuck in the Birth Canal Half Exposed
Step 1: Grasp the puppy with a clean towel.
Step 2: Applying steady traction, gently pull the puppy at a slight downward angle. Continue pulling gently and steadily until the pup is delivered.
Step 3: If you are unable to remove the puppy, contact the veterinarian immediately.
If the Mother Doesn't Clean the Puppy After Delivery
Step 1: Put the pup, covered in the fetal membrane, on a clean towel.
Step 2: Peel the membrane off its face immediately.
Step 3: Continue to pull the membrane from its body. The membrane will collect around the umbilical cord. DO NOT pull on the umbilical cord.
Step 4: Wipe any fluid off the nostrils and mouth. Rub the puppy's body vigorously with a towel to stimulate breathing.
Step 5: If there is heavy mucus in the mouth and nose, clean out what you can with your finger.
Step 6: If the puppy is still having trouble breathing:
Step 6a: Place the puppy in a towel on the palm of your hand.
Step 6b: Cradle its head by closing your thumb toward your fingers.
Step 6c: Using your other hand to secure the puppy, lift your hands to head level and swing firmly down toward the floor. Repeat several times.
Step 6d: Vigorously rub the puppy again with the towel.
Step 6e: Stop when the puppy is actively moving and crying.
Step 7: Tie a thread around the umbilical cord about 1 inch above the puppy's abdomen. Leaving the tied portion attached to the puppy, cut off the rest of the umbilical cord and fetal membrane.
Step 8: Place the puppy with its mother. She will take care of the rest. If she does not take care of the puppies, or if any other problem develops, contact the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Seeing a dog hurt or in distress can be such a helpless feeling. By learning the tips outlined in this article, you can arm yourself with dozens of first-aid techniques that may end up saving the life of your beloved pet.
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