If you are caring for a pregnant dog, it's important to know how to handle an emergency before labor begins, including how to help a newborn puppy that isn't breathing. Keep your veterinarian's number on hand, and call right away if you notice a problem. In the meanwhile, however, you can save a puppy's life by giving rescue breaths.
During a normal birth, the mother dog will remove the placental membrane or sac from the puppy as soon as it is born. If the sac is not completely removed, the puppy may have difficulty breathing. Tear open the membrane if it is closed and, whether it was already opened or closed, wipe away any remnants on the puppy's mouth and nose using a clean towel.
Fluid in the puppy's nose, throat or airways can make it impossible for him to start breathing on his own. Clear the airways by holding him securely at an angle that keeps his head facing down. Use a bulb syringe to suck the fluid out of the puppy's nose and mouth. If necessary, place the puppy securely between both hands, with a couple of fingers on top of his head, and swing him in a wide downward arc between your legs to loosen and remove the fluid. Use caution when performing this procedure and do not drop the puppy or let his head flop around and cause injury. In an emergency, however, it can quickly clear fluid from the puppy's airway. The fluid must be clear before you try to stimulate breathing.
When a mother dog licks her newborn puppy, it stimulates his breathing response. Create the same response by rubbing him vigorously all over his body, especially on his sides, with a clean towel. Although the puppy appears fragile, the rubbing needs to be forceful, especially if he is not breathing at all. After 15 to 20 seconds, check to see if the rubbing has elicited a response. If it does not get him breathing, move on to rescue breaths.
Place your lips over the puppy's muzzle, sealing both the nose and mouth, and blow gently. Don't force the air too hard, and don't exhale completely since a puppy's lungs are tiny and can hold only a small amount of air. If the puppy has a heartbeat, rub him with a towel for 15 to 20 seconds, and repeat the breathing until he is breathing on his own. If you don't detect a heartbeat, lay the puppy on a solid surface, wrap your hand around the puppy's chest just below the front legs, and press rapidly several times in a row. Repeat the breathing, rubbing and compression until the puppy breathes on his own, or for 20 minutes. If after 20 minutes he is not breathing on his own, it is unlikely that he can be resuscitated.
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