Helping your dog get ready to give birth can be an exciting, if nerve-racking time. While natural instincts often kick in for a whelping female, your assistance and presence can be comforting, particularly if any complications arise. Advance preparation can ensure the process goes smoothly and that the mother and babies are well taken care of.
When the time approaches for your dog to give birth, she'll start to nest, or look for a warm, safe location in which to whelp. Encourage her to find a suitable, out-of-the-way place where she can be left undisturbed, and where the puppies can be safe and warm. For example, consider a spacious kennel with blankets or other absorbent materials, a large closet or even an alcove in an out-of-the-way space, like a laundry room. Even if your dog is an outside dog, it's best that she whelp indoors to ensure both she and the puppies are kept warm before, during and after birth.
Get everything you’ll need to help your dog whelp. While you should allow the mother to do as much on her own as she can, being prepared in advance is a good idea. You should have at your disposal dental floss or thread with which to tie off umbilical cords if the mother doesn't sever them herself. You'll also need sharp, alcohol-wiped scissors for cutting the cords, and iodine for sterilizing the cord ends. Set aside soft, absorbent towels for rubbing the babies vigorously after birth to get them breathing, if necessary.
Signs of Imminent Birth
Your dog will begin to exhibit signs she's ready to go into labor. She may appear restless, pant or vomit, and her temperature is likely to decline slightly. This stage can last several hours and is typically followed by the actual birth. Allow the birthing process to progress naturally, understanding your dog may go up to an hour or two in between birthing each pup. Don’t attempt to pull any pups from the mother, as this can be dangerous. Feed her a treat like vanilla ice cream during this process to keep her energy up.
Count the placentas as they are expelled to make sure there is one for each pup. The mother may expel placentas one at a time or in groups. Keep the pups near their mother for warmth, and clean away soiled towels and bedding to make a comfortable environment. Watch the mother for any signs of fever, and ensure all puppies are nursing. If your dog is bleeding heavily or appears listless or unable to nurse, contact your vet for advice.