Be prepared ahead of time for your mother dog to go into labor by making sure she's ready and you have everything you need to concentrate on whelping your new litter of puppies. Canine gestation takes 63 days, so if you know what date your female dog was bred, you can anticipate her due date fairly closely. If you did multiple breedings, you'll need to allow a day or two on either side of each breeding date. Plan to be ready on your girl's first due date. Use the week before her litter is due to accomplish tasks to make her job, and yours, easier.
It's unusual for puppies to arrive earlier than 61 days after being bred, so you can pinpoint when the litter is due. Make an appointment with your veterinarian the week before your mother dog's first due date for an ultrasound or X-ray. This will show how many puppies your dog is carrying and allow you to be prepared when whelping begins. It's very helpful to know how many puppies are coming. With a puppy count, you can also anticipate when your mother dog will be done delivering her puppies.
Begin taking your mother dog's rectal temperature two or three times daily the week before her due date. Use a rectal thermometer dipped in petroleum jelly. Take her temperature at the same times each day, and keep a log of the readings. A dog's normal temperature is between 100 and 102.5. Roughly 24 to 36 hours before labor begins, the mother's temperature drops to 99 or below and remains there. Taking her temperature before the due date establishes a baseline so you will know exactly when it goes down. You can then expect labor to begin soon.
Give your mother dog a warm bath the week before the litter is due or, if you prefer, a partial bath by sponging her stomach and under her tail. Be sure to rinse well with clear water. Trim the hair on her stomach, especially around the mammary glands and nipples. It's not necessary to trim down to the skin, but removing long hair will ensure the puppies can nurse easily and help keep the mother dog clean. If your mother dog is a long-haired breed, trim the rear feathers and the hair under the tail.
Set up the whelping box and double check that all your supplies are in place. Make sure your heating pad or heat lamp work. Stock in anything you'll need for the birth and immediately afterward so you can avoid trips away from the house. You'll want to stay close to home during the last few days before your mother dog's due date. Begin putting your expectant mother in the whelping box for short periods so she's familiar with it. It may help to feed her meals there. A day or two before her due date arrives, let her begin sleeping in the whelping box.
- American Kennel Club: A Guide to Breeding Your Dog
- Canine Reproduction and Whelping: A Dog Breeder's Guide; Myra Savant Harris
- The Whelping and Rearing of Puppies; Muriel P. Lee
- Puppy Intensive Care: A Breeder's Guide to Care of Newborn Puppies; Myra Savant-Harris
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