If you've been waiting for your pup's blessed event, you may have wondered what to expect. Chances are Princess will deliver her brood fine on her own, however, it's wise to know what's normal. Depending on the size of her litter, delivery can take as long as 12 hours.
When Princess is ready to give birth, she will have carried her pups for about 63 days, depending on her size. If she's never been pregnant before, contractions may be a puzzling and painful surprise for her, making her restless. She may pace, shiver and pant, and she'll probably shun food. Perhaps she'll busy herself nesting in her whelping box, or she may whine. Don't be alarmed if you don't actually see her contractions during this time. This is the longest stage of labor for dogs, taking anywhere from six to 18 hours.
Though puppies tend to arrive in pairs, each is housed in his own amniotic sac. When Princess became pregnant, her puppies developed in her uterus, encased in these fluid-filled sacs, which protected them from movement. Each fetus had his own placenta, anchoring him to Princess's uterus and providing him with nutrition as he developed. The placenta also removed his waste into his mother's bloodstream, for her to process along with her own waste.
When Princess is getting close to delivery, her contractions will become more pronounced. During this second stage of hard labor, each puppy is expelled, still in its amniotic sac. Princess will take care of removing the sac, biting and licking the membrane off her new baby. This is a short, but important process, as the puppies need the sac removed so they can breathe and it gives Princess the chance to bond with and recognize her puppies. Sometimes a pup will be followed by his placenta; other times, the mother may deliver two pups followed by two placentas. The delivery of puppies is considered the second stage of labor; the afterbirth is the third stage of labor. Princess will go between the second and third stages of labor until her entire litter is delivered.
It's rare that a dog needs help delivering her puppies, however, sometimes she needs a helping hand. If Princess isn't removing the amniotic sac or severing the umbilical cord, you can assist by tearing open the sac at the puppy's head and gently removing the puppy. Wipe him gently to remove fluid and mucus from his nose and mouth and rub him to stimulate his breathing. Using a warm wet hand towel on his genital area will stimulate him to go to the bathroom. If you need to cut his umbilical cord, tie it with unwaxed dental floss about an inch from his body and cut off the extra length.
Puppies tend to come about every 30 minutes, though some dogs may deliver a puppy every 45 to 60 minutes. It's normal for a dog to take a rest partway through delivery, potentially resting up to four hours. However, there are times when it's time to call the vet. If Princess experiences strong contractions for 30 to 60 minutes without producing a puppy, is in extreme pain or rests longer than four hours when she still has puppies to deliver, contact your vet.