Prepare for your puppy birth several weeks before your mother dog's due date, when you are sure she is pregnant. Once your bitch's labor begins, you won't be able to make a run to the store or, perhaps, even to another part of the house. Have all the supplies you need on hand in the room you plan to use for whelping, in a place where they're easy to reach.
The Whelping Box
The single biggest item you'll need to prepare for your puppy birth is a whelping box. You can buy a ready-made whelping box or construct one from wood. A cardboard box can be used for whelping, but generally these do not hold up for the length of time your mother dog and puppies will occupy it. The whelping box should be large enough to allow 1 to 2 feet of space around your bitch when she is lying on her side. The box should have solid sides to protect the puppies from drafts and keep heat in. The floor can be a separate piece which facilitates lifting the sides to clean the box and anchor the bedding.
Preparing the Box
The whelping box should be outfitted with a waterproof mat or sheet on the floor and whelping pads or a washable rug that fits snugly over that. Mother dogs like to dig or nest while they're in labor and even after whelping. Avoid using loose towels or blankets, because digging can create pockets where puppies might become trapped and suffocate. Use a pad designed for whelping boxes or stiff fabric such as a washable rug that won't bunch if your mother dog digs. If your box's sides and floor are separate pieces, use pads that are slightly larger than the floor so you can secure the pads from the outside by placing the box sides on top. Have at least three or four whelping pads so you can change and wash them easily.
Purchase an electric heating pad or heat lamp designed to be used in kennels or whelping boxes. Place the heating pad under the whelping box pad so you can turn it on once the puppies are born. If you use a heating lamp, put it out of the mother dog's reach above the box. Position the heating pad or lamp on one side of the whelping box so your mother dog and the puppies can move away from the heat source if they become too warm. Never place puppies directly on the heating pad; always cover it with a pad. If you use a heating lamp, don't allow it to shine directly on the puppies. Cover it with aluminum foil in which you've poked holes to protect the pups from the bright light.
Have a supply of small, clean towels on hand for drying and wrapping puppies. Use a food scale to weigh each puppy as it's born. Set up a notepad and pen to record time of birth, markings and the weight of each puppy. You'll need scissors sterilized with alcohol and dental floss for cutting and tying umbilical cords. Prepare a separate box or clean plastic laundry basket lined with towels and a microwavable heating disk to place the puppies in while your bitch delivers the rest of the litter. You will also use it to hold the puppies when you clean the whelping box. Have some vanilla ice cream or vanilla yogurt to feed your bitch during labor between puppy deliveries, as well as high-quality puppy food and cottage cheese to give her after the birth. These treats give her energy and calcium.
Just in Case
Be prepared with several pairs of surgical gloves, a rectal thermometer to take your bitch's temperature, a pediatric bulb syringe for clearing puppy airways, supplies for tube-feeding puppies and milk replacer in case it's needed. Have your veterinarian's phone number written down and a phone in the room near the whelping box. Add a comfortable chair and some magazines or books for you while you wait for your new puppy litter to be complete.
- The Whelping and Rearing of Puppies; Muriel P. Lee
- Canine Reproduction and Whelping: A Dog Breeder's Guide; Myra Savant Harris
- Puppy Intensive Care: A Breeder's Guide to Care of Newborn Puppies; Myra Savant-Harris
- Doctors Foster and Smith Pet Education: Whelping (Giving Birth) in Dogs