Whelping & Newborn Puppies

Understanding the whelping process will help your mother dog produce a beautiful litter.
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It’s been 63 days since your female dog bred, and puppies are imminent. It’s your first time to witness the whelping process, and you’re not sure what to expect. More often than not, nature takes care of everything, and the birthing process goes smoothly. But you should know what to expect during and after whelping so you can provide comfort and assistance to the mother and proper care for the puppies.


Your dog will need a whelping box where she can deliver her puppies. It should be big enough for her to turn around in and lie down comfortably. The sides of the box should be 6 to 12 inches tall -- so mom can feel secure but also see you for reassurance. Line the box with several layers of newspapers to protect your flooring and a blanket or pet cushion for mom’s comfort. But don’t be surprised if she decides to deliver her puppies in the middle of your bed or in a secluded closet.


About 24 hours before whelping, your girl likely will stop eating and start nesting or rearranging her bedding. If you are monitoring her temperature, it will drop from a normal temperature of 101.5 degrees F to around 100 degrees F. At this stage, your dog may want to be secluded or sit at your feet or in your lap. You can reduce her stress by accommodating her.

Soon, you’ll notice your dog straining to deliver a puppy. In most cases, she will deliver a pup within 10 minutes. She will typically produce a puppy every 30 to 60 minutes. If your dog continues intense straining for more than 60 minutes with no results, it’s time to get in touch with your veterinarian.

Puppy Care

You may think that mom is being rough on each puppy as she delivers it, but she is chewing the umbilical cord, breaking the birth sac and stimulating breathing through aggressive licking. If she doesn’t do these things, you’ll need to help her. Clear the sac membrane from the puppy’s nose so it can breath. Then you can tie the umbilical cord off with dental floss about 2 inches from the puppy’s belly and cut the cord with scissors. Dry the puppy by rubbing it with a towel, which also will stimulate breathing.

The puppies have been living in a temperature of 101.5 degrees. Immediately after birth puppies are unable to control their own body temperature and are dependent upon external warmth. Keep the temperature in the room where the whelping box is located around 85 to 90 degrees. A heat lamp or heating pad is not recommended as they can cause the puppies to become overheated. Monitor them for any signs of breathing distress, and make sure they start to nurse within 24 hours.

Post-partum Care

Watch the mother for any signs of sickness. She should begin eating as well as nursing her pups within 24 hours. Take her temperature every day for the first week. It likely will be running a little high -- between 102.5 and 103 degrees. She will have a reddish brown discharge from her vulva for several weeks. If it becomes foul smelling or if you notice swelling around her mammary glands, call your veterinarian.