I’ve been asked to talk about some general tips, if you find yourself with a pregnant pup.
WARNING: Graphic details!
The first thing to be considered when you find that your pup is expecting is: to ask yourself honestly whether you are willing to keep and care for the pups. Are you financially able to provide food or medical care for the puppies should an issue arise? Are you able to commit to the time and energy it takes in caring for multiple puppies until they are adopted? Your expecting dog should do most, if not all of the work, however there are times when a human being has to step in and take over care. It is especially important during these young months of a puppies life, to adequately socialize them. Anything a child, human being, cat, or other dog will do- can drastically shape the way the puppies view their new world. So it is important to show much love and comapssion during this time, to help raise loving, accepting, and well-balanced future pets. If for any reason, you can not, will not, or are unable to care for the new puppies- it is very important they be surrendered to your local animal shelter. Animal shelters actually are very appreciative when a person is upfront, right at or after the pregnancy, and not some time later when an animals health is at risk.
Chose an enclosed area of the house for your expecting mother to have the puppies; a seperate room or even a spacious closet floor. It is important to provide her with this space and privacy, to ensure safety of her, her newborns, and anyone else in the household. A private space will help reduce the intense stress of giving birth as well.
Additionally, a whelping box is an essential tool as well. These help to contain all the rolley-poley’s from finding themselves in harms way, and also acts as more security for the mother. A whelping box doesn’t have to be a fancy item either. It is okay to use anything you have around the home as a type of make-shift box; a shallow storage bin with towels down, for example. Be sure your make-shift box has no sharp edges or poses any risk to the newborns and their mother. Familiarize Mama with the new box. When her moment happens, we hope she goes to her box instead of birthing on your living room floor for example (which can be very messy.) Show your dog the box, feed her there from time to time, encourage her to sleep there, etc. You will want to expose her to the box as much as possible, so that when it comes time, it will be quite natural for her to go there for birthing. Keep the whelping box positive. Ensure that every interaction she has with the box is a good one. Making the box a positive experience can be as simple as petting her in the box or rewarding her (giving treats) for sniffing the box.
During the birthing process, you will most likely see your new mother eat placenta. This is completely natural for the dog, and should not be reprimanded. Allow it to happen, as gross as it seems, because the placenta is packed full of essential nutrients which she will pass onto her puppies during milking, and also give her a bit of needed energy as well.
Keep everyone away from your dog during the birthing process. Even if she has a beloved feline-friend or is bonded with another. Even the father of the liter should be kept away while she is birthing. This is important in reducing stress and ensuring safety for all. There will actually be a lot of commotion during this time, so having a “keep out” policy in place will prove to be incredibly helpful.
Why do I keep talking about reducing stress? Well, it is actually quite simple. A stressed dog, can become an aggressive dog, quickly. The majority of dog bites happen because the dog was experiencing stress over a “threatening” situation they find themselves in. Therefore, do not put them in that situation. Give them space, privacy, and a sense of security. Ask any woman you know, giving birth is a high stress process! And it is the same for your dog.
Becoming hall monitor. It is important to be present while your dog is giving birth. In the event that an emergency situation arises, a person is present that can swoop in to help. Find a comfy chair on the other side of the room, and just watch. Do not interfere unless it is absolutely necessary. Above all, watch your dog during this time. She will undoubtedly experience fatigue, anxiety, and other ranges of sensations. Watching your dog’s behavior allows you to get a real sense of whether this birthing process is going exceedingly well or not.
Did I mention she will eat the placenta?? (gross!!)
Still-borns and Natural Selection. It is a thing in the animal world, to kill an offspring that the mother feels should not continue. A puppy with any handicapps, for example, an under-developed limb, would most likely be eaten in the wild by it’s mother for nutrients to provide to the stronger puppies who will have a greater chance of survival. (Dog logic) In domesticated animals, some dogs will simply “set aside” the new born. You will see it pushed out -away from the rest of the litter, refused a nipple during feeding, and left out in the cold. Check out this puppy and see if there is any issue that can be fixed with medical care. If your mother is rejecting a puppy, you will most likely have to take over care. Syringe feeding and bathing are some examples of types of care.
If you notice your dog “going after” a puppy, seeming aggressive towards a recently birthed pup, she may be having a still-born. It is natural for the mother to try to stimulate the still-born’s heart. She achieves this by vigorous licking, poking, even dragging and gently flopping around. Allow your dog to revive her puppy. Given a sensible amount of time, you may need to take over and vigourously but gently rub the puppy. The dogs heart is located in the chest cavity between the front legs (relatively speaking, the “armpit” range.) So gently, rapidly rub the chest area to stimulate a heart beat.
Slowly reintroduce any children or other pets after the liter has arrived. Imagine if you were sick in the hospital, tired, feeling “off”- would you want a huge rush of friends and family barging in your room at once? Maybe! But it is wiser to go about reintroducing slowly. Limit the time others spend with the new Mama and babies. Monitor the time spent, to ensure safety to all. A mother dog can be protective, and sometimes dangerous.
Finally, ensure Mama’s recovery. Make sure your dog has plenty of water and food, and is comfortable in her new area. She will get uncomfortable being mostly laid down while the puppies eat or sleep. She will also be quite tired after giving birth. Make sure she is as comfortable as possible, eating, drinking, and making trips to the bathroom. She will not leave the puppies willingly at first so be aware that some challenges may arise, such as bathroom time.
Here’s to a healthy new pack! And remember, these tips are very general. If you need to know more or have a specific question regarding your dog’s pregnancy, please consult a veterinarian for professional advice.
For those of us that live in a region with kill shelters and are hesitant to reach out, click on this link here that can offer low-cost spay/neuter programs around the continental U.S.
Also, the Humane Society of the United States has another search option when trying to find low-cost spay/neuter; as well as helpful information for finding providers of low cost pet medications and so much more!