As a veterinary technician, it is important to know the signs of whelping in dogs and what the expectations are for a normal and healthy delivery of puppies. Often clients will call and ask questions about their dog who is in labor. These clients need guidance as to what to expect and what to do should complications arise. This blog will give you a general idea of what to expect. Any time a client calls, it is a good idea to double check your advice with the doctor on duty and document the advice in the medical record.
Stages of Labor:
Stage 1: Mother becomes restless and nervous and often seeks seclusion. She may refuse food. This stage may last from 6-24 hours. Her body temperature will likely drop 1-2 degrees.
Stage 2: Contractions and expulsion of puppies begins. A small greenish sac protrudes from the vulva, followed by the puppy and attached placenta. Most often, puppies are born with nose first and stomach down. It is not uncommon for puppies to be born with hind limbs first (1/3 of the time puppies are breech). After delivery the mother will open the sac and clean the puppy and sever the umbilical cord.
Stage 3: Resting stage- following each delivery. This lasts from 10-30 minutes but may range up to an hour. There are mild contractions and delivery of the afterbirth.
If the the mother is not cleaning the puppy as expected, the membranes covering the puppy should be removed and mucus should be wiped from the nose and mouth. The puppy should be rubbed with a clean dry towel. This will help to stimulate circulation and respirations.
The umbilical cord should be tied about 1 inch from the puppy’s body with thread (then cut on the side of the knot away from the puppy.
Some new mothers are aggressive or nervous, so beware of behavior changes.
The client should seek veteinary care or advice:
- If the puppy is lodged in the birth canal for over 5 minutes.
- If there is persistent labor for 30 minutes and no puppy is delivered.
- If there is weak or intermittent labor for 3-4 hours with no delivery.
- If more than 4 hours have passed with no labor and more puppies are still expected.
- If there is a green/black discharge and no puppies for longer than 2-3 hours. The color is normal, but should be followed by delivery.
- Pregnancy has lasted for more than 65 days.
- If they have any questions or concerns about their dog at any time.
Check back next week for a blog on Post-Whelping Care!