On average, female dogs take about 62 days to gestate after being bred. Any time frame between 54-72 days is normal though. You have a long road ahead of you, so make sure you’re ready for this exciting journey.
The First Month
During the beginning stages of pregnancy there is not much for you to worry about!
Feed your dog her regular diet for the first month. IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not give your dog vitamins during this time. If your dog takes supplements during her pregnancy she may have problems extracting calcium from her bones after she gives birth. This will make her more susceptible to hypocalcemia. Hypocalcemia is the presence of low serum calcium levels in the blood and can result in muscular weakness and even seizures.
The Second Month
Start feeding your expecting mother a high-quality puppy food. Puppy food will provide her with the extra calories that she needs without providing excess supplementation.
About a week before her due date, you should start taking her temperature each day. If you don’t know how to take your dog’s temperature you should ask your vet to show you the correct procedure. The normal rectal temperature for dogs ranges from 100 to 102.5F.
About 24 hours prior to giving birth, your dog’s rectal temperature will drop a few degrees.
One to Two Weeks Before Delivery
You should start getting your supplies together! You’ll need to construct a “whelping station.” This should be an area where your new mom will deliver. She should be able to get in and out without letting her pups loose. Make sure you put the box in a quiet place that your dog feels comfortable.
Supplies you’ll need:
Plenty of clean towels
Sharp scissors (to cut the cords)
Dental floss (for tying off the cords)
Povidone iodine (for disinfecting the cord ends)
The Birthing Process
Be ready to get your hands dirty because whelping is messy!
The 3 Stages of Labor:
#1- Cervix is Dilating, Dog Experiences Some Uterine Contractions (this stage often goes unnoticed)
This stage lasts about 6-12 hours and your dog may experience some shivering, restlessness, panting, vomiting, and unwillingness to eat during this stage. If you notice this happening, you should encourage your dog to go to the whelping area.
#2- Active Labor
If your dog has more than one puppy, she will alternate between stages 2 and 3 in-between births. Dogs usually rest for about an hour in-between puppies.
It takes about 10-20 minutes to deliver the first puppy. If your dog is actively straining for more than an hour, you should call the vet because your dog is going to need some professional help getting those babies out.
Puppies are born either head first of breech (rear first). Both are normal and you should not be alarmed if you see a breech puppy.
Some dogs squat to have puppies and some lie down. Some dogs grunt and some will scream, just be flexible
on what your dog may need. Every dog is different!
Puppies are born with their amniotic sac intact. If the mom doesn’t attend to her pups within the first 2 minutes, you’ll need to intervene.
The membrane must be ruptured so the puppy can breathe. Use a child nasal aspirator to clear the fluid from the puppy’s mouth and rub near the umbilicus with a towel to stimulate respiration.
Then, take a piece of dental floss and tie off the cord about an inch from the puppy’s body. Take the scissors and cut it off, take the end of the cord and dip it in the povidone iodine to disinfect it.
If the mother wants to do all this herself− by no means should you stop her. Some dogs chew off their puppy’s cord themselves− there’s nothing wrong with this. Don’t let the mother eat the placenta though. Take it away from her, and she’ll never know the difference.
#3- Placenta Expulsion
Generally placenta expulsion occurs within 15 minutes from the time each puppy is delivered. Every puppy will have one placenta. You should count the numbers of placentas expelled to make sure that none of them are retained inside the mother.
The Puppies Are Here− What Now!
Make sure all the puppies get a chance to have their first meal. The first milk is rich with protective
antibodies that really help them to start off on the right foot. Mom is also going to need a light meal and potty break.
You should call your vet to let him know the results of the event. Your vet may suggest that you bring everyone in for a checkup to make sure everything is returning to normal!
For about 6-8 weeks, mom will be producing a reddish brown to bright green odorless discharge called lochia. No worries, this is normal and you should not be concerned about it. However, if your dog has a bright red bloody discharge, you should call your veterinarian right away.
Continue to take your dog’s temperature and inspect the mammary glands daily so that any uterine or mammary infection can be caught and treated early.
Your dog will need extra food now that she’s a momma and she’s lactating. She will need 3-4 times more food. Also, make sure the puppies are eating a high quality puppy food.
You can start supplementing the mother’s diet with calcium. You can get this from your vet or give her cottage cheese.
Also, make sure your dog has access to plenty of water, but not in the “whelping station,” you don’t want one of the puppies to drown.
Have fun with your new puppies- you certainly have your work cut out for you!