Rottweil Xpress / August 1990
First, don’t panic! Dogs are not machines and you cannot simply push a button to start the birthing process. Secondly, although the gestation period of nine weeks is well known, I know very few bitches who can count up to 63!
A wise thing to do before this point is to make sure the female is actually pregnant. At about 25 days after breeding we take our females to the vet to be palpated. The vet is able to feel the small, marble-like string of puppies in the uterus. (Not every vet is capable of doing this and you must find one that has had experience.) Do not try to palpate the bitch yourself; if not done properly you could inflict damage on the whelps. In our area, which has a very large number of veterinarians, only one is capable of successfully palpating a bitch.
At about 50 days the bones calcify; at this point the bitch can be X-rayed and the puppies will show up. This will not only assure you of the pregnancy, but will also give you a good idea of the number of pups to expect. If you have done the above and are positive you have a real pregnancy on your hands, you will now be ready to play the waiting game.
Make sure the whelping box is in a quite place, and that it is large enough for the female to stretch out and be comfortable. It is important to keep a close watch on the mother-to-be. She will behave differently when people are around or when n room. If you are able to watch her without her knowing you are doing so, you will get a true picture of what is going on. We use a two-way mirror for this purpose, and it works very well.
The first indication of impending birth is uterine contraction, or labor pains. These contractions are not always visible and may go unnoticed, so keep a sharp eye on her. This stage can continue for up to twelve hours. She may become restless and nervous; she may shiver and pant, pace a lot and even vomit. But barring complications you can soon expect a pup to appear. (For the purposes of this article I refer to a simple whelping; not all of them are!)
In a normal birth the pup will appear head first, still enveloped in the ‘birth sack’. Contractions will force the puppy out of the birth canal, followed by the umbilical cord. If the female does not break the sack, you must do so, as the oxygen supply to the pup is now cut off. Remove the puppy from the ‘sack’, and make sure the puppy is breathing and that all the mucous is cleared from the pup’s mouth and nose. Once you are assured that the air passages are clear and the pup is breathing on its own, you can allow mother to clean the pup and give it its first meal.
Different mothers deliver in different positions. She may lay on her side to give birth; she may move around and she may deliver in a squatting position. Let her do what is most comfortable for her. Don’t do anything to make her uneasy and definitely keep her as quiet as possible.
Again, barring complications, she should deliver a pup once every 15 to 60 minutes. If more than an hour passes in between pups, you may be facing trouble. This is when you consult a veterinarian. Do remember that veterinarians are not breeders and not all are familiar with each and every breed. The veterinarian you choose should be open-minded and be willing to listen to other veterinarians and breeders. The most reliable people from whom to collect information are consistent breeders who monitor and whelpings.
After every puppy is delivered we usually have an X-ray taken to make sure the bitch has passed all the placenta and that there are no more puppies left. She is given an oxytocin shot, an antibiotic douche to prevent any vaginal infection, and is put on antibiotics as routine precaution.
Always remember that the mother needs to be watched and cared for just as much as the newborn pups.
Until next month, rrrrrrrring!
Article Written by Evie Lynn