Even though our bitches cannot give us a lot of verbal information, their bodies and their behaviors can tell us a lot about their laboring procedures. Of course there will be variables from bitch to bitch and whelping to whelping. I would like to share with you an ideal whelping scenario.
Because you have been taking her temperatures of your bitch and keeping record, you have already figured out that delivery is due within the next 12 to 24 hours and you are prepared. You have the whelping box ready for the mom and warming box ready for the puppies. You have all your supplies right down to vet phone numbers.
Your bitch may not eat the day of whelping. This may be your first sign of labor. She may still be drinking water. I have one bitch that will eat a full meal one hour before having pups. I have another bitch that will be happy to eat ice cream during contractions, so loss of appetite is just one more variable. Several hours prior to the actual delivery, she will start to have contractions. Her contractions will start out being rather mild in intensity and short in duration and irregular. These contractions are causing her cervix to open and thin. She knows what is happening. Always be aware that even a first time mom to be knows what is happening. They are filled with instinct and are well aware of what is happening. She has felt puppies kicking them for weeks now. They will want you with them. They will begin to be restless. If you thought she was clingy before, wait till you see how she acts when in labor.
She will have a strong urge to dig and nest. She will start this behavior about a week or more before the actual whelping date, but when she is in labor it will become much more pronounced and more frequent and much lengthier. She will dig in closets, laundry baskets, her toy box, in her whelping box, your bed, sometimes under your bed. It is best to have her in a controlled environment because she will seek out places that may be inaccessible to you like under the bed. Give her a large cardboard box filled with old clean washcloths and hand towels.
She will pant. The panting starts about the same time that the laboring process begins and is very pronounced. It isnít because she is hot or cold. Itís simply a function of the labor process in the canine. Once she has her first puppy the panting usually stops completely. But I have had a bitch that will pant with each birth of her puppies. Once she delivers a puppy, the puppy will become her focal point and she will become less agitated, less clingy. But then my first rat terrier will get up and follow me even after having her first puppy. Make sure you give her access to water during the birthing process. All her panting will make her mouth very dry. Give small bites of glucose rich food at this time. She will be in a state of constant motion. Your bitch while in labor doesnít usually lay quietly in the whelping box. Her heart rate is elevated, probably due to all the panting. She may circle repeatedly. She will lick her vulva. At this time she is still only contracting. She hasnít yet begun the pushing process. Once the cervix has thinned and is open she will begin the pushing process. The first stage of labor may last for several hours. This is normal. If she appears to tire, give her oxygen using the ďblow byĒ method. I will be covering this in New born intensive care.
Do not expect your bitches pushing behaviors to be like human delivery. We have all either delivered babies, been present during the delivery of babies or watched deliveries on TV. Remember the labor nurse counting to 10 while the patient bears down and pushes? Well this will not happen when your bitch delivers her babies. First of all your bitch canít count. They other thing is their pushing is done in very short little doses. They may push for 2 to 3 seconds at a time. Usually they will be in a sitting position with their heads extending upwards while they give short little pushes as they push the baby from the uterine horn into the birth canal. Often you will know when the puppy has entered the birth canal because the bag of water will precede the puppy by several minutes. The bag of water may be ballooning out from the vulva. It will usually be filled with green tinged fluid. Although this is a sign of fetal distress in a human delivery, it is normal for the canine delivery. Any shade of green is bad news when it is a human baby but it is completely normal in the canine. Donít break it, donít touch it. Let mom take care of it own her own. She may reach back and lick it causing it to break. She may ignore it and keep pushing. Both are normal. Once the puppy is in the birth canal the bitch will usually stand on all four legs or she may remain in a sitting position. I have one female that likes to lay on her side to give birth. The puppy may be born feet or head first. Both are common in the whelping of puppies. About 40% of all pups are born feet first. The puppy may or may not be born enclosed in its little sack. If the puppy is born inside the sack you can quickly assist mom in tearing open the sack so that the puppy can begin breathing. The sac has two layers, be sure to open both. Moms usually do a pretty good job of doing this. If the puppy is born inside the sack generally it will come with the placenta as well and everything will come out together. This is normal. Sometimes, the puppy will come out of the vulva without membranous sack and without its placenta. This is also normal. You can help at this point by grasping the puppy as the puppy gently using a washcloth to give you more traction. Hold the puppy as the placenta is delivered. Donít tug. Just support the puppy as the next contractions push the placenta forward. Sometimes the body of the puppy will be out but very close to the vulva, mom will continue to lick, turn and even lift the puppy by itís cord as she stimulates it to breathe. She will chew the cord through, crushing the blood vessels as she does so to prevent bleeding from the cord stump. At some point following delivery put some Betadyne on the cord stump. Following the delivery of the first puppy mom will usually settle down and tend her baby until shortly before delivery of the next puppy. When a puppy nurses from the mom it stimulates uterine contractions which is useful.
It would be nice to say that your girl will know and do everything just right and you can just sit back and watch TV. But not every female will and you should know what to do at that time.
Know how to assist with cord care. It is better that the mom takes care of the cord by chewing, gnawing that will seal off the vessels in the umbilical cord. But sometimes she will pull to hard and cause umbilical hernias. Use a good pair of surgical scissors, some dental floss and Betadine solution. Hold the placenta up off the puppy, use a milking action down towards the puppy. Cord blood contains stem cells that are beneficial to the puppy. Tie off the cord as close to the body with dental floss and then cut the cord leaving about an inch and with some Betadine solution dab some on the cord. Always keep an eye on the cord that it does not open and infection sets in.
TWO TYPES OF HERNIAS Reducible and Non reducible. Reducible hernias require surgey. Non reducible hernias do not. The non reducible hernias is the most common ones. The hernia is a little ball of tissue on the tummy that can't be pushed or reduced back into the abdomen. It feels firm to the touch and can be moved around alittle with in the skin. The muscle wall will close over while the puppy is young trapping a small piece of fatty tissue outside of the muscle. Surgery is not needed because the muscle wall is intact. Surgery would only be for cosmetic reasons and recover time is short. If you are having your puppy fixed this surgery could be done at that time by your vet. Reducible hernias will need surgery. When you push on a small piece of tissue at the umbilical cord site and your finger will easily go into the abdonen. The lump of tissue is extremely soft and if you use a stethoscope you will be able to hear bowel sounds. This is because the small tissue that is protruding is actually a small piece of the bowels. This type of hernia must be repaired. If not the little loop of bowel may become entrapped in the skin and the tissues immediately under the skin will become infected and gangrenous. It will not self heal. Just remember that you need to assess the hernia as the puppy grows. Make sure the muscle wall closes and the muscle feels firm and whole under the skin. Always talk with your vet about any hernias.
Swinging is not for pups...
I have always been told to swing the newborn puppy to get the fluids removed from lungs. But after reading I have changed my mind on this way of clearing the fluids. Like human babies when shaken can cause brain damage. We do not have any type of IQ test for dogs so we have no way to assess the damage that might be done by swinging a puppy. But I think that some of the pups that have been cleared of fluids by swinging may be the dogs that take forever to house train, never learn to roll over or hard to train. So the best way to clear fluids is by a bulb syringe. How to use the bulb syringe. The goal is to remove fluids from the throat and nostrils, not to push them further back into the lungs. Press all the air out of the bulb syringe to flatten it BEFORE placing it into the pups throat. Insert the tip into the throat and release to create a suction effect. As the puppy is awaiting delivery the lungs are deflated and filled with body fluids. The squeezing effect of the contractions of the uterus helps to remove part of that fluids. If the puppy sat too long in the birth canal he/she might not have gotten the full benefits of the squeezing effects of the contractions. If your puppy is not breathing well you can assume that large amounts of body fluids are in the lungs. First use the bulb syringe on the back of the throat. Never suction the nostrils before the throat. Syringing the nostrils first will cause the puppy to take a breath and inhaling fluids into the lungs. After each time you use the bulb syringe empty it out onto a white wash cloth. This way you can see how much fluids you are removing and the more you use it the less fluids will come out and the puppy will become pinker and have a regular breathing pattern. Sometimes you may have a puppy slow to breathe or "pink up" and you have used the bulb syringe with out any success, don't give up yet. You may have to give alittle mouth and mouth resuscitation on the puppy. Place your mouth over the puppy's nose and mouth and making a tight seal give the puppy two very gentle puffs. Assess the puppy and then Repeat two puffs. Gently massage the chest while holding the puppy in a head down position to allow the gravity to assist in getting the fluids out of the lungs. Assess the puppy and use the bulb syringe. Always keep the puppy warm by taking wash cloth out of the warming box. Work fast and make sure the puppy stays warm. Sometimes oxygen can help. Once the puppy is gasping place the puppy in the warming box and use your oxygen in a blow by method at 1-2 liters per minute. Ask your vet to give you a prescription for Dopram and how to use it. Dopram will stimulate a puppy to start breathing. Make sure you bulb syringe to remove any loose secretions BEFORE giving the Dopram or the puppy will end up aspirating the secretions. Read and Read, talk with your vet before the birth of the pups. The more you read the more your confidence will grow.