The following instructions will aid you in whelping your bitch and in safeguarding the lives of the litter in their crucial first four weeks of life. Should you have any other questions or need assistance at any time, please call your veterinarian.
1. The gestation period (period from breeding until whelping) of the dog varies from 59 to 65 days. Approximately 98% of all dogs will whelp on the 62nd or 63rd day.
2. During this gestation period, the bitch needs a high quality diet with digestive enzymes and probiotics, along with Ester C to boost immune system..
3. 12-24 hours prior to actual labor, the rectal temperature will drop about 1 degree to about 100°F (the normal temp. is 100.5 to 101.5°F). This period before labor will also be accompanied by varying degrees of anxiety, “making a nest” and usually a refusal to eat. Once this sub-normal temperature occurs, you can be assured that labor will begin within 24 hours and usually within 12 hours.
4. Once hard abdominal straining, indicative of actual labor begins; the first puppy should be born within 2 hours. If no puppy is born within this 2-hour period, professional assistance is needed. If, during labor, a “bag of water” appears, the pup must follow within one hour. If the pup is not delivered within this hour, professional assistance is again needed.
5. After the first pup is born, subsequent puppies should follow at intervals of 15 to 60 minutes. Difficulties described in paragraph 4 may be seen at this time, but are most common with the first born. If the mother seems too interested in the first pup to continue effective labor, the puppy should be removed to a warm area until completion of labor. If the labor seems abnormally prolonged, walking the bitch may stimulate more effective labor.
6. Each pup will be delivered with it’s own after-birth and enclosed in a fluid filled bag. The bitch should immediately remove this bag and chew off the cord. Eating of the after-birth is normal and instinctive, and a certain amount is desirable. If the bitch does not remove the after-birth, you must immediately remove it and dry the pup off with warm towels, rubbing briskly and getting it to cry. Tie the cord with cotton thread about ˝ inch from the pup’s stomach, cutting the cord on the opposite side.
7. Following the completion of labor, the bitch will “settle down,” pay more attention to her new litter, and again have interest in food.
8. During the first three weeks of life the environmental temperature of the area in which the bitch and her new litter are kept is critical. The following temperatures are at the level of the litter, not on the wall where the thermostat is located…first week 90°F, second week 85°F, and third week 80°F. Normal room temperature is okay after the third week.
9. During the nursing period, if puppies are sleeping and quiet a majority of the time, everything is probably normal. An unusual amount of crying is abnormal, and the puppies and mother should be examined.
10. Following the delivery of the pups, the mother will have a normal reddish, watery discharge that may last up to two weeks. Any change to a heavy, dark, pus-like discharge should be looked into immediately. The bitch may require an oxytocin injection following labor to assist the uterus in clearing the normal discharges.
11. At about 3-4 weeks of age, the pups should be started on solids to supplement nursing. We recommend high quality puppy food (see Feeding Your Pup), mixed with water to a “sloppy mush” consistency. Weaning usually occurs between 4 and 6 weeks of age at which time pups can be put on solid kibble with just a little water.
12. Deworming. The bitch should be dewormed prior to and at breeding as well as at whelping. Then mother and pups should be dewormed at 4, 6 and 8 weeks until the mother weans the pups. All pups should be dewormed at 3 week intervals until the pups are 3 months of age. Then a monthly heartworm preventative should be implemented.
13. Vaccinations. Pups should begin vaccinations at 8-10 weeks of age and then every 3 weeks until all three series of vaccinations are completed. The rabies vaccination is ALWAYS given at least 4-6 weeks after vaccinations are complete. NO ADDITIONAL PARVO SHOTS ARE NEEDED!!