Stories and thoughts about small animal reproduction and ultrasound

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The normal parturition of the dog

So at last, time has come! Your dog is ready to be a mother and you are ready to become grandmas and grandpas!

At the following lines we will try to explain you in a simplified way the physiology of canine parturition, and to present you some tips in order to be ready to welcome the new members of your family! Greek speaking people feel free to click the following link:

Ο φυσιολογικός τοκετός στη σκύλα

The first question that usually arises is “when”?

In general canine gestation (pregnancy) lasts 63 days, but can range from 59-68 days. Record the dates of all successful breedings on a calendar. For bitches bred over more than once, choose the middle date to count from. 56-57 days after breeding, start monitoring your bitch for other signs of labor. If your bitch has not whelped by 65 days, an X-ray or (better) ultrasound is recommended. Milk production begins 1-3 days prior to parturition, but this can range a lot (some bitches can produce milk 7 days before whelping while some others willnot have milk evident until after they are in labor). In primiparous lactation begins with parturition. In pluriparous lactation may begin days before parturition. The temperature of almost all bitches will drop approximately 24hours before parturition. Owners should start measure bitch’s temperature two to three times per day from day 57 of pregnancy. Most bitches will refuse to eat 4 to 24 hours before they go into labor. This is normal and expected. Do not try to force your dog to eat! If anorexia continues and does not correspond with other signs of impending parturition for more than 48, you’d better contact your vet.

Ok, now get ready for the big day! 

When delivery time is coming, you will have to prepare a few items, such as:

  • A whelping box
  • Bedding, newspapers
  • Plastic bags
  • Disinfectant and cleaning material
  • Suitable bags for disposal of placentas or stillborns (in cases that histological examination is needed)
  • Therometer
  • Pen and a table to write down the rectal temperature
  • Clock
  • Table to record timing of contractions, times of delivery
  • Gloves
  • Lubricant
  • Cotton
  • Dental floss to tie the umbilical cords
  • Scissors
  • Blankets
  • Cleaning towels
  • Marker pens to mark the puppies
  • Bottles for feeding or syringes
  • Commercially available colostrum
  • Water for the mother during labor


And what happens during parturition?

The labor in dogs has three stages. The first stage (about 12h) is clinically unapparent. The bitch is restless, indifferent to food and shows nesting behavior. Uterine contractions increase and the cervix dilates. During the first uterine contractions bitches frequently change their position but stay recumbent during straining efforts. The uterine contractions are very weak and are therefore notvisible externally.

Duiring the second stage contractions will become more and more frequent. The cervix will be fully open and she will be ready for delivery. The dog needs to be calm and you need to provide a warm and quiet room for the delivery. The onset of the 2nd stage may be difficult to recognize due to the bitches movements when abdominal straining begins. The allantochorionic membrane of the first fetus appears and reaches the size of a golf ball. The bitch breaks it by licking. The delivery of the head needs the greatest effort, the rest usually follows without delay. The expulsion of the first puppy may last one hour. About 40% of puppies are expulsed in posterior presentation, which is absolutely normal. The puppies remain attached to the umbilical cord up to its rupture post partum. After expulsion of the first puppy the bitch rests for some time and licks the puppy until it shows signs of viability. She licks the vulvar discharge and eats the placenta which is expelled within 10-15 minutes (this is the third stage). Sometimes, more pups may be delivered before the membranes are expelled. A delay up to 24 hours may occur until the expulsion of all fetal membranes is finished. The bitch may try to eat the fetal membranes. Because this may lead to vomiting and/or diarrhoea, it is recommended that the membranes are removed. The second and third stages are then repeated. After 30-120 minutes delay,  straining recommences. The interval between two puppies is about 30-60 minutes. The second stage  lasts 3-12 hours in bitches.

Stay tuned and till then, congratulations on your new arrivals!!!