Whelping a litter of puppies

Whelping a litter of puppies for the first, second or third time can be emotional, scary, tiring, a worry as each whelping experience is different, and not all bitches are the same and neither is each time they whelp. Generally with an easy whelping bitch things will move along quite easily but even with a ‘text book’ experience it’s still emotional and always a worry that everything is going well for mum and her puppies.

When planning to take a litter from your breeding bitch it is good to have an excellent breeding book such as ‘Book of The Bitch’ by J.M. Evan & Kay White, which is an insightful and informative read that can be referred to throughout your bitches pregnancy, whilst whelping and when caring for your bitch and her litter.

I wanted to create this article to simply reassure new and first time breeders as you really can’t read too much before becoming a mid-woof :). I’m not a veterinarian professional but I have had the privilege of experiencing my dogs whelping experiences, followed other caring breeders whelping experiences and mentored first time breeders through their experiences too. This is just a basic guide to how things may go and doesn’t cover assisting with the a tricky birth, reviving puppies and other complications that may happen, however as a new breeder please do have your veterinarians support and help, a supportive and caring breeding mentor and the ‘Book of the Bitch’ to help you with your experience.

All these stages blend into each other and depending on the bitch they can all happen quite fast or be quite long. It may be best not to put too much focus on the length of time for the first few stages take, as long as things are moving alone steadily for the mum-to-be. It’s just before the birth and in between each birth when timings and delays must be monitored as problems may occur at this time. Any sign of mum-to-be being in distress or with timely hold ups then please always call your veterinarian as your bitch may need help.

Early signs

Temperature taking works for many breeders as the breeder will create a temperature chart to monitor their bitch’s temperature from approximately week 8 of pregnancy which is taken 3-4 times per day. Temperature taking should be carried out at the same time each day and evenly spaced out to help notice a drop.

The drop in temperature is by approximately 1oc but this really does vary between each bitch. For example, a bitch with a temperature of 37.7oc in the last week of pregnancy may drop to as low 36.4oc for a few readings then you have a good idea things are starting to happen.

Generally a bitch will have a lower body temperature towards the end of pregnancy when compared to her pre-pregnant body temperature.

Temperature taking doesn’t work for all bitches and breeders as some bitches temperatures really do fluctuate around this time, also the temperature taking needs to be carried out at the same times each day and when your bitch is rested to get a true reading of the drop. If her temperature is taken after exercise for one reading then after a long rest for the next reading and so on, this may not give an accurate or true reading.

When a drop in temperature in spotted then things will slowly start to move along and on average you should expect to see the first signs of things happening within the next 24 hours or so.

The build up

This stage can fly by without anyone noticing but generally your bitch may act restless and you may see a change in her eating habits too as she may refuse her breakfast or evening meal. Your bitch may be seeking out a quiet place to rest, she may be digging in the garden or scratching at her bedding more and don’t be surprised if she just looks uncomfortable or a little tired at this time. She may be restless with some pacing followed by a long snooze as this is all natural behaviour (most caring breeders begin to pace at this time too, it’s an emotional time).

Her tummy may ‘lump up’ and the best way I can describe this is that her tummy will feel very hard and like she is actually carrying a litter of rocks, the tummy will be tight, firm and lumpy. 

Preparing to whelp

You can’t really put timing on these stages as they really do blend into each other and sometimes quite quickly but as things move along you may notice your bitch is digging more, she may be sick and her toilet behaviour may change with many trips to the garden, just stay with her at all times. She may clear out her bowel a few times, as this is natural when her body is preparing for whelping.

Your bitch may be panting and she may look at you with a stare, I know this may sound strange but this really can happen, she will stare at you and have a certain look and you will know things are moving along for her.

The panting may change from being intermediate to constant now and it may be much heavier too, but not all bitches pant heavily during whelping, also another trip to the garden may be needed or she may even accident in the house as the pressure is changing and things are really starting to feel a bit strange for her. She may be intensely digging and moving her bedding around the whelping box with strong head movement at this time.

As an owner/breeder just offer her lots of reassurance at this time, its new to you both, so stay calm and make notes of any changes in your bitch and if at all concerned how things are progressing then do give your veterinarian or breeding mentor a call as sometimes just a little reassurance that all is going well goes a long way!

The Birth

You may notice some strong contractions across her tummy at this stage, she may stop the heavy panting and begin to push too. Her vulva may have a mucus discharge or even some water coming from it as things move along, don’t worry just do call a vet if you see any green or dark coloured discharge at this stage. Your bitch may look at her rear end as things start to move along and also lick her vulva as the puppy pushes its way down to be born, this is all natural. She may stand or lie down to whelp, let her do whatever she feels comfortable doing and reassure her that it’s all ok and she’s a very good girl as the sensation will be new to her and she may feel like she’s going to toilet in the house which is generally not allowed, this pressure will feel strange (I’m actually pacing myself whilst writing this article as it brings back intense and emotional memories of my own whelping experiences, so I know exactly how you will be feeling right now as a caring breeder).

As the contraction intensify then the heavy panting may stop and start, she may shake and tremble too, you will see her pushing, it won’t be long as a puppy will be born soon enough.

If you feel this is taking its time and she is having contractions but not straining at all or if you feel she is in any distress at all, call your veterinarian as not all bitches do this naturally and she may need a little help if she can’t push her puppies out or there may be something holding things up for your bitch, don’t panic just call your veterinarian.

As the first puppy is coming out you may see a water bag coming out of her vulva, this happens with some births but not all, as you may also have a burst water bag therefore a release of water followed by a puppy, it can all happen so quickly at this stage. Some bitches may yelp, give an uncomfortable murmur, be quite vocal or not make a sound as the first puppy emerges, don’t be alarmed just reassure her and look out for that puppy.

Hooray the first puppy has been born. The puppy will be born in a membrane sac which your bitch will chew/rip open, if she doesn’t break the sac then help her as the puppy needs to breath. She may rip the bag then start to lick and clean her wet puppy, this is natural and will help stimulate the puppy to get it breathing. She will chew the umbilical cord and separate it from the placenta. The placenta may come out following the birth or may come out as the second puppy is born, always count and make a note of how many placentas come out during whelping. If she doesn’t cut the cord then the breeder can do this with much care of course. She may eat the placenta and this is natural.

Keeping a record of each puppy born may help as you can include information such as the time of birth, did mum chew the cord, did the placenta come out, did the puppy need help to breath, sex of puppy, colour of puppy etc.

Offer your bitch a drink between births and if she isn’t drinking the fresh water you offer to her then you may like to add a small amount of honey or even some melted vanilla ice cream to her water as the extra energy and calcium may be needed between births.

As a breeder your main aim is to make sure mum has a bond with her puppy, that things are moving along well for your bitch and that the puppy is alive and breathing, you can dry the puppy in a warm clean towel but always do this so mum can see you and make sure the puppy is breathing well. Get the puppy feeding and close to mum as soon as you can, don’t interfere too much in the natural bond but do make sure the puppy is ok. You may have time to soak up some of the fluids from the first birth, dry the area as much as possible by replacing the whelping pads ready for the second puppy’s arrival, some bitches can whelp the next puppy quite quickly whereas others it may take a bit longer. Watch your bitch’s behaviour, if she’s settled and caring for her first new puppy then things will move along naturally but if she’s in distress then call your veterinarian. The heavy panting and contractions will be seen before puppy number two arrives. I don’t really like to put a time limit between each birth but a general guide in good dog breeding books of 20 minutes to 2 hours dependant on the bitch, however anything over 1 hours between births and I would be looking for signs and just making sure there wasn’t a hold up due to tiredness or a puppy being too big etc.

You will know it’s all finished and all the puppies are out when you can’t feel puppy lumps in her tummy anymore and also she will stop panting, there may be some light panting if the whelping room is warm but generally the panting will reduce and she will just settle down to feed her litter as a content new mummy should do. She will be tired after whelping, a nice easy to eat meal can be offered, a light freshen up wash around her vulva and legs, make sure her puppies are all latching on to feed and just let the new mummy and her new arrivals bond over the next few hours.

You did it, you’re now a mid-woof and you will also be feeling emotionally overwhelmed by the whole experience. Stay near mum and puppies for the first few days and even have someone close by during the night as she needs your reassurance and support. Enjoy your wonderful girl and her new puppies. I hope this article gives you a general idea of what to expect when whelping a litter of puppies. Do remember each whelping experience is different but the outcome is still the same, a beautiful litter of new born puppies.

Essential Dog Whelping Supplies Guide

I thought it may be useful for first time or one-off breeders to write an article all about preparing for your bitch to whelp her litter, including the all-important essential whelping supplies.

You may be either planning to take a litter from your bitch or she is actually confirmed pregnant and you’re getting organised ready for her whelping day. It’s a very exciting experiencing having a litter, but being organised and prepared is highly important, so let’s have a think about what may be needed.

For the whelping area

  • Whelping box – A suitable box with enough room for mum-to-be to lie down comfortably and a hygienic place to delivery her litter. This can be made from plastic, wood or even cardboard. It provides mum with a safe place to whelp and also to care for her puppies in the early weeks of her puppies’ life.
  • Vet bedding – Absorbent, soft, comfortable, easy to wash bedding that is safe for mum and puppies. Flat and easy to clean bedding is ideal, to avoid puppies suffocating in lots of blankets and bedding, which can be changed and washed as frequently as needed.
  • Heat pad – An electric heat pad provided in an area/section of the whelping box provides a safe heat for young puppies. The puppies will move towards the heat source if needed and can safely move away from the area if they are warm enough. Also mum won’t become overheated as she can comfortably position herself away from the heat pad if desired.
  • Vinyl flooring – If you’re setting up a whelping area on a carpet or wooden flooring then it may be a good idea to protect your flooring with some vinyl covering or something similar as whelping can be messy and stains may not come out of carpets or rugs easily.
  • Whelping Supplies – A tub, box or basket full of all the things you will need come whelping day.
  • Temperature Chart – You may wish to take mums rectal temperature towards the end of her pregnancy to as a drop in her body temperature may indicate that she will go into labour within the next 24 hours.
  • Room thermometer – To ensure the temperature in right in the whelping area for mum and puppies.
  • Thermometer – Used to take mums temperature prior to and after the birth.

For whelping day

  • Whelping chart – A chart to record all the events of the birth and details for each puppy.
  • Hygiene roll/whelping box pads – Absorbent pads which helps keep the whelping box clean between each birth.
  • Kitchen roll – Helps to absorb the fluids from each whelp and keeps the area clean.
  • KY jelly – A lubricate for temperature taking or when assisting with a tricky delivery.
  • Dental floss – Can be used to tie an umbilical cord in an emergency.
  • Forceps – Used to clamp umbilical cord if needed.
  • Disposable gloves – Keeps your hands clean and hygienic when assisting during birth.
  • Stethoscope – To listening to puppies’ heartbeats.
  • Towels – Clean warm towels can be used to rub, dry and clean puppies.
  • Hot water bottle or similar – Wrap a towel around the heat source and place in the whelping box to add extra warmth for puppies if needed.
  • Respiratory stimulant – Helps revive puppies with breathing problems.
  • Aspirator – Used for clearing puppies’ airways.
  • Antibacterial hand wipes, wash or gel – Keeps your hands clean and free from germs when handling puppies or mum.
  • Newspaper – Can be used in the whelping box, during whelping and also when toilet training puppies.
  • A large bin bag or bin – For all the yukky stuff such as stained and soaked pads, kitchen roll and towels.
  • Food for mum – Easy to eat food may be appreciated by the new mum as she will be tired and also her mouth may become sore from cleaning and licking her puppies, so stock up on all her favourite easy to eat quality foods. Her care and needs are vital as she will be feeding and caring for her litter.
  • List of important contact numbers including your vets emergency contact number.

For the new puppies

  • Weight chart – To record the daily/weekly weight and growth of each puppy.
  • Digital scales – To weigh each puppy from birth and to ensure good weight gain each day/week.
  • Puppy ID collars or similar – A way of identifying each puppy easily.
  • Puppy bottles – To use if puppies need hand rearing.
  • Syringes – To feed puppies or to give liquid wormer to young puppies and mum.
  • Puppy bowls or feeder – When weaning puppies.
  • Puppy training pads – Used for early toilet training.
  • Newspaper – Newspaper can be used for toilet training.
  • Puppy milk – When weaning puppies.
  • Puppy food – A quality puppy food to wean puppies onto.
  • Toys – A good selection of toy to encourage different forms of play.
  • Sound CD – For early sound socialisation.
  • Crate – For crate training.
  • Puppy pen or similar – For puppies to sleep, eat and play in a safe area.
  • Puppy shampoo – A quality puppy shampoo for keeping the puppies clean, growing puppies do get messy!
  • Puppy comb or brush – Get the puppies used to this type of contact and care.
  • Wormer & flea treatment – Get these from your veterinary surgery to ensure they are suitable for young puppies.
  • Natural treats – Ensure any treats offered are suitable for young puppies and don’t give treats until fully weaned.

This shopping list of essential items may help any first time dog breeder when preparing for their bitch to whelp her puppies, although I may have missed a few items as the shopping is fairly constant when you want to provide a litter with everything they need for their daily care and socialisation. Most of all enjoy this experience with your girl and enjoy providing her and her litter with the best quality care during this time.

Patches Dog Company

Hi everyone,

Really sorry that I haven’t been very active lately on My Dog’s Life, I’ve been busy getting my new dog product company and website up and running, which I’m happy to report is now online!

So if you’re looking for a really special present for your best friend this festive holiday why not check out the new Patches Dog Company website. Current products include unique tug toys, natural hemp rope toys, reversible dog collar neckerchiefs as well as soft dog bone toys, with of course more to follow.

Floral tug toys in ruby red
Floral tug toys in ruby red

Soft Dog Bone Toys
Soft dog bone toys in patches pink, blue stars and pink gingham

And you can also stay in touch by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Love JoJo xxx

What to feed your puppy?

There are many puppy foods on the market therefore new puppy owners have so much choice and can be bombarded by puppy food information and advertising when shopping for puppy food.

What you feed your puppy is totally personal choice and as an owner you want to provide your new puppy with the best quality food for them as an individual. Your puppy may not suit a certain diets or ingredients, be a fussy eater or simply not like certain ingredients, but as an owner please always read the full list of ingredients and ensure you are feeding your puppy a quality food which they not only enjoy but is good for their ongoing health and development. A clear dog bowl is what all owners love to see, as a well fed puppy is a happy puppy!

There are different types of feeding options available when it comes to deciding what to feed your puppy. You may wish to feed dry puppy food only, wet puppy food only, a combination of wet and dry food with each meal, a raw diet or to create homemade puppy meals yourself. When a feeding type has been decided then which brand of puppy food to choose is the next decision to be made and there really are so many brands and options available, but your puppy’s enjoyment of their food, the quality of the ingredients and the recipes should be high on your list as a new owner.

Our Favourite Dog Food Brands

Over the years we have purchased, tried and tested so many dog foods and there’s a few brands that really do tick all the boxes when it comes to quality natural ingredients, goodness and have been enjoyed greatly by my puppies and dogs, and I know my dogs agree that these are the ‘best of the best’ when it comes to a tasty dogs dinner!

Not all dogs are the same but these are our preferred puppy food brands for so many reasons. It’s all about finding the right puppy food for each puppy, as they’re not all the same. As a new puppy owner you may like to try one of these brands when feeding your pet, and see if you get an empty bowl and a puppy that thrives on their favourite diet and food.

Barking Heads Puppy Food

Barking Heads puppy food range includes dry and wet puppy food, plus some puppy biscuit treats too.

Barking Heads Puppy Days is a dry puppy kibble which is a chicken, salmon and rice recipe full of delicious and nutritious natural ingredients. The kibble is small in size and a flat circular shape with a hole in the middle (a mini doughnut!) which makes it easy for young puppies to crunch on and eat with ease. The recipe is not only tasty for young puppies but the ingredients help promote a healthy balanced diet for a puppy’s growing bones, teeth, digestive system and immune system.

Barking Heads Puppy Days Grain Free is also a dry puppy kibble however this is a grain free recipe which may be preferred by some puppies that find grain more difficult to digest. The kibble itself is puppy sized with its small easy to crunch doughnut shape. This food includes all natural ingredients, no nasty additives or flavourings which is all good when looking for quality puppy food. The recipe includes chicken, sweet potato, potato, salmon and much more to get your puppy’s taste buds flowing. The ingredients are selected to help a growing puppy’s health and development from a young age.

Barking Heads Puppy Days Meat Loaf is a wet complete puppy food which can be served alone or if preferred with a dry kibble. The recipe includes chicken, salmon, brown rice and many more natural ingredients to provide a puppy with a healthy and nutritious meal. The food comes in a small plastic tray sealed with a foil lid for freshness. When opening the food tray you can see exactly why it’s called Meat Loaf! This wet food option may be preferred by delicate or fussier eaters as wet food is much easier for some young puppies to eat.

Barking Heads thrive on using delicious quality natural ingredients, with their easy to understand labelling, nothing hidden just down to earth information, so do pop along to their website to find out more.

Barking Heads Puppy Food

Lily’s Kitchen Puppy Food

Lily’s Kitchen puppy food range includes dry food, wet puppy food and biscuit treats for your puppy too.

Lily’s Kitchen Perfectly Puppy is a dry grain free puppy food that is full of natural ingredients and helps promote steady growth and development for young puppies. The ingredients include freshly prepared chicken, salmon and sweet potato and more to make this a truly splendid supper for your puppy. This grain free organic recipe also includes apple, dried cranberry and spinach, I know it’s truly mouth-watering just reading the list of ingredients! All the ingredients are of a high quality with no unnecessary additives, colourings or flavourings, just full of natural goodness. The kibble is a small sized flat disk shape which is easy for young puppies to eat.

Lily’s Kitchen Organic Dinner for Puppies is a complete wet puppy food made from organic meats including chicken, pork, beef and turkey. This wet food can be eaten alone or mixed with dry kibble if desired. The recipe is gentle on young puppies’ tummies and full of yummy goodness for a young developing puppy. The food comes in small foil trays and when opening the tray the meat content and vegetables can been seen clearly, which includes organic peas and carrots along with many more natural ingredients for your puppy to enjoy.

Lily’s Kitchen provide proper food for pets with informative labelling and some rather scrummy natural and organic ingredients too, so do have a look at their website to find out more about their recipes.

Lily’s Kitchen Puppy Food

Nutriment Complete Puppy Formula

Nutriment Complete Puppy Formula is a complete raw recipe which is ideal for owners wanting to feed their puppy on a raw diet. The ingredients contain raw meat, vegetables and super food to help with a balanced raw diet. The complete puppy formula provides the balance a growing puppy requires when on a raw diet to help promote health and growth. 90% of the recipe contains raw British chicken with ground bone, British beef heart, British beef green tripe and British beef kidney and liver ingredients, but this raw recipe does include other natural raw ingredients such as organic virgin coconut oil which is great for general health and natural excellent coat conditioning. A truly great raw recipe for puppy owners that wish to feed a raw diet.

Nutriment have a passion for raw feeding and the enhanced complete raw feeding recipes they create, so do have a look at their website to read more about their complete raw feeding as this may get your puppy’s tail wagging.

Nutriment Complete Puppy Formula

I would happily recommend any of the above puppy food ranges to new puppy owners as I (with help from my dogs and puppies of course) have tried and tested them with much care, looked at the ingredients in detail and feel happy that these recipes offer quality ingredients and much goodness too. All of these brands, like me, care about giving puppies a great start in life, which is so important and it really does make them stand out when looking closely at their puppy recipes and ingredients.

Is my bitch pregnant?

This may sound like an easy question to answer however many a breeder, however experienced in breeding, will tell you it’s not always the same for each bitch and not all bitches give the same symptoms or clues to confirm a canine pregnancy. Some bitches are mated and within the first 3 weeks an owner/breeder will just know if their bitch has taken or not, whereas with another bitch there may be no obvious signs which therefore makes it difficult to confirm a real and viable pregnancy early on.

There are a few signs, symptoms and clues that may help you diagnose a pregnancy however a canine ultrasound scan at around 28-35 days (4-5 weeks) after first mating at your veterinary surgery is recommend as bitches may display many signs of being pregnant when actually she’s experience a mild or very realistic phantom pregnancy. Phantom pregnancies cannot be ruled out when looking for early canine pregnancy symptoms, so do ask your veterinarian to palate or scan your bitch and if the scan is inconclusive or performed too early into pregnancy then a second scan should be arranged.

At around 28 days (4 weeks) after first mating some veterinarians will be willing to palpate your bitch’s tummy to feel her uterus. Your veterinarian may palate or scan at around 28-35 days (4-5 weeks after mating). The cost can vary between practices but generally an ultrasound scan to detect canine pregnancy with consultation fee is around £60-£90 in the UK and some practices may do the scan without a consultation fee which may be considerably cheaper at a cost of approximately £40-50. The cost really isn’t that important as knowing if your bitch is pregnant or not and that all is going well is actually priceless to a caring owner/breeder.

An ultrasound scan may show up problems such as reabsorbing puppies or uterus infections, but it’s also important to mention that even after a scan is given and a pregnancy is confirmed your bitch could still go on to abort or reabsorb some or all of her puppies.

Your veterinarian may be able to tell you approximately how many foetuses and heartbeats can be seen during the scan and this can be very reassuring, however all good veterinarians will say this is not a puppy count therefore just an estimate at this stage of pregnancy of how many can be seen at this present time.

Early signs your bitch may be pregnant (Between 1 -4 weeks after mating)

  • Raised teats with change in colouring
  • Change in character, more affectionate or just wanting to be left alone
  • Morning sickness
  • Less active or playful
  • Change in eating habits, eating more or much less than usual
  • Vulva remains swollen and may not shrink as it has after previous seasons

Further signs your bitch may be pregnant (Between 4-5 weeks after mating)

  • Further teat enlargement, swelling at the base of teat, deeper colouring and hard to touch
  • Mammary tissue may look more defined and developed
  • Thickening of the rib cage
  • Firm tummy
  • A clear discharge (if not clear in colour then your bitch needs to see your vet)

Each bitch it different and some may show all of the signs of pregnancy whereas others will show none at all. It’s important to look for the signs and to get professional confirmation as the mum-to-be will need extra feeds, quality care and her exercise requirements may change dramatically too when carrying a litter.

The litter size being carried may also change symptoms and signs seen, plus make it harder to diagnose some canine pregnancies. A bitch with an average size litter for the breed being six puppies per litter, but actually carrying ten puppies will start to show earlier than if she was only carrying two or three puppies.

It really isn’t always easy to detect a pregnancy in all bitches, but knowing the signs to look out for, treating her with much care after mating and asking your veterinarian to help you by confirming a pregnancy really is important.

The not knowing can be the hardest part for a caring owner/breeder, but ask for your vets help and enjoy this experience with the mum-to-be.

Barking Heads Puppy Days ‘Meat Loaf’ Wet Puppy Food

Firstly what a great name for a wet meaty dog food range, Meat Loaf :)

Barking Heads have listened to their customers and have therefore recently introduced their new wet food range.

Barking Heads pride themselves on using quality natural ingredients for all their dog food, and their wet food ‘Meat Loaf’ range is no different as the Puppy Days version contains tasty, natural ingredients with no nasty and unnecessary artificial colourings, preservatives and flavourings.

Each Puppy Days Meat Loaf tray contains 80% of freshly prepared British chicken (60% chicken and 20% chicken broth), brown rice (10% rice), carrots, peas, potato, sunflower oil, salmon oil, tomato, seaweed and basil. That’s got my mouth watering and I’m a human, imagine what a puppy would be like when offered this for dinner!

Barking Heads Puppy Days 'Meat Loaf’ Wet Puppy Food

Product Name: Barking Heads Puppy Days Meat Loaf Wet Puppy Food

Pricing: £7.63 for 7 trays each containing 150 grams of Meat Loaf

My Dog’s Rating: 5 out of 5

Purchase Barking Heads Puppy Days Meat Loaf and have a peep at the rest of the Barking Heads natural dry and wet dog food range.

My dogs try and test many dog foods (dry, wet and raw) and natural treats too, but only the best are reviewed and shared with my readers :)