*This is a disclaimer... Here, I explain "my process" of preparing for and whelping a litter, I am not a Veterinarian. With that said, I realize that, there are many people out there that may do things differently. I am simply hopeful that my information and photos may help new breeders or can just inform those that are curious about the process, I am not claiming to have all the answers. I also have this available for those getting puppies from me, for them to have an opportunity to see how their cute, baby fuzzball entered the world! This info is based on my large breed, the Rottweiler, some information may be different for smaller breeds...
Here is my bitch, Ch. Eternal Moon Five Alarm Fire CGC "Ember". She just had a bath and was blown dry. I wash all my bitches the day before their first possible whelp day.
After the bath-N-dry I do nails, scrape and polish teeth and trim any unnecessary hair. Finally, I scissor the belly pattern you see here, then follow up w/shaving for a smooth surface. This is necessary for using my hand-held Doppler so I am able to track the vitality of each puppy.
Poor Ember, my princess. She is standing there on a warm, humid day, kind of annoyed, not wanting to be the beauty queen at this moment, but you can see the clean belly pattern ready for Doppler use.
Starting the tracking of each puppy's vitality, I use a "LifeDop" Doppler w/microphone, ultrasound gel, paper towels, pen and paper(chart) for recording each puppy's statistics.
I am, personally not a fan of running the bitch in for early palpitation, ultrasounds, blood tests, etc... Either she is or is not pregnant. I leave my girls alone and let them just enjoy life and relax.
I purchased the Doppler from Whelpwise for roughly $700.00(2010) including shipping. There are many dopplers with different MHz and features. I obtained mine through Whelpwise to get the proper one, and have been extremely happy.
All of the puppies, or depending on litter size, most of the puppies are located using the Doppler. I'm able to number each w/a Sharpie marker on the bitch's belly. It has to be re-marked often due to rubbing off. This makes it easy to locate each pup at any moment. They do not move position much until the actual whelp.
First I gently massage w/my fingertips in a circular motion to locate the "pup mounds". Then I squeeze a quarter size dollop of ultrasound gel in the center of a puppy mound.
By "rocking the microphone" in a slow, fan style movement up an down and side to side, I am looking for a 195 - 225 or above heart-rate. This rate should not drop below 170 or the pup maybe in a stress situation. It is not hard, but it will take a little finesse and patience to locate each pup. There is no mistaking Mom's heart rate w/a much slower pulse as opposed to the correct faster rate of the pup. The pup's heart beat using the doppler will sound like the old fashion radio shows mimicking a horse running. They used empty coconut shells beating on a hard surface, clipity-clop, clipity-clop, clipity-clop!.....
Here is a quick drawing that I do to chart each side in case the sharpie rubs off the bitch's belly. I also do a numerical running graph chart of each pups heart rate at least 2x a day.
This is where I locate the whelping box. I prefer the puppy raising area to be part of everyday goings on in the home, TV, Vacuuming, people, conversation, etc... I do not like to hear that puppies are raised in a back room, out building, garage, etc... In preparation, I will place the heat lamp, towels, etc.. shortly.
I used to use (and still own) a lovely handmade 4' x 6' wooden whelping box (left). I now usually use a double layered kiddie swimming pool... (right), lovingly referred to as "the fishpond" and love it! It may not be glamorous but it is light weight, easy to clean, and most importantly easy for the Dam and me to get in and out of.
Later, as the pups mature, I switch over to an ex-pen of sorts, made from laundry room white wire shelving, plastic tied at the corners. I chose the laundry room wire shelving because it is easy to clean, the wire is spaced closer together, so pups do not get feet caught and it is easy for us and the dam to get in and out.
I will explain all my supplies in the "whelping supplies" page, found under my Tips drop down list.
At least a week before whelping, Dams usually start looking for a "great" place to nest. Never fails, it will be some crazy out of the way hole. In my old house it used to be in our formal living room on the new "almond carpet".. ha ha ha ... "kidding, right?"! :)
OK now, getting close to the actual whelp. Three to four days before the target whelp date, begin temperature readings. If you are very diligent you maybe able to "catch" the bitch's temperature fluctuation. This "can help" you get things in order within 24 hours of the actual whelp time. The temperature drop will not last a long time so, I suggest you take her temperature three times a day, spacing the 3 times equally over a 24 hour period and create a temperature graph chart. The graph chart should be made up of the 3x a day across the top and 10ths of degrees down the side from 98.5-102., chart by coordinate dots. Link the dots by lines. You will see a similar pattern then all of a sudden it will look like a big heartbeat pattern. You will be watching for a distinctive temperature drop of at least a full degree down. Whelping should begin 24 hours after the big drop.
The actual whelp. My girls usually get particularly clingy for about 24 hours before birthing, they follow me everywhere and even get anxious if I go out the door. They also stop eating at least 1-2 meal times before whelping.
Typically, they go through a series of panting, sitting up then relaxing, several times over a few hours; (think about *contractions getting closer together) then they get a more bug-eyed, glazed look and pant very heavy when everyone needs to get ready.* There are two kinds of contractions interior and exterior. If you are going to Vet. school I am sure there are better terms but I am just trying to explain basics here. Interior can go on for quite some time and you will never see them. Only when she is actually beginning to push out puppies will you "see" the "exterior" contractions. So, if her body is gripping you have pups coming NOW.
Ember is now panting heavily with glazed eyes, whelping is imminent within the half hour.
Ember increased panting and wild eyed look. Whelping started in about 20 min. You can see the body is tightening. Ears back, she is OK, all is normal.
Ember in an early "visible" contraction. Notice the tight ribcage and stomach, also the facial grimace and ears low and back. There are some variations as to how different bitches react but most are very similar. New bitches maybe more anxious and confused. This will be Ember's third and final litter so she is aware what is going on and taking things in stride. It is important for you to be calm and reassuring for your girl. Do not panic or be nervous, she will "read" you and act accordingly. Also, this is not the time for neighbors to come in "for the show". Create a calm, comfortable, peaceful environment, let her concentrate on what she has to do. If you have kids that do not know how to behave, maybe this is a good time for a sleepover at a friend's house :)
A big contraction. Birthing started in 5 min. from this photo. Notice the big pull of the ribcage and Ember looking at her rear during this contraction. This is another sign the first pup is close to emerging. The first pup is now most likely in the birth canal just before the hip cradle.
Puppy is close. A very normal clear-ish mucous is starting to appear and Ember is still looking at her rear. If at this point you see a lot of dark green/black and no puppy presenting, be more on alert. It can be normal so do not panic as yet but this is a sign that someone's placenta has detached and puppy is riding with out his "oxygen tank". As time elapses this is where you can again pull out the Doppler and check heart rates. Remember a heart rate going below 170 is a cause for concern.
Food for thought: If you have a litter of say, nine. All heart rates are above 190 and the whelp is going well so far, but just one puppy drops below 170. You have to decide is it worth risking the entire litter and Mom to rush them to emergency. They will all be exposed to several extra germs and Mom to possible surgery to save one pup that may have genetic problems already. Make plans ahead of time and discuss heroics with your Vet. Be prepared.
As the whelp goes along some bitches spit out pups every 15-30 min. other dams wait several hours between pups which is very taxing. Either way is not so bad for puppy unless placentas detach. If you check w/a Doppler and the heart rate is fine then puppy is just fine. It can be a big waiting game.
The sac has not broken as yet and is starting to emerge which is great! Nature should proceed just fine.
Tip: But, if you feel puppy is stuck way up there, you can 1) try "feathering", by gently rubbing the top of the canal almost as high as you can get you first two fingers in. You are trying to mimic the puppy in the canal which helps create contractions. 2) gently try to feel up the canal, do you feel nothing, a nose, feet, a tail? 3) If you need to help puppy along NEVER grab any part of puppy like feet or tail, you can do damage. You CAN try to pinch the scruff of the neck or hook your first two fingers around the hips or behind shoulders and ONLY COAX when contractions take place. You must go with the Dam's contractions, not at your pace.
You can also squirt a lot of KY jelly up there if need be. Try not to break the sac yet. If the sac is broken that can be normal too so, do not panic.
Of course if contractions are going on for a long while and no puppy it could be stuck behind the hip cradle, call you Vet or go to emergency. This has to be your call based on a gut feeling.
Wow! a "picture perfect" birth! You can see the pup's nose, tongue, and cheek. The new little rottweiler boy (Eternal Moon "Korsair") is coming into the world!
The head is out, all wrinkly for now but it will soon take total shape! Many times it can be more messy than this, especially as the puppies arrive one after another. I initially lay about 3/4 of an inch thick or more newspaper layers down so, I just clean away the wet newspapers as we go and there is still more under the Dam for next puppy arrival. After it is all done I can really clean everything very well for new Mom and babies.
The new pup is 98% out! It is still in the sac w/it's head down and rear up, and back to us. Mom is going in, to start cleaning and welcoming him to the world! If you pull the puppy make sure you grab a few inches down the cord, toward Mom so it does not break close to puppy's body (explained further down).
I choose to step in at this point, pull off the sac, ALWAYS suction the mouth first! then the nostrils with a bulb syringe, * tie off the cord w/dental floss, and dip the cord end in betadine.
*When tying off the cord w/dental floss, tie it about 1/4 at least from the body. Also, cut the cord and extra dental floss at least 1" long. Sometimes a hernia can be caused by cutting or letting the Dam chew the cord too close.
Make sure you account for all placentas, so none are left inside w/out realizing it.. Mom often eats them as you are tending the baby. Do not let her eat all of them, a couple are fine.
This is Green girl ("Komo" Wamsher), the last of seven puppies born. Many times the later pups or last pup to be born has been in the most stress. Sometimes they are a little slower to "jump-start". In this case green girl was totally fine, she just acted a little more tired. Once puppy's air passages are cleared, you need to get that first couple of loud "waa-ow's" going and breathing. It is actually amazing how hard you can rub puppy. Place puppy in a towel between you hands and securely rub pretty vigorously! Notice the tongue is nicely red or deep pink, that is good. If the tongue is pasty white or bluish that would be more worrisome.
Blue collar male just born moments ago. It is imperative to get and keep puppy warm. A cool or cold puppy is not capable of nursing. Most times when I get a call on a newborn not nursing, I always first ask is the puppy cool/cold? On a basically healthy puppy, that is the typical problem. A great way to warm puppy is put it under your shirt and surround the puppy in snuggled warmth. Usually just getting puppy dry and surrounding it w/a heated bean bag tube does the trick right away.
I love these bean bags or rather bean tubes. I fill a 20" cotton tube w/beans or rice. Place this in the microwave for about 1 min. and it really does the trick. As each pup is born I surround him w/the heated tube, then as everyone does fine, I can also use the tube behind the row of pups bellied up to Mom as extra warmth and something for them to push off of. If caught w/out a tube just grab a sock and fill it with beans/rice.
Blue collar male gets his first milk or, really colostrum. He is surrounded with the bean tube that I can warm in the microwave keeping pups warm while they dry.
Yellow girl after just being born, information recorded, yellow collar assigned, already had it's first suckle and now being welcomed by Ember.