Preparing for the Birth of Puppies at Home
Many people breed dogs either as their main source of income or as a side-venture, but not all dog pregnancies are planned. Whether your dog’s pregnancy was planned or a “surprise”, you will want to ensure that both mother and soon-to-be-born puppies are healthy and that they have the best possible environment for the birth.
Caring for puppies and the mother is not easy, though, and will require round-the-clock commitment, but the reward of seeing the little furry bundles of cuteness grow into puppies bursting with energy and love makes the effort worthwhile. This article guides you through the key stages of preparing for the birth of puppies in your home.
Take your dog to the vet
When you suspect that your dog is pregnant, you should take her to the vet for an ultrasound scan to confirm it. The vet will give you advice on how to care for her during her pregnancy (which is approximately 63 days long but can vary between breeds) and they may recommend vaccinations which will be passed onto the puppies via her milk. If you are concerned about her health at any time, she shows signs of premature labor, or she is more than a week late, take her back to the vet.
Prepare a whelping box
When the due date is looming, you should prepare a whelping box which is usually a low-sided box with blankets and pillows and plastic sheeting around it. It should be placed in a quiet, darkened room where she will feel safe and calm. This is where the birth should take place and your dog will clean the puppies. When the puppies are a little older, you may want to invest in a secure playpen where the puppies can play and nap together. Before choosing a playpen or box for the puppies, take a look at this detailed best dog playpen review.
Get the mother used to the whelping box
You should encourage the mother to sit in the whelping box, and, ideally, get so comfortable that she will sleep in there. Placing a heat lamp over the box will make it an attractive place for her to go and will help to keep the puppies warm.
Look out for the signs of labor
You should become familiar with the early signs of labor, e.g. a loss of appetite, vomiting, or fidgeting. You may notice these signs around 12 hours before labor begins. You may feel tempted to stay with her, but this may cause her stress. You should keep any other animals — particularly male dogs — and children away from her during this time.
Monitor the labor, but don’t interfere
When active labor has started, you can check on her progress and condition, but you should not need to interfere. After approximately one hour, she should be delivering puppies and she will instinctively know how to clean and feed them. The number of puppies in the litter will vary depending on the breed, but labor can take several hours to complete.
Next comes caring for newborn puppies, which is where the hard work and fun begins. Visit the American Kennel Club website for guidance on raising newborn puppies.