Firstly, make sure that dog mum-to-be has a comfortable, warm and safe place to be. She will need something she can happily scratch and tear at for the actual puppy whelping. Any old cloths will do, but be prepared to change them often during the process and discard after birth.
Keep an eye on the contraction rate. Some bitches go into puppy whelping easily after the first few contractions, but others can be in labour some time. If you see that your pet has rapid and very strong contractions, but nothing is happening – CALL THE VET. If contractions have started and then just stopped – CALL THE VET. Puppy whelping can be dangerous, don’t hesitate.
If you have a Bichon or Cavalier King Charles, although small, they are still not in the miniature category, and puppy whelping should take place with minimum surveillance. Just be there to reassure, and help if necessary. If you have a baby presenting the wrong way round, that is, bottom first, or maybe feet first, you may need to slip your fingers carefully round the hind legs, and help to ease it out. Please cut your fingernails first! It’s a very sensitive area. Don’t pull too hard or your puppy could break in the mother. Just gently help to ease out on each contraction. If a pup gets stuck half in and half out and you can’t help it out yourself – CALL THE VET.
Be aware that certain breeds are more likely to have trouble puppy whelping. Dogs with flat faces and large heads such as pugs and pekes are typically the most difficult ones.
Chihuahuas are also regularly prone to problems and mean making really sure your vet is used to dealing with tiny dogs.
When the puppy is born, especially if it is your dog’s first time, or if she is exhausted from the delivery, you may have to help her by removing the pup from its birth pocket. This comes off really easily. Then just rub the pup roughly dry with a clean soft cloth and give it straight to her to sniff and clean. This is the most important moment. If she doesn’t get to smell it immediately, she may well reject it, and believe me, bottle rearing puppies is no fun!
If necessary, tie off the umbilical cord and discard the placenta. You will usually find that the mother will want to do this herself, and will eat the placenta. This is perfectly normal in puppy whelping. If she doesn’t, then discard it. It she does, just let her be. She might eat the first few and leave the rest. It really isn’t important either way, just so long as she’s happy.
When your second baby arrives, move the first one out of the way, preferably under a lamp or on a heated basket. Remember, temperature is the most important thing in ensuring your litter’s survival. Most mothers are happy to be free to look after the second birthing, but make sure she can still see her baby so she doesn’t think it has been ‘stolen’ and at the first sign of agitation, give it back to her. If you have a heated whelping box or basket, they should be warm enough in spite of getting wet again on the arrival of the next one.
Puppy whelping is not an exact science. Some dogs will have their pups in rapid succession. Others may take up to an hour between arrivals. If you have done your checks properly beforehand then you should know approximately how many to expect. If one is slightly behind another, it might not show up. If you have the slightest doubt that there might be one left behind then put your babies under a lamp or in a heated basket and rush to the vet. Sometimes she is just too tired for the last one, and a simple injection can sort things out.
Remember to take with you a basket with either a hot water bottle or other heating device. If ythere is another on its way this will be needed. And remember that your mum is exhausted and also needs heat. If you are caught short, wrap the new arrival in something warm and put it next to your skin, under a jumper. It will stay quite warm and well while you are driving back home!
When everyone has arrived safely, put them all together in a warm dry basket with pads inside. Avoid faux fur or wool at this stage. Pups can catch their claws and paws in it and be crushed when unable to move out of the way. Put a heat lamp over at a height sufficient to keep them warm but not hot. If too hot, your mum will just move everyone out, which is certainly not what you want.