Supporting the new mum after her puppies are born
If you are the proud owner of a litter of amazing newborn puppies, congratulations to you and your mummy dog!
Most dog pregnancies and puppy births go without a hitch, but you still need to be there to support your bitch post-birth with some ‘after whelping’ care.
What post-birth after whelping care should I provide in the first few hours?
When each puppy is born, your dog should be able to remove the amniotic membrane they are born in, chew off the umbilical cord and start cleaning them up.
If you notice the puppies are delivered quickly and your dog doesn’t have time to attend to them, you will need to step in and help. You may also need to help if she doesn’t seem to know what to do or is too exhausted.
Remove the puppy from the amniotic membrane surrounding them. If the airway seems blocked you can pinch the skin on the back of their neck so they cry out. This clears any fluid stuck in their airway. Have a small pipette handy as this can be used to gently suck the fluid from the puppy’s nose.
You may need to cut the umbilical cord. It is best to take advice from your vet when doing this as it is easy to cause an infection which could cause very serious problems for your dog and her puppies.
Once all the puppies are successfully delivered, try and encourage your dog to go outside to relieve herself. This will give you a chance to take out any dirty bedding and replace it with clean bedding. When she returns, the puppies will need to suckle, so stick around to make sure they do. When you are sure all is well, leave her in peace to nurse her new pups and bond with them.
If you see any of the following, ring your vet:
- Straining as if needing to deliver more puppies, if you know they have all been born
- There should be one placenta per puppy. Make sure these are all delivered as it can be a serious issue if they are ‘retained’ in your dog
- If you notice she seems unwell, has a fever, is uninterested in her puppies and has no appetite she may have an infection in her uterus
- If she seems nervous, twitchy or restless, has a stiff and painful gait or has a seizure this could be a sign of calcium deficiency, known as hypocalcaemia
What post-birth after whelping care does my dog need after the first few days?
Similarly, to any of the issues above, if you notice your dog seems unwell, listless or depressed and loses her appetite you need to ring your vet. It’s always better to contact them and find out it was nothing to worry about rather than leaving it and finding your dog or her puppies are seriously ill.
Post-birth, look out for:
- Swollen, red painful mammary glands. If you notice any discharge that is smelly, brown or bloody she may have mastitis or another infection
- Any vaginal discharge that smells putrid or is very bloody. It is normal to have some blackish, reddish discharge for the first few weeks following whelping. It’s best to check with your vet
Following this, you need to make sure all your dog’s puppies are feeding and growing well. If you are concerned about their wellbeing or notice any seem depressed or uninterested in feeding you should contact your vet.
Hopefully, there won’t be any issues and the after whelping care will be straightforward and successful. If so, it’s then time to sit back and enjoy watching the puppies grow big, strong and healthy!
Related guides and advice
Keeping your pets cool and safe: Essential tips for hot weather care