An initial sign that things are about to happen is that some bitches will often produce milk about a week before whelping , although this can vary.
You will notice her silhouette changing in preparation for labour, and also that she’s in nesting mode , so this is the time to make sure she has somewhere peaceful and quiet to retreat to.
Prepare a comfortable area for her, well away from any hustle and bustle. You can give her a bath pre-labour if you want, except if this is stressful for her.
It’s time to be prepared for her whelping
At around day 50 i.e. the 7th week of gestation, an x-ray will tell you how many puppies there are in the litter , when you know this, you can check that every puppy has been delivered.
X-rays pose no problem for either the bitch or her puppies
Check with your vet about worming , taking this precaution avoids a risk for the puppies at birth. Your vet will explain what to do and which product to use.
Choose a room for the delivery that’s easy to clean
Place a box well away from any noise, insulate it from the floor using several layers of newspaper and cover it with clean towels or sheets.
Make sure you have enough clean linen at hand to change the bed, disposable gloves, kitchen paper and some scales to weigh the puppies.
Make sure the nest is sufficiently warm. The temperature must be around 30° C.
Place bowls of water around the room so that the air is not too dry.
Make sure you have a tin of puppy milk in case any of the puppies have problems suckling and read the instructions beforehand.
If your bitch is long haired, clear the area around the vulva using round-tipped scissors.
Note down the number of your usual vet and keep it close at hand.
Make sure there is always a bowl of drinking water available.
Important ! The temperature in the nest needs to be 30° C because puppies can't regulate their body temperature at birth. You can then progressively lower the temperature in the nest to 25°C in week 4. Put water containers in the room to make sure that the air is not too dry.
The unborn puppies! Even inside the womb, puppies are sensitive to touch, so if you stroke your bitch’s tummy regularly they will enjoy it.
Helping your bitch to whelp
Generally, bitches manage very well by themselves.
Your role mainly consists in providing her with quiet surroundings and your presence , but if you have any concerns in advance, do ask your vet for advice..
Between the first contractions and the birth of the first puppy, the time can be anything from a few minutes to 3 hours, although the time can vary enormously.
Once the first puppy is delivered, if your bitch doesn’t tear open the foetal sac herself do it yourself wearing gloves. Subsequent puppies will be born within anything from a few minutes to 4 hours later on.
Don’t worry if your bitcheats the placenta as soon as it’s expulsed.
What to do When whelping begins, go and check on your bitch every 15 minutes to make sure everything’s going smoothly, taking care not to show her if you’re worried.
Call your vet if the contractions are unproductive or if things seem to be taking an abnormally long time and if you’re worried. If you need to warm a puppy up, rub him gently with towels.
What not to do Never pull the puppies, especially by the paws, to help their expulsion
Never put the puppies in cold water Never use a hair dryer, as there is a real risk of burns and above all dehydration
To determine the time of whelping, professional breeders take the bitch's rectal temperature3 times a day. A 1°C or so drop below average occurs a short time , around 24 to 48 h - before birth.