What to expect
Your female should show some of these signs or all of them. If not, there may be something wrong and you should call your vet. Delaying HELP from a Vet could endanger your Dam and pups. This is a time to remember to be safe rather than sorry.
First stage of Labor:
(This stage often goes un-noticed, and takes place in the 24 hours following temperature drop)
Temperature FINALLY drops to 98°F from its normal 99,100,101°F (you should have been taking it regularly for a few days)
If you are really committed, the temperature taking does work. You will find her temperature around 99 to 101, and as soon as it starts to drop, below 99, and continues to drop. (now you take it every hour or two) ;you have about 12-24 hours from the start of the drop. When it bottoms out, to 98 or 97.9, then you have about 2-12 hours.
You may find your dam much more restless and not able to get comfortable. She will stretch out on her side.
She may not want you out of her site. She may go to her whelp box.
She may vomit. She may try to have a bowel movement from the pressure. She may urinate frequently.
She will refuse to eat and seek a quite spot like a closet or under a bed.
She may have some mucus discharge and her Vulva area will become puffier.
Second Stage of Labor:
Your female may go to her whelp box or wherever she has chosen to have her pups and start digging.
She may start shivering and panting, examining her rear and licking her vulva.
She may have mild contractions, vomiting.
Warning Signs: Twitching and or, green discharge. (Green discharge is only Normal AFTER a pup is born)
At the first sign of a contraction give her some calcium. Such as a tums.
Third stage of Labor:
Water sacs present and break.
Shivering and panting may continue and get stronger. She may dig even more.
Contractions will become stronger and closer together.
Vomiting grunting and pushing.
Warning Signs: pushing on a pup for over an hour causing exhaustion (more warning signs listed below)
Normal time to push on one puppy that is in the birth canal is, 2 to 10 minutes.
A puppy 1/2 out and stuck or breech, must be pulled out or it will drown.
Things to look out for:
Stuck puppies are VERY common. They come out better with lubrication. The BEST way to get them out is to have a feeding tube and a syringe. Insert the syringe past the puppy and push in k-y lubricating jelly.
The pup must come out! If it does not it will die so do not be afraid to help it out!
Pre-Eclampsia/Eclampsia (which normally can happen 10 days after whelping, can also happen with a large litter, and more in toy breeds in the last few days of pregnancy. Hypocalcimic shaking & pre-labor shaking can seem the same at first), but if Dam is hypocalcimic, and gets eclampsia, the shaking quickly turns to convulsions, muscle weakness, muscle tremors, spasms, rigidy and twitching needing immediate Vet assistance before seizures, coma and death. It is wise to give your Dam calcium when pups are 5 days old, (for the next few weeks. The easiest way is one Tum a day. Tums are a great calcium supplement. Eclampsia (sometimes referred to as Milk Fever) is a very serious condition and can come on suddenly. It is caused from a shortage of calcium in the bloodstream.
Uterine Inertia can happen also with a large litter or large pups. She will fail with weak attempts to deliver the pups. She may not even show contractions as her uterus is too stretched. The biggest cause of this is too much calcium in the diet while pregnant. It is best to give calcium during and after birth. Not during pregnancy.
Rupture of the Uterus, torsion or hemorrhage can happen. The Dam will pass a heavy ongoing flow of blood from vulva. This is a medical Vet emergency.
Green Discharge- before puppy birth means early separation of placentas. Call the Vet! Sometimes this is okay if the puppy is born quickly. Sometimes not. Normally we do not like to see green discharge until after a puppy is born.
If two pups try and come out at the same time it is physically impossible. This may be a cause for concern. This presentation is best discussed with your Vet. It could be a medical emergency, or things could just fix themselves if you are comfortable waiting. Call your Vet for his advice as every situation is different. This situation needs an experienced hand. Delivery could progress uneventful, or delivery could get held up and stop.
If you are comfortable doing an internal exam, this is the time. With a gloved finger, you must push the puppies back inside gently. Often, if you push one puppy back, the other puppy will slide into the birth canal.
Sometimes you have to stimulate the contractions if she pushes so long that she isn't contracting any longer. Doing that is called feathering. It is done with a finger in the birth canal. You can have an extremely easy delivery right out of the book but you may also have situations which require experience.
Premature delivery: Pups born before day 58, have a low survival rate, as the lungs are not developed.
C-sections are always the last resort and are sometimes unavoidable.There are a wide variety of problems you may be confronted with. Keep your Vet posted of progress. Do NOT hesitate to call the Vet if you have questions. You are dealing with life and death and it is better to take all precautions. Do not feel guilty calling on your Vet several times if you are unsure what to do. He is the professional. On day 58 you should also start taking Dams temp 3 times per day. A Dams temp will drop from the normal 101.4 to 98+degrees when the first stage of labor begins. hard labor usually begins within 24 hours of this temp drop.
Even after the whelping is finished, problems can occur. A new Mom may have doubts about her pups; especially if she had a hard whelping. The faster you get all the pups nursing the better. They will get the needed colostrums and the Dam will produce hormones that will actually turn her into a better loving mom. Keep her fluids up. Some puppies do not take to nursing. BE PREPARED to be up around the clock feeding a slow starting puppy. Have Canine Puppy milk replacer on hand.