Dogs are naturally equipped with the skills and tools to give birth and care for puppies without the assistance of humans. However, whelping -- the process of dog birth -- can present problems for some animals, and require your support and attention to stay healthy. Before your dog gives birth, establish a relationship with your veterinarian and schedule pre and post visits. Following birth, be prepared to pay special attention to your dog as it recuperates, and have a system to reach your vet in the event of an emergency.
Provide the dog with a large box. Ideally, do this a few weeks prior to birth to allow the dog time to acclimate to the puppy delivery space. The box provides the dog with a contained space to care for puppies and recover from giving birth. The box needs to be large enough for the dog and its expectant litter. Line the box floor with newspaper or absorbing pads to make for easy cleanup after puppy birth.
Schedule a veterinarian visit as close to 24 hours after the dog gives birth as possible. The veterinarian will ensure there are no remaining placenta or puppies in the dog's uterus. You can also request treatment for the dog's enlarged uterus to reduce the possibility of infection.
Monitor the dog's body. Your dog will naturally discharge a dark liquid for up to four weeks following puppy birth. However, foul-smelling liquid discharge is a sign of a uterine infection, and requires immediate veterinarian attention. Clean your dog's mammary glands with warm water if they accumulate dry milk, and watch them for signs of infection: hardness, swelling, reddish-purple colouring or reaction to pain.
Watch your dog's behaviour closely. The stress of producing milk can lead to calcium deficiency, and in severe cases may lead to eclampsia, or "milk fever." Symptoms of eclampsia include severe trembling, discoordination, convulsions, abnormal drooling or uncharacteristic nervousness. Also watch for signs of decreased appetite and depression which may indicate a uterine infection. Both conditions are life-threatening to your dog and require immediate veterinarian care.
Take your dog's temperature daily. The normal temperature for dogs is 38.6 degrees C, plus or minus a degree. A sustained fever may indicate post-birth related problems. See your veterinarian immediately if this is the case.
Increase feedings. Your dog's appetite will return after giving birth, and it will need more food as it recuperates and nurses. Consult your veterinarian for food formulas for your breed of dog. Plan on a minimum of three feedings per day.
Lay out newspaper. Even a healthy dog may exhibit a different set of behaviour following giving birth. If the dog is nursing, it will have a hard time leaving its pups, which may lead to accidents. Laying out newspaper near the nursing box makes the situation easier to handle.