Many dogs will birth their puppies without needing any help from their owners. But mother dogs that develop dystocia (the clinical term for a difficult delivery) will require veterinary intervention to save both their lives and the lives of the puppies. Owners with pregnant dogs need to be able to recognise the physical signs that their animal is in trouble before and after labour begins. The time factors involved in the pregnancy will also tell them if their dog is having birthing issues.
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If your dog has been pregnant for more than 68 to 70 days after breeding, she is showing signs of being in trouble and needs immediate veterinary care. Most normal canine pregnancies last 62 to 63 days, and anything longer than that can be dangerous to the mother and the puppies.
The mother will begin showing nesting behaviours and her temperature will drop to around 37.2 degrees Celsius as she enters the first stage of labour. If she does not produce a puppy within 24 hours, she requires veterinary treatment.
You will see strong contractions as the mother goes into hard labour. You will need to call in a vet if no puppy is born within 1 to 1 1/2 hours after you see the first contraction.
As she is whelping (birthing), your mother dog may rest between puppies. When the resting period lasts longer than four hours and the mother still has unborn puppies, it can be considered a veterinary emergency to save the puppies.
The physical signs of dystocia include uncontrollable vomiting, an inability to stand up or walk, lethargy and difficulty breathing. Your pregnant dog may be having cardiac issues associated with the pregnancy or she can be showing signs of sepsis, a systemic infection that develops if the puppies are dead inside her womb. These are life-threatening conditions that call for immediate veterinary treatment.
When the mother dog begins crying or licking at her vulva during contractions without the appearance of a puppy, there may be problems with puppy positioning, or her cervix may not be fully dilated. She may be unable to proceed with whelping vaginally.
Sometimes a particularly large puppy or one being born breech (hind end first) will become stuck in the birthing canal. If you can't gently pull the puppy forward and the mother dog appears unable to loosen it either through contractions or movement, the baby will die without veterinary attention.
During labour, if there is no sign of a puppy after the discharge of the green and black fluids that normally precede a birth, the puppy will suffocate without medical intervention.
A large amount of bloody or clear discharge from the mother's vagina at any point during labour indicates serious trouble. The placentas of the puppies may have ruptured or the mother may have a uterine or aortal tear that is causing her to bleed. Either case requires immediate vet care to save the lives of the dogs.
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