Potential Whelping Problems to Watch For

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015
Birth

Potential Whelping Problems

Many breeders rarely encounter whelping problems, while others face them fairly frequently. Breeders of brachycephalic breeds – those with broad skulls and flat faces, like Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers – have problems so often that many routinely schedule cesarean sections before their dogs go into labor. “Dystocia” is the medical term for a difficult birth. Knowledgeable breeders and veterinarians have made some broad generalizations about whelping:

  1. Large breeds, and breeds with long legs, tend to have fewer problems delivering puppies.
  2. Short-legged breeds, and breeds with heads that are disproportionately large compared to their bodies, tend to have more whelping problems.
  3. Older females, fat females and those delivering large litters have a greater chance of dystocia.

Common Signs To Watch For

Here are some of the more common signs suggesting that the whelping isn’t proceeding normally:

  • Labor starts less than 57 days after the breeding (too early)
  • Labor hasn’t started by 68 days after the breeding (too late)
  • Stage I labor lasts more than 4 hours
  • Strenuous stage II labor lasts 30 minutes with no signs of a puppy; steady straining and hard contractions
  • More than three hours between puppies
  • Few or no contractions for 1 to 2 hours after part of the litter has been whelped (uterine inertia; more common in small, short-legged breeds and overweight, out-of-condition females)
  • A puppy is stuck in the birth canal and isn’t moving
  • Only the puppy’s appears, with no further movement
  • A puppy is coming out rump first (breech delivery), or front feet first (posterior presentation); these are common and are not cause for immediate concern, if all else proceeds normally
  • A puppy is coming out upside down, either head first or in breech position, with its stomach being pressed on by the roof of the pelvis
  • A puppy is in the birth canal with its head turned backwards and its neck or back appearing in the vulva
  • Two puppies are trying to come out at the same time
  • The protective fetal sac filled with amniotic fluid that looks like a bubble (“waterbag”) is coming out the vulva but doesn’t break and no puppy comes out
  • The waterbag breaks inside the birth canal (a “dry delivery”)
  • A puppy is born alive but has obvious birth defects (cleft palate, hare lip, intestines outside the abdomen, edema/“water puppies,”)
  • Signs of distress or pain in the dam; hyperventilation; rapid pulse; weak pulse
  • Mother shows no interest in her puppies
  • Dark green, bright red or pale, foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Lethargy or weakness in the dam
  • Mother is trembling, convulsing or recumbent

Special Notes

Owners should call their veterinarian if any of these things happen. A shot of oxytocin, or a cesarean section, may be necessary to save the lives of the puppies and their mother. Sometimes, puppies are stillborn, and there is nothing that a responsible breeder could have done or can do about it.

Basic Care Topics

Dog Health Center

Lead Poisoning

Dogs can be poisoned when they ingest lead – especially if they have repeated exposure to the substance. Lead is found in a number of places and in a number of different things

Learn more about: Lead Poisoning