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Preparing for the Birth of Puppies

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Preparing for Birth

Many hours of planning and preparation are necessary to successfully whelp (deliver) a litter of puppies. Some things that many established breeders think about and do are summarized below.

Whelping Supplies

Supplies should be gathered at least two weeks before the anticipated whelping date, because nature has a mind of her own. These may include:

  • Whelping box (see below)
  • Bedding (newspapers, towels or blankets are most popular; must be either disposable or washable; thrift stores are a good source for towels and blankets; you’ll need lots)
  • Several large trash bags (for laundry or trash)
  • Paper towels (several rolls)
  • Scissors (sterilized; blunt)
  • Hemostats (sterilized)
  • Dental floss (to tie off the umbilical cord if necessary)
  • Thermometer (child digital thermometer is fine; get one that records temperature in 6 seconds if possible)
  • Receiving box for puppies (laundry basket, cardboard box; used to house puppies while next puppy is born; lined with a heat source and clean bedding)
  • Bags of saline, rice or beans (to microwave and use as a heat source in the receiving box); hot water bottles; heating pad
  • Microwave
  • Heat lamp with reflector shade; extension cord if necessary
  • Whelping chart, notebook, paper (to note date & time of birth, health/color/gender/weight of puppies, whether placenta has passed, etc.)
  • Pens
  • Baby, postal or food scale (with fresh batteries; to weigh puppies)
  • Camera
  • Telephone
  • Phone numbers of local and emergency night-service veterinarians
  • Pediatric bulb syringe (to remove fluid/mucus from puppies’ noses and mouths)
  • Sterile surgical gloves
  • Lubricant (Vaseline, KY jelly, other; may need to help pull a puppy)
  • Surgical antiseptic scrub
  • Alarm clock (to monitor delivery times and keep you awake)
  • Karo syrup (to rub on a puppy’s gums if it needs a boost)
  • Tube feeding supplies (red rubber catheter/tubing, sharpie pen, syringe; discuss procedure in detail with vet before whelping starts)
  • Name-brand puppy milk replacer (powdered is more economical than canned)
  • Pet baby bottle
  • Food/water bowls (for mom)
  • Healthy treats for mom (cottage cheese, cheese, hot dogs, cooked chicken or meat, vanilla ice cream)
  • Television (for you and for soft background sounds)
  • Coffee maker and coffee
  • Snacks
  • Reading material
  • Laptop or tablet computer

The Whelping Box

The whelping box is where the litter will be born and where the puppies and their mother will spend most of their time for the next 6 to 8 weeks. It should be big enough to allow at least 1-2 feet around the mom when she is lying down. Breeders have different opinions about the best whelping box. Materials range from wood to metal to plastic. Most boxes are homemade from wood, but commercial ones are available. Many breeders use plastic child wading pools to whelp their litters; these have no sharp edges and are easy to clean. Tiny dogs can whelp in a roomy cardboard box, but it should be replaced after the birth for hygienic reasons. The whelping box should be in warm, quiet, draft-free area, away from other pets and frequent foot traffic. Popular places are spare bedrooms, utility rooms, dens and finished basements. The dam should be acclimated to her whelping box one or two weeks before she is due, especially if the delivery room is unfamiliar. Some breeders sleep with their dog in the whelping box during the week before delivery and for several weeks thereafter.

Novice breeders should have an experienced person available to assist with the whelping, because unexpected complications can occur.

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