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What to Expect When Expecting Puppies

Several times a year, Fetching Tails is called on to rescue a pregnant dog. Occasionally, one of our dogs will be on the operating table, ready to be spayed, and the vet will call to say “there are puppies in there!” In both situations, FTF makes a commitment to help the mom and save her babies. And we can only do that because of our amazing volunteers who foster the mamas-to-be, help them deliver their litters, and care for the new families until all are ready for adoption. Does this challenging but ever so rewarding job sound interesting? Then read on for some general information on what’s involved in the puppy birthing process.

The first thing to know is that if you agree to foster a pregnant dog, FTF will be there to assist you every step of the way! Before the dog is placed in your care, she’ll have an X-ray or ultrasound to estimate her due date and the number of puppies. Ideally, the mom will arrive at your home several days to weeks before the birth date, giving her a chance to bond with you. This connection is tremendously important, as you’ll be her coach and calming support when she delivers. You’ll also help her get/stay as healthy as possible, which often involves feeding a high-protein diet of puppy food, chicken, eggs, etc and sometimes vitamin supplements (all provided). As the due date approaches, FTF will bring you the supplies you’ll need, give you some excellent books describing what to expect during delivery, and help you set up the “birthing room.” Clues that the big event is imminent include the expectant mom’s milk coming in, nesting behavior as she prepares her delivery spot, loss of appetite, and a drop in body temperature to between 98 and 99 degrees (birth typically occurs within 24 hours after a temperature drop). When contractions begin, you’ll notify the Fetching whelping team to come ASAP.

Mom does most of the work birthing her puppies, with you and the team standing by to offer any needed help. Some mamas are pretty laid-back, never making a peep throughout the delivery, while others yelp as the pup passes through the birth canal and out into the world. Pups arrive encased in an amniotic sac that the mom usually begins licking and biting to free her baby. If she doesn’t do this or is having a hard time, you’ll help to break the sac, allowing the pup to take its first breaths of air. Mom typically bites the umbilical cord, too, but if necessary, you’ll have sterile scissors waiting to cut it. Occasionally, you may need to use the nasal aspirator to clear fluid from a pup’s nose or mouth. Once the puppy is breathing, it’s placed by mom’s nipple to start nursing. Each pup should have its own placenta, and it’s important to account for every placenta. Puppies usually arrive about 30 minutes apart, although this varies. In between, mom will rest and should be offered ice cubes or water. Total delivery time averages 4-8 hours, depending on the number of pups.

So, those are the basics of puppy birthing 101. Ready to learn more? Stay tuned for part 2: caring for mom and her newborns, which will appear in next week’s blog. If you would like to help our puppy team with donated supplies, please visit our Amazon Wishlist here:

Written by: Michele G

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