Know Your Vet

In preparing for the birth of a litter of puppies, it is invaluable to be established and comfortable with a veterinarian well before the whelping due date. Often this can be done during an appointment relating to the pregnancy such as the initial pre-breeding examination of the dam, progesterone testing, sonogram to determine pregnancy, or an X-ray of the bitch to determine the number, size and orientation of the puppies done sometime after the 55th day of pregnancy. A record of the vet’s office hours, the emergency clinics they recommend, along with directions and phone numbers, and any additional special information the vet may have to help with the whelping the litter is a valuable addition to the whelping supplies.

Whelping Supplies

Here is a list of things that are valuable to have on hand while whelping pups.

  • Clamps (for cords as needed)
  • Child’s safely scissors (to cut cord, dull is better!)
  • Baby suction bulb (to remove mucus from newborns mouth , then nose as needed)
  • Dental floss, unwaxed (to tie off cords as needed)
  • Towels! Towels! Towels!
  • Small towels (to use to grip pups as needed)
  • Paper towels to clean up messes
  • Trash bags to contain messes – one for trash, one for used towels
  • Paper/forms to record births and make notes
  • Pens/pencils
  • Scale for birth weights
  • Clock/watch for timing
  • Alcohol wipes to clean clamps or scissors between pups
  • 4×4 gauze pads to help grip pups if stuck
  • KY jelly (for lubrication in case of stuck pup)
  • Latex gloves
  • Betadine ( for cord care)
  • Nutrical or Karo syrup (for quick sugar to mom or pups as needed)
  • Favorite whelping books
  • Phone numbers of friends and vets for emergencies
  • Phone
  • Books to read for waiting
  • Car gassed up and ready to go in the event a trip to the emergency vet is necessary

Whelping Area

Whelping boxes can be almost anything. The important point is that it is easy to clean, draft free, comfortable for mom and easy to keep warm.

There are many designs available if you wish to make your own. You can buy many different types of whelping boxes on the Internet. We happen to use a concrete mixing container that is about 3ft X 2ft x 1ft high. It is heavy duty plastic and very cheap at the hardware stores – easy to wash and sturdy enough to reuse. Best is that it fits into our 3ft x 3ft puppy pen. Some breeders use plastic wading pools and even the bottoms of larger crates.

Inside the box it is important to place several layers of newspaper to absorb the fluids of the birthing process and cover it with towels. We have also used rubber-backed bath mats for better traction for Mom while she is delivering and to give the pups a good footing. Whatever you use you will need plenty so that you can change the bedding frequently to keep the litter clean and dry.

A heat source is also necessary for the box. Some breeders prefer an over head heat source over a heating pad. There are many options from the catalogs. Look at reptile heaters, a ceramic heat emitter which throws no light, a red light in a special holder, and brooder lights are also something to check out. But please remember to only heat about half the box, leave room for the puppies to get away from the heat if they are too hot.

There is a heater called a whelping nest. The nest heats as needed and has its own temperature control. Overheating causes dehydration. Humidity is also important for the pups. A cool vaporizer in the room the pups are in but away from the box helps a lot.

A room thermometer in the box but not on the heat source is needed. It is even better if you can find one that also measures the humidity. The box should be maintained at about 80 degrees since the pups cannot regulate their own temperature until about three weeks of age.

Many breeders incorporate the use of puppy rails around the sides of the box in order to give a newborn a safe “path” around the sides in case mom lays to close and traps him. Sometimes referred to as “pig rails” they can easily be made from PVC piping and attached about 2-3 inches from the floor of the box.

The box should be placed in the spot you want it to stay about a week before whelping. A quiet part of the house away from a lot of activity is best. Remember that Mom will be looking for dim, warm and isolated when she has her pups. (Think Closet!) Make it also a comfortable area for yourself since you will be spending time with Mom and helping her with the whelping.

Temporary Puppy Box

You will need to create a temporary place for the litter to stay while Mom is whelping the next puppy. A 24inch by 18-inch plastic box with a lid (such as a Rubbermaid box) can be ideal. It can double as a storage box for your whelping supplies after the pups no longer need it.

Fit a small heating pad without the automatic shut off into half of the box, run the cord out through a hole you will make in a corner of the box. Cover this with a bolster type crate mat to protect the pups from cold edges. As an alternative, use a microwavable heating pad. Test the temperature to make sure it is not too hot before using it to hold the puppies.

This is where you will place the pups while Mom is whelping the rest of the pups, and it is also a great way to transport the pups to and from the vet or any other time you will need to keep them warm away from Mom. Pre-warm the box before the litter starts to arrive and also before you take them away from mom to travel. At the vets you can ask to plug you box in and keep it warm that way for the trip home. Cold or chilled pups do not survive!