Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Stages of Canine Labor

The Stages of Canine Labor
When Your Dog Gives Birth

Over ninety-eight percent of all dogs deliver their puppies without assistance or complications. But when our beloved pet or a sheltered stray is set to deliver puppies it is comforting to know that things are proceeding without hitches and on schedule. Here are some of the things that should happen as your dog begins to deliver her puppies.

Just Before Labor Begins: canine labor pregnant birth dog puppies
Pregnancy in dogs last approximately 63 days (56-69 days). Toy breeds may deliver a week earlier while large breeds often deliver later. Two weeks before your dog’s due date, begin to take its temperature at noon. Purchase a rectal or oral thermometer but use it rectally. You can lubricate it with some ointment and insert it about an inch. Leave it in place for three minutes. Your dog’s temperature should be between 101 and 102.5 Fahrenheit. When the pet’s temperature drops below 100F (to about 98.0 - 98.3 )she should deliver the pups in less than twenty-four hours. She will try digging the floor or run around herself which will give you an indication that the time is near.

The reason behind they digging the floor is because normally in the wild , dogs dig the ground and keep their puppies in the pit so that they are not in sight of the other dogs as most of the puppies die because they get eaten up by the other dogs. So in order to protect the puppies the mother digs and keeps the puppies safe there. She may look out for a secure place to deliver her puppies. When she delivers a pup at a particular location in the house she is bound to deliver the rest of them there itself. Keep lots of paper/tissues/towels ready. The key is not to panic when she is delivering trust me everything goes smoothly, if you feel you may call the vet when you start seeing the above symtoms.

The day her temperature drops, she will refuse food and drink.
This is normal.
Her instinct is telling her that she needs to 'fast' before the big event.

Stage One of Labor:
During the first stage of labor the cervix begins to dilate and uterine contractions begin. These contractions are painful and perplexing to the dog. She will appear quite uncomfortable and restless - pacing, shivering and panting. She probably will not eat and she may even vomit. Some dogs whine persistently. Others occupy themselves building a nest. Uterine contractions, although occurring, are not as easy to see as in humans. This is the longest stage of labor. It generally lasts six to eighteen hours. By the end of this period the dog’s cervix will have completely dilated for the puppies to pass. During this period keep the mother’s environment quiet and calm. You can keep them in a darkened area such as the bathroom.

Stage Two of Labor:
During the second stage of labor uterine contractions begin in force. As this stage progresses the placental water sacks break and a straw-colored fluid is passed. Placentas are expelled after each puppy or sporadically during labor. Pups usually appear every half-hour or so after ten to thirty minutes of forceful straining. As the pups deliver, the mother will lick the puppy clean and bite off the umbilical cord. It is important to let the mother do this, if she will, because through this process she bonds with her puppies and learns to recognize them as her own. The rough licking of the mother stimulates the puppies to breathe and improves their circulation. The mother will probably eat some of the afterbirths. If the bitch does not tear away the sac and lick the pups to stimulate respiration, the owner should tear the sac open, clear all fluid away from the pup's nose and mouth, and vigorously rub the pup to stimulate breathing.

Get as much as towels tissues/cloth or newspaper ( I would suggest newspaper as you can throw it later) to clean the puppies and keep them dry.Also if the temperature of the surroundings is cool you may want to use the UV light (you can get it at the vet) to give them the heat required.
It is not uncommon, however, for the mother to take rests during labor and up to four hours can pass between some puppies. If more than four hours have passed without a puppy and you are certain more puppies are present take the dog to a veterinary hospital. Also seek assistance if the mother strains forcefully for over an hour without producing another pup. If you see the rear legs of a puppy protruding from the dog’s vagina you can assist the mother by gently pulling the puppy in a downward and rearward arcing motion. You must do this very gently because puppies are fragile and easily hurt. It is normal for many puppies to be born rear feet first or breach. When a mother dog is stuck in incomplete labor the first thing to do is administer oxytocin and calcium to stimulate uterine contractions. If the puppies are too big to pass through the birth canal or the oxytocin fails to induce successful labor, cesarean section on the dog has to be done.

Stage Three of Labor:
The concept of a third stage of labor is borrowed from human labor terms. It is a very indistinct period in dogs. Once all the puppies have been born the dog enters this third stage of labor during which time the uterus contracts fully, expelling any remaining placenta, blood and fluid.

After thirty-two days of pregnancy the mother’s appetite will begin to increase. She should begin to eat about twice as much as she used to. When the puppies come and she is producing milk, her food consumption should be about three times as much as it was before her pregnancy.
Purchase a name brand puppy food (Royal cannin ) to feed her with during these periods. If you do so, there is no need to give her supplements of any kind. There is no need to restrict the mother’s normal exercise but intensive exercise or work training should be curtailed.

Around the forty-fifth day, bring the pet in to be examined by a veterinarian. At this time the vet
will be able to palpate the puppies and give you an indication of how many to expect. If you need to know earlier, then have an ultrasound examination performed about the twenty-fifth day( I wouldn’t suggest a scan as it is harmful for the babies).
Blood progesterone levels can be tested about day 34 to confirm pregnancy.

Have only a small lamp turned on (or UV light , a hanging bulb will also help) - the pups eyes are still forming and make sure the room is warm - 85 degrees - because the pups will get chilled very easily.

If the pups are all the same colour, with no marking to distinguish one from the other, and if you are keeping track of weights, then you can identify each of the pups for a few days.
After that however, you will have to design a different I.D.method.
Some people use coloured nail polish on a foot or a tail or top of head, others use coloured 'rick-rack' or satin ribbon, until they are old enough for tiny puppy collars.

One more thing I would like to add is normally Mothers know how to milk their pups so most of the time let them do it, if you feel that the mother may accidently sit on the puppies (which happens sometimes where chances are that the puppy may die ) you may monitor it and help the mother to milk her pups. Usually out of all dogs Labradors are good mothers …in the sense that you hardly see any instances like the above with them. After a few weeks when the mother gets use to the puppies she will know when to feed the puppies. When she hears the pups cry she will sit down and give them the milk they require. Trust me you will be amazed by the dedication and devotion she will show towards her puppies without even training her. She wouldn’t like others to touch her puppy.

My advice don’t allow other than your family members to touch the puppy till they complete 5 weeks……….as there are chances that they can catch infection. Always wash your hands before handling a pup.

Serious Problems:
If the mother fails to go into labor within twenty-four hours after her body temperature drops to below 100F you should take the dog to a veterinarian. Do this also if you have calculated that more than 69 days have passed since the dog was bred.

Some dogs will suffer milk failure or insufficient milk before their puppies are weaned. This occurs in older dogs as well as dogs that have another concurrent health problem such as eclampsia, mastitis or systemic disease. These dogs need to be taken directly to a veterinarian the puppies supplemented or raised by hand. Signs that milk is inadequate are thin or lean puppies that cry consistently suck objects around them (or each other) and do not sleep. Although healthy pups before completing 15 days (when their eyes are closed) will try to suck whatever comes their way which is normal as they cant see anything and feel that whatever comes their way is the nipple.

It is normal for the mother to run a low fever during the two days after giving birth. I become concerned if the fever is over 102.8, if the dog is drinking excessive water or if she is depressed. These may all be signs of a retained placenta (or puppy) or a uterine infection.

It is normal for the dog to have a copious vaginal discharge following birthing. This discharge normally has rusty reddish or greenish brown appearance. I become concerned when the discharge is pus-like or has a strong odor. This can also be a sign of retained placenta and uterine infection (metritis). Normal cleansing of the uterus can last as long as eight weeks.

Normal mother dogs are bright, alert and attentive to their puppies. She should have a ravenous appetite as she converts metabolites to milk. I become concerned if the mother shows any signs of listlessness or depression. She also needs to visit a veterinarian if she is not attentive to her puppies.

Check the mother’s milk flow. It should flow with only the slightest of finger pressure.

When the mother is milking their babies she is bound to get scratched by the puppies nails which will cause her tummy and the area around nipples to turn red, You can avoid it by tying a huge piece of cloth around the mother’s tummy and then cut holes in the cloth so that you can nipples come out of the cloth , this way the nails wont hurt the tummy.

Eclampsia or Milk Fever:
Eclampsia is actually a glandular problem in which the parathyroid gland does not secrete sufficient calcium-releasing hormone. When it does occur, this problem happens just before or within 3-4 weeks after welping. Milk fever is an acute, life-threatening condition. It is most common in small breeds with large litters. Mother dogs become disoriented, stiff, nervous and restless. They loose interest in her puppies. In severe cases they will have muscle spasms, seizures and be unable to walk. The mother may run a fever and have a rapid heart rate. . This problem results from low blood calcium as the mother’s body prepares to produce calcium-rich milk. I treat it by administering intravenous 10% calcium gluconate at 0.25-0.75ml/pound/hour. Affected dogs return to normal in fifteen minutes or less. Then I either wean the puppies or place the mother on a calcium supplement for the remainder of their lactation. Giving calcium supplements during pregnancy is not helpful and may actually cause the problem to reoccur during future pregnancies.

Mastitis or Breast Infection:
The normal canine breasts of mother dogs are soft, warm and enlarged. They should never be red, hot, painful and hard. Hard painful breasts are signs of infection. Dogs with this condition are reluctant to let the puppies nurse and when they do little milk is produced. As soon as I identify a dog with this condition I remove the puppies and hand feed them. Hot packs on the affected breasts help draw down the infection. I place the mother dog on antibiotics and limit her water supply to dry up her milk as quickly as possible.

One thing I would like to add here is the nipples can become hard if the milking is stopped for more than two days. In our case as our lab had too many scratches on her tummy we thought of avoiding the milking for two days till it got better, but eventually the nipples turned hard which led to the doctor diagnosing her of this disease. Later confirmed that this wasn’t the case and she was normal. The only way to check if it is a infection is if the milk coming out is Yellow. You can contact the veterinarian

Hypoglycemia or Low Blood Sugar:
This condition is easily confused with eclampsia. It is primarily a problem in small breeds. The signs are disorientation, weakness, subnormal temperature and low blood sugar analysis. I treat it by administering intravenous dextrose solution. Recovery is very rapid. I often give some dextrose at the same time I treat with intravenous calcium for eclampsia since the two problems often occur together.

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