Whelping and Post Whelping Care
WHELPING Bitches and Queens
The gestation length of the bitch varies from 57 to 70 days. On average 63 days from mating is accepted as normal for all breeds.
SIGNS OF WHELPING
- Vulval discharge – up to a week before, clear stringy fluid.
- Vulva soft and flaccid (flabby) up to 3 days before
- Milk let down about one week before whelping
- Bitch restless / looks for a nest. Scratching around tearing up paper etc.
- Temperature may drop 1-2 degrees
- Labour begins / heavy panting / contractions are very obvious and continue to get stronger and more frequent. The bitch is pushing with abdominal muscles.
Dilation of the cervix and presentation of a fluid filled sac usually but not always.
Expulsion of a pup.
Expulsion of the membrane (afterbirth)
TIMING GOLDEN RULES
Never let a bitch labour on for more than six hours. If there is no discharge or no pups, contact your vet. Never let a bitch go on if there is a dark green discharge and no pups. This is Uteroverdin and indicates the placenta (membranes) have separated from the uterus. The pup has no oxygen and is usually dead and the rest are at risk.
Labour can take 5 minutes, 10 minutes or 1-3 hours between pups. Never allow a bitch to go on more than 6 hours between pups. Even this is too long in the small breeds eg Chihuahua, Pekingese, or Poodle usually 3-4 hours is the limit. However give the bitch a chance if she is okay.
CAESAREANS See Cesarean surgery images
Caesareans are done when live pups and/or the bitch are at risk. Caesareans for dead pups may not be necessary; dead pups can be extracted via vulva with the bitch under general anaesthetic or using an oxytocin drip. The drip or oxytocin injections must not be used when live pups are present. The risk is that Oxytocin causes separation of the membranes (placenta) from the uterus. Pups have no oxygen supply and will die. The first or lone pup may survive. If others are present they will die, and if a pup is stuck, uterine rupture can occur. Sure it works in some cases but generally it causes very high pup mortality. Caesareans if done correctly do not affect the bitch’s health or future breeding.
Most bitches have completed whelping within 6-12 hours. A post whelping examination and injection of Oxytocin is recommended.
1.This ensures the uterus contracts up and helps prevent infection and haemorrhage.
2.Any membranes are expelled along with afterbirth fluids.
3.And ensures adequate milk let down for the pups.
The bitch discharges a brownish fluid (lochia) for up to 6 weeks this is normal and healthy.
Pups require a temperature of 30 degrees for the first 3 weeks. Many pups that are weak, unable to suckle, will fade and die because they are cold. The reserves of glycogen are used up trying to maintain body temperature. Keep your pups very warm, on an electric blanket or heating pad preferably.
The bitch should have a Canvac 5 Vaccination 3 weeks before whelping. This ensures a high level of antibodies, rich colostrum and stronger pups as a result. Pups have a Canvac 5 Vaccination at 6-8 weeks of age.
The gestation period is similar to the bitch, 56-70 days, and an average of 63 days. Signs of kitting follow a similar pattern to the bitch. Comments of the stages of labour in the bitch generally apply to queens.
The ability of kittens to survive a prolonged labour (12-26 hours) differs from pups. However with pedigrees the risk of allowing a queen to labour more than 6 hours without producing a kitten is high, especially if a caesarean eventuates.