Delivering Puppies

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Delivering puppies at home can be a tense experience, especially if you don't know what you're doing. When a dog gives birth it is known as whelping. Follow these tips to help you through. First up, preparation for delivering puppies should start long before they arrive. Most importantly, you should be in close contact with your vet before the puppies come. Your vet should be able to give you and idea of when the puppies will be arriving. You can also figure this out by taking the dog's temperature regularly, but it pays to go to the vet for a professional check.

Make absolutely sure that there will be someone at home with your dog when she is scheduled to start giving birth. If anything goes wrong during the birth procedure, you will want to have your vet on call. If your dog decides for whatever reason she doesn't want to cooperate with the birth procedure, you will need at least two, preferably three people. Some bitches also experience birth complications and a caesarian may be necessary if a pup gets stuck.

Three newborn puppies with hand to show size.

Figure out where you are going to put the pups when they arrive. Ideally you will want a box large enough to hold the mother when she is fully stretched out, along with up to 12 pups (yes - it happens, even with Jack Russells, so be prepared). The bitch should be given a few weeks to get used to the box before you even think about delivering puppies.

Whelping - The Birth of the Puppies

The whelping will begin with a discharge of fluid from the bitch's vagina. The puppies are each encased in an amniotic sac inside the mother and generally they will still be inside it when they are born, but not always. Sometimes you may only have to remove the remnants of a torn sac. The mother should remove the sacs and umbilical cords herself, but unfortunately some Jack Russells can be a little over-vigorous with newborn puppies, even to the point of biting and aggression, especially if the bitch is a first-time mother. If this is the case, be prepared to remove the amniotic sacs yourself. Here's what to do:

  • Try to calm down the mother as much as possible by stroking and talking to her (although with a JRT giving birth this can be easier said than done, so be prepared to hold her down if she becomes agitated).
  • Clean your hands thoroughly and use surgical gloves.
  • Have a pair of sterilized scissors and some dental floss on hand (ideally, use rubbing alcohol, or boil the scissors in hot water if it's an emergency delivery and you have nothing else to sterilize them with).
  • Make sure the umbilical cord is not around the puppy's neck. If it is, unwrap it gently. Do not tear the cord with your fingers.
  • The amniotic sac is very slippery, so you will need to pinch it near the puppy's neck to get hold of it. Gently tear it open and remove it from the pup. (Note: the mother will try to eat it. Let her eat the first few. It gives her energy for the rest of the delivery.)
  • Tie off the pup's umbilical cord with dental floss about 4-5 centimeters from the pup's stomach.
  • Cut the umbilical cord, on the mother's side of the floss. Do not tear it with your hands as this may cause a hernia in the puppy.
  • Dip the cut end of the puppy's cord in providine.
  • Some pups will cry when they're out, some won't. Don't panic either way. Just gently squeeze the mouth open and check the airway is clear.
  • Rub the pup dry with a towel to help get any fluid out of its lungs. Also tilt the pup up and down a few times and sway it gently from side to side to help remove fluid.

A newborn Jack Russell puppy with its umbilical cord tied.

Looking After the New Puppies

After birth, place the pups in a basket with warm towels, sheets, and heat bags or rubber water bottles (warm, not hot). This ensures that the mother won't harm or stand on the pups already delivered. There can be hours between each pup, but usually the next pup should come within half an hour. Delivering puppies, like all aspects of JRT ownership, requires patience, so just wait for the next one, and never assume it's all over. If the bitch goes for more than one hour without delivering the next pup, it's time to call your vet. If the next pup doesn't come after another hour a cesarian may be necessary.

If the whelping goes according to plan a lot of these steps will be unnecessary. Most of the time delivering puppies will be fairly straightforward as the mother will do most of the work herself. It's essential that all the pups feed from the mother in the first 24 hours as this is when their bodies absorb the colostrum from the mother's milk which gives them their natural immunity boost. If you can't feed them from the mother for whatever reason, you will have to go to the vet and get some artificial puppy formula, and then try to source a lactating bitch from the SPCA. Take a look at the bottle-feeding puppies section for more information.

Delivering puppies can be nerve-racking, but it's also a life-changing experience as you see new lives come into the world and watch them grow.

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