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.
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:
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.