This information is based on the experience of the author, is provided to breeders for informational purposes only. It should not be construed to be endorsement by HCA of any particular technique, method or recommendation. Always seek and follow the advice of your vet first.
The day is almost upon us!
Mom’s temp is down below her normal pregnancy Temp of 100. She is off her food (maybe!) looks like she has to potty a bit more and has a hard time finding a good spot to relax in.
Hopefully the whelping box is out and in “her” place, she has been shown the box and it is cozy, preferably warm and in a dim area away from the busy end of the house. She has lots of towels or newspapers to “nest” in and make comfy for the new babies. Havanese Mom’s are not unlike us, some need to be in the family’’ arms , some rather be alone. Don’t let Mom out to potty alone! Take a flashlight at night and walk her on a leash only!
She is in early labor or stage one. The uterus is starting to contract, the cervix is starting to open she is feeling rather crammpy. She may have some clear to slightly cloudy discharge from the vulva but as long as it is not colored or foul smelling it is normal lubricant for the birth.
Mom should have some milk in her nipples (colostrum is the first milk and very important that newborns get it in the first 12-24 hours), but it is not totally unknown that the milk comes in shortly after birth. Her vulva should feel rather soft like the texture of our lips.
The whelping kit is out and ready to go! (hint: for those of us that work and whelp puppies, a “family emergency” works better than “my dog is having puppies” when you call in at work!)
Plug in the heating pad and warm up the receiving box. Put on the coffee and call a friend all the while keeping Mom in sight.
Now we will pretend that she is starting to deliver her pups and you have not been up for three days waiting for this very moment. She is nesting vigorously, you can see the contractions on her belly and she is starting to strain with some tail elevation. Pups are almost here!
Stage two: It is often that you will see a “bubble” at the vulva before a pup - that is the amniotic sack, one or two more good pushes should do it and we have our first puppy. Head or feet presentations are both normal and if the puppy is in the correct position (belly down) then it will be delivered without difficulty.
What we must do to help if we are needed is to clear the sack from the face and aspirate fluids with the bulb syringe from the babies mouth first then the nose. There is some discussion now on the efficacy of the “puppy swing” where you hold the pup securely in both hands head down and give a firm swing downward to clear the passages of fluid, the new idea being that we may be introducing more stomach fluids into the air passages, and also there is discussion that this may cause injuries to the brain.
Let Mom cut the cord with her teeth as long as she is not a frantic chewer. If for some reason you need to cut the cord yourself cut it at least ¾ inches long clamp on both sides of were you want to cut and use a dull scissors to prevent bleeding. Use the clamps to compress the cord, imitating moms chewing and tearing it. You can also use a short length of unwaxed dental floss to tie onto the baby side of the cord, cut the edges short so mom does not fuss with it. A slight dab of betadine on the end of the cord is useful to help keep bacteria out and dry it.
Stage three: The placenta should always follow the pup and each one needs to be counted. One for each pup needs to be recorded. Some feel that it is Mother Nature’s way to eat all of the placentas, that hormones and nutrients are part of the birth process and it helps to stimulate the milk and more contractions. You can allow her all of the placentas (you may get some loose stools from the high protein) or just a few, whatever you are comfortable with and depending on the number of pups. But remember you need to have accounted for one placenta per pup by the end of whelping and if not call your vet! On occasion a placenta is not delivered with a pup. Watch for it with the birth of the next puppy, try to catch the umbilical cord when the pup is being delivered and it looks like it may tear, use a Kelly clamp to keep it from pulling back into the vulva. A gentle pull may bring it out without any difficulty.
Be sure to record the times of birth, the placenta accounted for or not, weight of pups, marking of pups and any complication that happened at the birth for future reference. If the vets need to know any of this information, I will promise you will not remember it.
Once the baby and placenta are safely delivered and mom has cleaned the baby, be sure to rub the baby as dry as possible and KEEP IT WARM – chilling is the greatest killer of healthy pups. If mom is resting between babies be sure to get the pup on a nipple to nurse after you have checked the roof of the mouth to be sure the pup does not have a cleft palate. Check to be sure the baby is actually nursing and has suction going. Remove the baby to the warming box when mom looks like she is ready to deliver again to prevent the pup from getting injured while mom is busy with the next puppy.
When all of the pups have been delivered and all of the placentas are accounted for it is time to clean up the box and make a nice dry bed for mom and pups. Notify your vet of the delivery and as per his advice take the pups and mom into the clinic to make sure all is well. Occasionally an experienced breeder will upon the advice of their vet give the oxytocin themselves to the moms to be sure all of the products of conception are expelled. This also helps to stimulate the milk production.
If you do take the litter and bitch to the vet’s office be sure to keep them away from all other animals and to keep the babies warm at all times. A portable heat source is required, check the temperature to be sure it is not too hot or cold. If you choose to remove Dew claws, the procedure can be done around day 3-5 check with your vet the day they are born to set up that appointment.
You will probably not get much sleep the first week. The pups should sleep near enough that if you hear any squeals you can get to them, as moms have been known to lie on the babies out of exhaustion or inexperience. Some pups appear to be nursing but are not, so you must check to be sure that all are lined up at the milk bar and actually getting some milk. If it is slightly difficult to pull the baby from the nipple they are probably well latched on if the babe slides off easily they may not be getting milk.
Keep the whelping area warm! Chilled babies will be dead babies.
Congratulations on a job well done!!
Most of the time, all goes well with our bitch’s whelping, but on occasion things happen that we need to be aware of.
When you read this page I hope that you understand that your vet’s advice precedes anything that is written here. I am not a vet, but a breeder. What works for me may not work for you. Follow the advice of the professional.
Stay well within your comfort zone because, after all, it is the lives of your puppies and your bitch that can be at stake here. These are emergency or low-level assistance suggestions. If at anytime your bitch or pups are in distress, immediately call your vet or take your bitch to the nearest vet emergency facility.
No matter what happens be guided by your gut feelings.
Dystocia, difficult or slow delivery:
a puppy is malpositioned
two puppies are presenting at the same time
Puppy positions: Normal delivery of pups can be a headfirst or feet first position (breech). As long as the pup’s abdomen is facing down (towards the abdomen of the mother) and fairly equal between both sides of the moms legs all should be well. Occasionally there is a pup presenting that is upside down or sideways. This can be near impossible for the bitch to birth without assistance. First call your vet for instructions. If unable to get the vet on the phone rapidly you may attempt to move the pup into a better position by using a sterile lubricant, (such as KY jelly), on clean fingers inserted into the vagina on either side of the pup and attempt to rotate the pup into a more favorable position. If possible you can even attempt to push the pup back into the vagina slightly to turn the pup.
Pup not progressing but good position: If possible, and you can get enough of the pup in your fingers, it is a good idea to get a piece of gauze to wrap around the portion of the pup extending from the bitch. As she has a contraction you can gently pull the pup DOWN from the tail to the feet. Hold onto the pup between contractions so that it does not go back into the vagina. Do not pull on single legs! Attempt to get your fingers around the body of the pup. Sometimes you will have to actually attempt to roll the vulva up and back from the pup to ease it out. Sometimes it helps to hold the bitch up by her front legs to let gravity assist. Occasionally, a second person may be helpful to put some slight pressure on the upper abdomen to help move things down gently. If the pup is breech it is very important to get the pup out as fast as possible and suction the fluids out of the throat and nose. If the pup is presenting in a head first position, you may have to break the membranes from the face before the pup is totally born to allow for breathing when it is finally delivered. Pups are at their most vulnerable when in the birthing canal.
Two pups presenting at the same time Rare) Elevating the hindquarters may move the second of the two puppies’ back into the uterus and allow more room for the first puppy to proceed.
In the case of fetal distress (heart rate below 150 if doppler available) or complication continue. However, there are differing opinions as to the value of this service.
Again try to reach your vet or if not available got to the nearest vet emergency facility. You bitch may need further attention and/or a Cesarean Section.
Uterine inertia - Lack of productive contractions. Uterine inertia may be a primary condition. Where hormones are not released to stimulate the muscles of the uterus or the muscles fail to respond to normal delivery hormones. This can also be the case with single pup deliveries, not enough hormones for good uterine response. Uterine inertia may be a secondary condition, where the muscles of the uterus become tired, usually due to a long or difficult delivery.
The signs of uterine inertia vary. Signs of primary inertia include a normal animal and lack of onset of birth at the end of the normal pregnancy. In this case the bitch will appear bright and alert. The cervix may or may not be dilated. If the cervix is dilated, discharge may be present at the vulva. Signs of secondary uterine inertia include delivery of one or more puppies f ollowed by lack of delivery. In this case, normal or prolonged deliveries are followed by labor stopping, even though more fetuses are in the uterus.
Uterine inertia is diagnosed by good medical history, including breeding dates, and a though physical exam. Pregnant animals should be monitored and the delivery time should be estimate. If more than 24 hours have elapsed since the drop in rectal temperature or if serum progesterone has been low for 36 hours (signs of impending delivery) and labor has not started, a presumptive diagnosis of uterine inertia can be made. Radiographs (X-Rays) can be used to determine the number and position of the fetuses; recording ultrasonic waves can use Ultrasound (visualization of fetuses in the uterus by recording ultrasonic waves) to assess the condition of the fetuses. Blood testing may reveal how low concentrations of Calcium and glucose in dogs with secondary inertia.
The treatment of uterine inertia depends on the type of inertia, the condition of the mother, and the condition of the fetuses. Medical treatment may include the administration of hormone (oxytocin) to induce more effective uterine contractions. Calcium and glucose may be given if needed. In some cases, medical treatment is not a possibility or if the animal does not respond to medical treatment, cesarean section is indicated.
The prognosis for the animals with uterine inertia generally is good if the treatment is started quickly. The prognosis for the survival of the puppies is good if the mother is taken to the veterinarian in a timely fashion. Both the mother and the litter may die if appropriate veterinary care is delayed.
A word about Oxytocin: There are situations in which the veterinarian may send home some oxytocin for injection at the end of delivery. Please be aware that this is a powerful hormone and in the wrong situations can cause death of the pups or mother. This should never be given without direction from a veterinarian. Should a pup be in a poor position for delivery and the mom unable to deliver the pup, uterine rupture can occur. In all cases of difficult deliveries or delayed deliveries a radiograph should be done to rule out uterine torsion or malposition of a pup before giving oxytocin. A lay person should never give oxytocin unless they are sure that all pups are delivered and the vet has suggested its use.
When to call the vet:
No labor after day 64 of the last breeding
No labor more than 24 hours after temp drop or 36 hours after progesterone drop
No pup after 6-8 hours of stage 1 labor (Uterine contractions but not straining or pushing)
Amniotic bag presenting for greater than 20 minutes and no pup delivered.
A vaginal commitment to fetal structure or placenta with no advancement
A half-hour of heavy labor every 3-4 minutes with no pup.
Bitch experiences muscle weakness, tremors, rigidity or seizures (signs of pre-eclampsia /eclampsia)
Green discharge before the birth of the first pup.( premature placental separation) It is normal to see green discharge after a pup is born.
Bitch passing a heavy persistent flow of fresh blood from the vulva possibly indicating uterine torsion, rupture or hemorrhage
The bitch demonstrating evidence of severe abdominal pain and symptoms of shock, pale mucus membranes, rapid thready pulse sudden drop of body temp (below 98) or collapse.
While there is no rule about time between pups, call if the bitch ever looks in distress, pushing without result or a pup in the vagina without delivery.
Hopefully you have had an x-ray the last few days of the pregnancy and the vet has assured you that the puppy heads are all of an even size and that you do not have a large puppy in the mix. It will also show if the pelvis of the bitch is going to be large enough to match the puppies’ heads. If any of those equations are not true, then you and the vet need to discuss having a c-section, and how many extra hands he might need to help stimulate and keep the puppies alive while the operation is going on.
The vet will be busy with your bitch to make sure each horn is checked and the puppies are all out, that she is doing fine, stitched up, and resting comfortably. This means that you will need to have a set of hands for each of the puppies you are expecting. Though sometimes, enough hands are not always available due to the workload at the vet’s office. Each puppy has to be rubbed vigorously to dry it, they have to be suctioned, and they have to be wrapped warmly and moved in such a way as to get oxygen into the lungs and get them crying and pink.
Having the necessary care for each newborn puppy is easier with a planned c-section than with an emergency c-section. Often, those are done in the middle of the night when the bitch is in hard labor and nothing is happening.
How long is too long too leave your girl in labor before you call the vet is always up for interpretation. I start to panic early and have to force myself to wait because I love my bitches and don’t want to lose them. Most say that 1 ½ hours to 2 hours is long enough. If it is hard non-productive labor then you are stressing the puppies as well as the mom. There is no guarantee with a c-section that all of the puppies will be fine, but hopefully won’t loose the mom because you waited too long. Hopefully you will have a good vet who through coaching and questions can help you make an informed decision about what is best for your bitch.