Pregnancy, Labor, and Post-Whelp Care

This article is designed to help you better understand your pet’s condition. This is not a substitute for a veterinary diagnosis; it intended for reference purposes and to supplement an existing diagnosis after a veterinary examination. If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at 740-432-5980. It is absolutely vital to have a veterinary diagnosis prior to following any of the instructions provided here.


Traditionally 63-65 days but technically ranges from 56-70 days.  Progesterone testing prior to breeding will provide a more accurate due date.

Prenatal Care

Feed the mother puppy food instead of dog food as it has the extra calories her body needs for the developing pups.  She should be allowed to eat (within reason) as much as she wants.  Multivitamins are never a bad idea but feeding a good quality puppy food is perfectly sufficient.

As the whelping date approaches provide her with a whelping box that is easy to access, easy to get in and out of, and is in a quiet peaceful setting where she feels safe and not threatened.  High traffic areas such as living rooms are not ideal and neither are laundry rooms with noisy appliances.  A spare bedroom or master bedroom with little traffic is best.  Provide her plenty of blankets and allow her to arrange them, as she will for her “nest”.  Have food and water easily accessible not far from her whelping box.  Give her plenty of time to adjust to the box before her due date.

The fetuses can be palpated by a Veterinarian between 20-30 days of pregnancy, at 25-28 days they may be seen on ultrasound, and x-rays are strongly recommended between 45-50 days.  It is important to know how many pups you are expecting so you can better predict if the mother is in distress during labor.  If she delivers 3 pups, for instance, and you know there are 5 in her uterus, and hours pass without the 4th or 5th pup you know she needs emergency medical assistance.


Labor Signs

  • Normal body temperature (99.5-102.5) will decrease to 90-99 degrees F approximately 12-24 hours prior to whelp.
  • Milk will be present in the breasts
  • A mucous-like discharge will be apparent around her vulva
  • She will appear restless or nervous
  • She may refuse to eat
  • She may shiver or pant
  • She may vomit, chew, or pace
  • She may scratch at the floor, seek seclusion, and nest


  • Normal delivery takes a few hours but should not exceed 24-36 hours.
  • If the mother is in active labor and no pup is produced in 2 hours she needs immediate emergency medical assistance.
  • The best approach is to let the mother take over herself with minimal human interference.  Motherhood should be instinctual.  If the mother becomes frightened (common in 1st litters) you may need to pull the placenta off the pup and clean its nose and mouth with a bulb syringe.  The mother will take care of the umbilical cord.  It is normal for the mother to eat the placenta it is very nutrient rich.  Some breeders only allow the mother to consume one placenta as eating too much can cause diarrhea however it will not make her ill.  It is very easy to “baby” the mothers and dote over them during labor as you want to help however behaving this way may make your dog nervous and make the experience even worse for her.  If you must be present have only one person in the room (two at the very max) and be very calm and quiet and do not interfere unless absolutely necessary.



A vaginal discharge is to be expected for 1-2 weeks post-whelp.  This discharge can range from green to blood tinged but should not be accompanied by an odor.  Discharge with an odor indicates infection and she may need antibiotics.


  • Eyes and Ears open at 10-14 days
  • Visual and Auditory Orientation are apparent at 25 days
  • Vision and brain function reach an adult level at 8 weeks
  • The mother knows when it is time to wean the puppies.  Little to no human interference is needed in this practice.  Never force puppies to wean before they are ready.  Weaning usually occurs around 5-6 weeks but can start earlier or later.
  • For vital socialization purposes puppies should not be taken from the mother and their littermates for the first 8 weeks of life.  If they can remain together for 10 weeks that is even better.

Puppy Vaccines

  • “Puppy Shots” should consist of a combination-vaccination including Distemper, Hepatitis, Parainfluenza, and Parvovirus or DHPP and may also include Lepto and Coronavirus or DHLPPC
  • This vaccine is given as a series of injections given every 2-3 weeks until 14-16 weeks of age.  The first being given at 6-8 weeks of age and the final series given at 14-16 weeks.
  • The Rabies vaccine is given after 3 months or 12 weeks of age.


Puppy De-worming

Puppy de-worming is extremely vital as the vast majority of pups are born with intestinal parasites.  If the mother ever had parasites in her entire life, it is possible for those worms to have participated in somatic migration which means the worms will lay dormant in her muscle tissues her entire life unaffected by de-worming medications.  Then the dormant parasites detect the hormone fluctuations caused by pregnancy and they will then cross the placenta and infect the pups before they are ever born.  Puppies are more vulnerable to the side effects of intestinal parasites than adult dogs and can become very ill.  Pups can be de-wormed as early as they can swallow if liquid pyrantel pamoate (Strongid) is used; do not use any other product without consulting a Veterinarian.  The dose for pyrantel pamoate is roughly 1cc per 10 pounds in both dogs and cats.

Guernsey Veterinary Clinic, Cassie Gombeda RVT


Please feel free to call with any questions!  We want you keep our clients well informed and our patients healthy and happy!  740-432-5980

Comments are closed.