Your bitch has gone through her heat, she's pregnant and you are now waiting the, roughly, 63 days until you will have newborn puppies in your home. It is an exciting time and while it is about to get busy, there are things you will need to do to prepare for your newborn puppies.
In this article, we will go over things that you need to do to prepare for your newborn puppies. However, in addition to this article, we strongly recommend that you read our articles on whelping boxes and whelping kits, which are both important to preparing for your litter of puppies.
#1 Connect with a Vet
Hopefully you have a vet for your breeding dogs well before you ever decide to breed, but if you don't, now is the time to do it. Find a vet that has experience in whelping and newborn puppies. If this means that you need to travel a little bit, do so.
For myself, despite living in a city that has dozens of vets, I opt to drive 45 minutes one way to an experienced vet. Hands down, I don't trust my dogs with anyone else as they are knowledgeable and offer 24 hour care that other vets don't offer.
While you may not need the vet during the delivery, having a connection with one is ideal in the event of emergencies. This is imperative if you have a breed with known whelping complications, such as bulldog breeds that usually need a c-section as the majority of bulldogs can't whelp naturally.
When you have the vet, make sure you write the vet's number down in a place your can find easily. During an emergency, the last thing you want to do is search for his number.
#2 Visit the Vet
I would often recommend this before your dog is bred, however, you should also have a few visits before your puppies arrive so you can prepare for them.
Before breeding, make sure that your bitch is up to date on all of her vaccinations. You can bring her in for a physical and health check so you are assured that she is in top form for breeding. If you don't, you can run the risk of complications later.
In addition, her being up to date on vaccinations will ensure that her immunities are there to be passed on to her newborn puppies.
When she is pregnant, there are two appointments that I recommend that you make. These are:
- Ultrasound Appointment: Around day 28 to day 30 post breeding, you can bring your bitch in to have an ultrasound. This will give you a confirmation of pregnancy and is a quick check to make sure the pregnancy is viable at this stage. Ultrasound appointments are completely optional and while some vets will give you an estimate of puppies, they are not always accurate. It is merely to confirm a pregnancy.
- X-ray Appointment: The other appointment that you can do is an x-ray appointment after day 45 from date of breeding. The recommendation is to do it as close to delivery as possible and I know some breeders who leave it right up to day 59. The reason for this is that bones do not start to calcify in puppies until day 45. Before that, they don't show up on ultrasounds. X-rays are more accurate for getting numbers and this will help you in determining at delivery if your bitch is done whelping or simply in a pause. I usually do an x-ray but skip ultrasounds since my girls are so big.
Apart from those appointments, I recommend that you go to the vet only if you see something off with your bitch, such as an unusual discharge.
#3 Gather your Supplies
A few weeks before you are expecting your puppies, it is good to gather all your supplies. You want to have a full whelping kit, which you can find here. However, when you are gathering your supplies, make sure that everything is refreshed from your last litter.
In addition, purchase extras of towels and blankets. I find I go through those a lot every litter and while I try to salvage as many as I can, I always end up throwing out some of them because they are unsalvageable.
While you are gathering your supplies, sterilize any tools you have, such as scissors, well before whelping and place them in a Tupperware dish where they are sealed to prevent them from becoming unsterilized.
With organizing them, I put the items I use the most on my work surface in bins. Then I use drawers to put other supplies that I don't use that often or only in an emergency. Organization is very important to keep your whelping room nice and calm on delivery day.
#4 Deworm Your Bitch
Two weeks before your dam's estimated due date, you want to take the time to deworm her. While she may not have an active case of worms, especially if you have been following a deworming schedule, pregnancy can cause dorminant worms to hatch and infest your pregnant bitch.
These worms can pass to the puppies in utero and can lead to a lot of complications...even killing newborn puppies if the worms become too severe. When you deworm the bitch, it helps kill off the worms that may be in her system. You will still need to deworm the puppies every two weeks, along with your dam, after they are born until they go home.
There are many dewormers that are safe for pregnant bitches, however, the one that my vet recommends is Strongid-T, which is safe for dam and puppies of all ages. I also use Safeguard for Goats, which is safe for your dam and your puppies after they are 4 weeks of age. It should be noted that Safeguard is a three day/application treatment while Strongid-T is a one application treatment.
#5 Put up Your Whelping Box
While you are getting your supplies ready, I recommend that you put up your whelping box or pen at least two weeks before your newborn puppies arrive. This is where your puppies will spend a large chunk of their time and will be a safe place for mom to deliver.
With your whelping box, you want to place it in a quiet area that is away from the regular traffic. Once it is up, spend time with mom in the whelping box so she learns that it is a safe place for her to have her puppies. The more time she can spend in the whelping box, the more likely she'll be to deliver her puppies in there.
#6 Start Charting Temps
If you aren't aware, one of the common indicators that your dam is about to go into labor is a drop in temperature. For this reason, I always recommend that you chart your dam's temperature for the week before her due date. Generally, after day 59, it is safe for puppies to be born. At that time, even a few days before that, you can start taking a rectal temperature.
Dogs have a normal temperature of 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. On average, pregnant females have a temperature of around 100.4, but range between 99 and 100.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Some dogs will see a spike in their temperature about 24 hours before you see a drop.
However, that spike doesn't always happen and it's not what we are looking for. Instead, we are looking for a drop in temperature into 98 degrees Fahrenheit. For my dogs, I usually have to wait until they drop under 98 degrees Fahrenheit and usually around 97.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once you see that drop, you know that you will have puppies within 24 to 48 hours. By charting, it helps you prepare for those newborn puppies when they are ready to arrive.
This video explains why to chart and how to chart in excellent detail. Definitely worth a watch.
#7 Prepare a Safe Place for Puppies
While you may not need to do this with some breeds, I find that I always need a safe place for my newborn puppies due to the large size of my dams. However, I recommend having a warm bin for your puppies available in the event of an emergency.
The best items I find for a litter of newborn puppies is a large bin. Place blankets in the bin as well as a heating pad on one side. This will prevent your puppies from getting cold, which can be deadly for them.
When mom is whelping, you can put the newborn puppies into the bin so that she doesn't accidentally crush one while she is pushing out the next puppy.
This keeps them safe and she can focus on what she is doing. Once she delivers the puppy and settles down again to nurse the newest puppy, you can place the rest of the newborn puppies with her.
Make sure the bin is sterilized and you have clean blankets that offer some comfort but aren't too fluffy that they can be suffocated if they burrow under.
#8 Create your Whelping Chart
Finally, take the time to create a whelping chart. I have individual charts for each puppy once they are here, so I can chart their daily weight gain and other milestones. However, on the whelping day, I simply use a note pad with to jot down some important information. The things I put in my note pad chart are:
- Number of the Puppy: This is just to keep my count and to keep it organized. You don't have to use numbers if you don't want.
- Time of Delivery: Always keep a clock close at hand for you to check the time of delivery. Sometimes, you have to go with the closest time as you might be busy helping mom free the newborn puppy from his sack.
- Color of Puppy: I jot it down quickly. If you notice a coat pattern easily, or any markings, jot those down as well.
- Weight: Have a scale handy but you will want to mark the newborn puppy's weight as soon after delivery as possible. This will give you a guage to monitor his health. One of the first signs of problems is failure to gain weight or weight loss.
- Collar Color: For breeds that look very similar, such as mastiffs, I use collars to keep track of which puppy is which and I mark it on the sheet.
- Birth Presentation: While many puppies are born breech, I like to keep track of birth presentation with my litters. This is really just to see if that dam has more breech puppies than head first. I have not seen any complications with breech, either in the dam or the newborn puppies, but I like to document it anyway.
- Placenta Accounted For: I always mark if I've seen the placenta and counted it. Retained placentas can lead to a lot of complications and when you are delivering puppies, it is easy to forget if you counted all the placentas or not. Putting it in the chart helps you with keeping track.
- Complications: If there were any complications, such as you needing to manually remove the puppy from the birth canal or having to revive the puppy. Write it down. The majority of the time, there won't be any complications but always mark when there is for both yourself and your vet.
- Gender: And finally, of course you want to mark the gender of the puppy that was just born.
I always make columns on the notepad a few days before my dam's expected due date so I can easily jot these down without having to organize it with each puppy. If you do
n't want to make the chart yourself, you can purchase them.
Preparing for your newborn puppies does not usually involve a ton of work but it is very important that you take the time to do these steps. By being prepared, you will be ensuring the smoothest delivery, which will affect the overall health and happiness of your new litter and their dam. In the end, being prepared is the best way to ensure success. So good luck and you'll be enjoying your newborn puppies in no time.