Bringing new life into the world is a remarkable experience, and for dog owners, understanding the process of whelping and birth is essential. Today, our Clarksville vets discuss what you should know about whelping and what to do if any complications arise.

How to Prepare for Whelping

It is important to begin preparing for your dog's whelping well in advance of her going into labor. Take into account the following factors:

Due Date

Knowing the approximate due date of your dog's litter is crucial for proper preparation. Counting 63 days backwards from the first day of mating can help you determine this. However, it's important to note that variations of a few days are normal. 

Veterinary Care

Veterinary care is essential during pregnancy. Regular check-ups with your veterinarian leading up to the due date can help ensure your dog is in good health and that any potential complications are identified early on. Additionally, discussing a birthing plan with your vet can help you feel more prepared and confident during the whelping process.

Feeding & Parasite Prevention

Feeding your pregnant dog a balanced and nutritious diet is vital for the health of both the mother and her puppies. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate type and amount of food to provide during each stage of pregnancy. Additionally, it is important to continue parasite prevention measures, such as regular deworming and flea/tick control, as these can affect the well-being of the litter. 

What Normal Whelping Looks Like

Your dog's labor will be divided into three natural stages.

Stage 1
  • Stage 1 of your dog's labor can last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours and is distinguished by behavioral changes such as shivering, panting, or other visible signs of anxiety. Your dog's labor will progress to stage 2 once the cervix has been dilated. If your dog is still not showing signs of stage 2 labor after 12 hours, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Stage 2 
  • The birth of your dog's puppies is the second stage of her labor. You will notice her contract and strain. Within the first 1-2 hours of this stage, a puppy should be born. If no puppies have arrived after 2 hours, contact your veterinarian immediately or go to the nearest 24-hour animal emergency clinic.
Stage 3 
  • The placenta is delivered during Stage 3 of your dog's labor, which should begin 5-15 minutes after the puppy arrives. At this point, discharge is normal and should be expected.
  • If all is going well your dog will now go back and forth between Stage 2 and Stage 3 as each of the puppies is born.

The amount of rest time between each birth varies from dog to dog but can last up to 4 hours.

Problems During Whelping

Dogs usually give birth without any assistance, but occasionally complications can occur. If you observe any of the following issues, it is recommended to reach out to your veterinarian for guidance:

General Illness

If your dog appears to be ill or is exhibiting symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy during the whelping process, it is important to consult with your veterinarian. They can provide guidance and determine if there are any underlying health issues that need to be addressed. It is always better to err on the side of caution and seek professional advice when it comes to the well-being of your dog and her puppies. 


If you notice excessive bleeding during the whelping process, it is crucial to contact your veterinarian immediately. While some bleeding is normal, excessive or prolonged bleeding could indicate complications, such as a retained placenta or uterine rupture. Your veterinarian will be able to assess the situation and provide appropriate treatment to ensure the health and safety of your dog and her puppies. 

Sac Problems

Sometimes, a puppy may not be able to break free from its amniotic sac on its own, which can lead to suffocation. Give your dog a chance to remove it herself, but if she hasn’t removed it fairly quickly after a puppy is born you may need to help her. You can do this by gently tearing open the sac to clear the airways.

Treatment for Complications During Whelping

Get in touch with your veterinarian right away if your dog is having difficulties giving birth, and try to provide as much information as you can about her and the pregnancy. Your dog may require the following:

Monitoring: Your veterinarian may choose to keep your dog in the hospital for observation. Your veterinarian will check her on a regular basis and treat her further if needed.

X-rays or a scan: These diagnostic tools can be used to examine and identify any issues with the unborn puppies.

Assisted delivery: Your veterinarian may be able to gently assist in the delivery of your dog's puppy if it is having difficulty passing it. However, your dog might require a c-section if the puppy is too large or malformed to fit through the pelvis. You run the risk of gravely hurting both your dog and the puppy if you pull a puppy without first consulting your veterinarian.

C-Section: A general anesthetic is used during a c-section procedure to open the womb and remove the puppies.

If you suspect any issues with your dog's pregnancy, it is crucial to consult with your veterinarian for proper guidance and assistance. Contact our Clarksville vets for expert advice and support tailored to your dog's specific needs.