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How to Know if There's Still a Puppy Inside Mother Dog?

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To better understand whether there's still a puppy inside mother dog, it helps learning more about how the dog's birthing process works and earning to recognize any normal or abnormal signs that suggest mother dog is done giving birth. What are there signs that may suggest she hasn't yet finished giving birth? What are some signs of trouble that require veterinary attention? Veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec explains the birthing process in dogs and signs a puppy is still inside mother dog. 

How Many Litters Can a Dog Have?

How to Know if There's Still a Puppy Inside Mother Dog?

The Normal Birthing Process in Dogs 

In dogs with average anatomy, birth is usually an uncomplicated process. Selective breeding, however, has led to physical and mental problems. For example, selective breeding has accelerated puberty in dogs. As a result, a female may be physically, but not emotionally prepared for pregnancy.

The normal birthing process in dogs occurs in several stages. Following are the several distinctive stages of the whelping process in dogs.

Preparing for labor – like her wolf ancestors, the female finds a secluded den in which to deliver and raise her pups in maximum security.

Some females, especially terriers and other earth dogs, co-opt another animal’s den. Up to 36 hours before labor, she paces around, grows anxious, and builds a nest. She also stops eating and may shiver or vomit.

Labor and delivery – signs of labor include contractions and straining. The dog may turn around in circles or may lie down for the delivery. A sac of fluid containing a pup bulges through the vulva and then breaks. Within two hours, the first pup is born. About 60 percent of pups are born head first while the rest are born feet first.

After delivering a pup – the mother licks the membrane off the pup and severs the umbilical cord with her teeth. She also passes the placenta together with a dark green fluid. The mother instinctively eats the placenta from each pup to hide any evidence of her vulnerable newborns. Watch to ensure that she delivers one placenta for each pup.

Licking a pup – the mother licks each newborn pup vigorously. This action warms and dries the pup, clears mucus away from its mouth and nose, and stimulates it to start breathing. In addition, licking produces chemical changes in the mother’s brain which help her form an emotional bond with the pup.

Keeping the litter together – the first pup is born about an hour after labor starts. The rest are born at intervals of 10 to 80 minutes. Between births, the mother rests with her pups around her. If a pup moves too far away from her warmth, it may cry, prompting the mother to pick it up and bring it back. If a pup does not cry out, however, the mother may abandon it.

Pups suckling – once all of the pups have been born, the mother will allow the litter to suckle for the first time. Once each pup has fed, the mother licks its anus and genitals, which stimulates it to pass urine and feces. For the first few weeks she will consume all the pups’ body waste. This instinctive act helps hiding the babies from danger.

How to Know Whether the Mother Dog is Done Giving Birth?

A dog's delivery time varies greatly based on several factors such as: breed, the experience of the mother and the size of the litter.

Generally speaking, dog breeds with slender heads (such as collies) have easier and therefore faster deliveries compared to wider-headed dogs (such as bulldogs).

Knowing how many puppies your female carries is important. That way you will know exactly when she is done giving birth. However, if you have not performed an x-ray and you do not know the exact number of pups, the behavior of the mother can indicate the finish of the birthing process.

Simply put, once the last puppy is delivered, the mother becomes relaxed. She stops straining and starts taking care of her newborn pups.

How to Know if There's Still a Puppy Inside Mother Dog?

In ideal cases, your pregnant female dog should be regularly checked by a vet. The vet will monitor your dog and when the time is right, usually around day 50 of pregnancy, he will perform an x-ray to determine the number of pups inside the womb. This is particularly important. If you do not know how much puppies your dog carries, you will not know when the birthing process is over.

Alternatively, if an x-ray was not performed, the least you can do is check the average number of puppies for your dog’s breed. This is not always accurate but it will give you an idea of what to expect.

In general, there are two signs that the mother still has puppies inside. Those are: 1) Restless behavior – you dog will be be whimpering, panting, pacing and undergo frequent position changes and 2) Presence of contractions – you should notice a visible wave-like movement near the rear legs followed by straining and body shaking. You can expect a new puppy around 10 to 30 minutes after the presence of contractions.

Signs of Trouble That Require Veterinary Attention

Veterinary attention is required in the following situations:

  • If your female dog has been mismated to an overly large male
  • If your female dog failed to go into labor after 64 days of pregnancy
  • If the first stage of labor (restlessness, loss of appetite, nest-building) lasts for more than 36 hours
  • If your female dog has been in labor for more than one hour with no pup appearing
  • If the mother stopped contracting for more than 10 minutes, with a half-born pup visible
  • If a half-born pup is not delivered after 20 minutes of contractions
  • If the mother failed to remove the membranes around the pup
  • If a pup failed to start breathing
  • If the mother failed to sever the umbilical cord
  • If the number of placentas is smaller than the number of pups delivered
  • If the mother has foul-smelling, bloody or black discharge
  • If the mother is rejecting any pups more than 3 hours after the last delivery.

Some Final Tips 

Before the delivery date, and especially if you anticipate any problems, assemble a kit for the birth, and keep it near the whelping box. The kit should include disinfectant, towels, scissors (and matches for sterilizing them) and gauze. In addition, keep your vet's contact info handy and remember to warn your vet beforehand so that help is available when needed.

About the Author

Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.

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