Stage 2 of Labor and Delivery in Dogs

October 01

This stage is what is called “hard labor.” We don’t always see the breaking of the water that ushers in this stage, but it certainly precedes the onset of harder contractions that are spaced more closely together. A mama dog will pant and often hold her breath as visible contractions tense up and tighten her entire lower body. She is usually very restless in this stage, standing, pacing, sitting, squatting, lying down, and then repeating all of the above. She will lick her vaginal area repeatedly before contractions in a preparatory cleanse for the birth. This stage should last anywhere from 10-30 minutes before puppies are born. Most of our dogs utter no sound whatsoever during labor and delivery. However, there is the rare female who will yelp or scream during hard contractions.

The floor of our whelping kennel is concrete and fitted with drains in each whelping box area. It’s not pretty, but it’s functional, allowing for continuous cleaning with a hose that reaches to each whelping area from a faucet on the wall. The birthing process is not at all glamorous; it can be quite messy, in fact. There’s often a lot of blood. Sometimes there’s poop involved when a mama dog has an accident while pushing through a contraction. If there is a significant mess, we place all newborn puppies in a towel-lined box or bucket and clean them. We move the mama dog aside, wash down her whelping area, dry the floor as much as possible (using a squeegee), and place the newborn puppies back in the whelping box area with their mother.

It’s not really as bad as it sounds, though. Most mama dogs are surprisingly neat and tidy. Defecation accidents seldom occur and most dams are quite adept at breaking and removing amniotic sacs when necessary. They eat up all amniotic sacs, fluid, and placental afterbirth and they lick up their puppies’ poop. It may sound disgusting, but God’s design keeps everything very clean.

Some people recommend using torn newspaper for whelping material. However, it is or opinion that placing any type of bedding in the whelping area is a mistake. Most mama dogs in heavy labor wreak havoc on towels, blankets and sheets, using their teeth and claws to rip, tear and shred them to pieces. Once again, the unsightly concrete flooring is a practical choice for keeping the area as clean as possible. Heat lamps keep the floor warm in cooler weather and it remains cool in summer. Even newborn puppies are not placed on any type of bedding during their mother’s labor process, since it distracts the mom. Furthermore, her clawing and shredding could cause injury to the pups.

In my next blog, I’ll explain more about the birth and care of newborn puppies.

I hope you have found this article interesting. If you are planning to oversee the whelping of your own dog’s litter, perhaps you will find this information helpful, as well.

Thank you for reading!

Note: Most of this information is based on our own personal experience, but a few details were gleaned from the book, The Monks of New Skete: The Art of Raising a Puppy, published by Little, Brown, 1991.

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