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About 24 hours before whelping, the bitch's temperature will drop a degree or two. If you want to use this as a sign of approaching parturition, start taking her temperature twice a day during the last week. The bitch's appetite will fall off and she will probably refuse food anywhere from 24 to 12 hours before whelping. Don't try to make her eat; she knows what she's about and what's good for her. You can expect her to be very uneasy, fidgety; possibly shivering and trembling. A discharge from the vulva will herald the event.

When all is normal, you can expect the first pup within 2 hours after the above-mentioned symptoms. Now, as to the important question: what should you do while the bitch is whelping? Our advice is for you to do nothing—unless the bitch is in difficulty or fails to perform certain functions, which we'll mention. Too much attention and fussing will lead to confusion, possibly injury to the pups. Some nervous bitches have been known to kill or hide their pups because of too much human intervention. But while too much attention is not advised, you should not ignore or forget the bitch. Stay with her during the whelping and be ready to lend a hand if she needs it. Your presence will help reassure the bitch who may be whelping for the first time.

The bitch's restlessness will build up as the moment nears and her anxiety increases. Then the first labor contractions start. These will be involuntary and very noticeable. During the contractions, the bitch will pant, move around in the whelping box or even leave the box to go get a drink of water. As the contractions become more frequent, the bitch will pant harder between contractions. Let her alone; this is normal.

The first pup should be born within 2 hours after the contractions speed up. If the first pup doesn't emerge within 2 hours, give the bitch another hour of labor, and then if no pup appears, call the veterinarian.

In a normal delivery, a pup emerges headfirst. When a pup comes out feetfirst, it is a breech delivery. (Breech de-

liveries are not at all uncommon.) Each pup is born encased in a transparent sac or membrane. This sac or membrane will be the first thing you see as the pup is expelled. It will be bulgy and transparent and you will see the pup inside. The sac will be attached by a cord to the placenta, which should come out after the pup. The placenta or afterbirth is the means by which the fetus is nourished within the uterus.

If the sac breaks on the way out, quickly bring the pup to the bitch's attention, if she hasn't already gone to work on it. Ordinarily, the bitch will break the sac with her teeth and gnaw off the navel cord to within one inch of the pup's navel. If the bitch doesn't break the sac or chew off the navel cord, you will have to take care of these. Pick up the sac with the pup inside (use a clean cloth) and break the sac near the pup's head. Do it by gently stretching the membrane or hooking a finger into it and carefully pulling it apart.

Next, put the pup down where the bitch can lick and clean it. It is imperative that the pup be cleaned. When the sac is broken, the pup should gasp for air. Breathing may be impeded because of mucous in the pup's nose, throat or lungs. This mucous must be removed. If the bitch will not dean the pup or it doesn't gasp for air, you will have to take over.

Quickly wipe any excess mucous from the pup's mouth. Open the pup's mouth, take a medicine dropper and suck out any mucous. Rub the pup vigorously with a clean, dry cloth, both with and against the lie of the hair. The rubbing will help to stimulate circulation.

If, after these administrations, the pup still doesn't gasp for air, you'll have to use more drastic measures. Wrap the pup in a clean cloth, hold it cupped in your two hands, with the head toward your fingers, and swing the pup downward in an arc in front of you. Stop the swing suddenly, but hold on to the pup. The centrifugal force plus the sudden stop usually clears out the mucous.

Another emergency measure to get the pup breathing is to use a rubber tube and syringe to withdraw the mucous. Insert the tube well into the pup's mouth and squeeze the syringe to aspirate the mucous. Keep working on the pup and don't let it get chilled. A hot water bottle wrapped in a cloth will provide heat.

Artificial respiration is not always practical. But you can insert the rubber tube in the pup's mouth (take off the syringe) and try forcing your own breath down. When you try this, proceed as follows: breathe air into the tube, stop, then press gently on the pup's ribs in the region of the lungs. Be careful, you can easily break the pup's rib case. Keep working to make the pup breathe; don't give up too quickly.

The placenta

New dog owners watching their bitch whelp for the first time are often alarmed or disgusted when the bitch eats the placenta or afterbirth. Eating the placenta is neither harmful nor abnormal. Various theories have been advanced as to why the bitch (or any animal) eats the placenta. Among them are that the bitch eats the placenta to clean up any evidence of whelping (this is important in the wild stage where predatory animals may scent the birth and attack the bitch and pups); and that the bitch eats the placenta to provide temporary nourishment, since she cannot leave the pups to forage for food. Regardless of the motive, your bitch may eat the placenta.

You should keep track of the placenta and the number of placenta should correspond with the number of pups born. Sometimes a placenta is retained. This happens when the cord between the placenta and fetal sac breaks, leaving the placenta inside the bitch. If the bitch doesn't expel the placenta, you can gently pull it out. Take a clean cloth and carefully withdraw the placenta (the broken cord may be hanging out of the vulva and you can take hold of this). A retained placenta will interfere with the birth of the next pup and if left inside will decompose.

As labor continues

Subsequent pups may come rapidly or there may be 2 hours between each pup. Remain with the bitch. If she labors for more than 3 hours between pups, she may be in trouble. If she doesn't deliver the next pup after 3 hours (or if there are more than 3 hours between each pup) call the veterinarian. He'll want some information; to wit, when the first pup was born, how was it born (normal or breech delivery), how long the bitch labored with the first pup, how long the bitch has been laboring with the difficult pup, etc.

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