A canine pregnancy lasts just 63 days, so there’s a great deal to expect within a short period of time. Behavior changes in the future mother usually begin as soon as she feels her pregnancy, but the biggest changes are evident after 45 days. The mammary glands will continue enlarging towards full capacity at about five days before she gives birth, with the presence of milk starting around two weeks before delivery. Puppy food is recommended for pregnant females, as well as vitamins and minerals, to make her strong and healthy.

It’s fine to let the pregnant female choose her own private nesting place as long as it’s safe. But if it seems too dark or otherwise poses a risk for the future mom and her puppies, a safer location should be found before delivery.

In our practice, we find that bitches often do not eat the day they give birth. Delivery of puppies commonly occurs at night or early in the morning, and is a natural process. If the bitch has received good care, there is no reason to be worried. If she has not been well dewormed and vaccinated, or if she has a disease or was impregnated by an unknown male, complications might occur. Also remember that unintended pregnancies can involve multiple males, resulting in different sized puppies.

Normally, in the bitch’s preferred delivery spot and depending on her temperament, she will be accepting of family members or another familiar person being there to assist if needed. Having someone to supervise is always essential. It’s important to make sure that each puppy is delivered with, or followed by, its own placenta. For example, when there are five puppies, five placentas must be accounted for. The intervals between successive puppy deliveries may be irregular, but should never exceed two hours.

A mother giving birth may pant and have visible body contractions. If contractions are evident but no puppy emerges, a veterinarian should be consulted about a possible obstruction.

After delivery, the bitch will carefully cut each puppy’s umbilical cord. It is not a clean cut, but rather maceration of the cord in order to prevent bleeding. If necessary, an assistant can cut the cord and tie a knot with dental floss to prevent bleeding, then apply iodine to the newborn’s umbilicus.

The bitch’s panting following delivery should diminish gradually. Other than remaining tired, her condition should return to normal. If panting persists, contact a veterinarian to determine if an unborn puppy is stuck or dead inside her body.

As dog breeders commonly do, I offer the new mother some camomile tea with honey for energy, and place food and water next to the place where she’s just give birth. She might not eat for the rest of the day, but has received nourishment from consuming the placentas and their liquids. This will cause dark feces the next day.

The mother dog’s uterus will need a whole month to become macroscopically small again. Her urine may contain some blood during this time. Any sign of a foul odor or pus requires urgent attention from a veterinarian to determine whether a uterus infection is present and requires surgery.

The eyes and ears of newborn puppies stay closed for 10 to 14 days after birth. By the third week, the pups will become interested in food and water.