Oh my! It is midnight and my baby is trying to have puppies! She is having trouble and the emergency hospital says it is dystocia. Manchaca Road Animal Hospital is closed and my veterinarian is fast asleep. I don’t know what to do. What should I do? Who do I turn to? WAIT! What is dystocia anyway?
Although this is not a true story, there are many like it. It is a very real and sickening feeling to be the caller on the end of that phone. Dystocia, difficulty giving birth, is more common in some breeds, including Pugs, Bulldogs, Chihuahuas and Boston Bull Terriers. Dystocia may also be due to a large number of puppies, large size of the puppies, the size of the puppies’ head, a very nervous or exhausted mommy, or sometimes it is just bad luck. Most of these patients will need to have a caesarian section to deliver these puppies safely. This is how it usually goes:
1) The female goes into a heat cycle which lasts about 3 weeks. The first week is proestrus. This is the first active stage of the estrus cycle. Mother Nature enlarges the female’s vulva and she has a bloody discharge for 5 – 9 days. Our canine flirt is attracting male suitors, but she does not want to mate yet. The period where she will accept the male will last 6 – 12 days. Her vulva becomes softer and the discharge becomes brown or clear. Your veterinarian can do vaginal and microscopic exams to determine where she is in her heat cycle and predict gestation dates. Most pregnancies last 59 – 70 days.
2) Most females will exhibit nesting behaviors 24 – 48 hours before having puppies. The body temperature will lower to about 98 degrees F 12 – 30 hours prior to birthing. Normal body temperature is 100 to 102.5 degrees F. This first stage of labor may last 6 – 36 hours
3) The second stage is true labor. Your dog will have strong contractions that last 3 minutes or less. These will come more frequently until she gives birth. Within 30 – 60 minutes she should have a puppy or she may become exhausted.
4) Most puppies will come within 6 – 12 hours, with less than 30 minutes between puppies.
5) The female may whine and lick the vulva area excessively during whelping. Afterwards most mom’s will eat the afterbirth and lick each of the puppies clean.
6) If the puppy is not moving or crying, he may be too weak or not breathing. If the mamma hasn’t removed the placenta, it should be removed. Point the puppy’s head down to help keep fluid out their lungs. Fluids can be removed by placing bulb syringe in airway and sucking the mucus out of the airway. Rubbing the puppy’s chest with a clean cloth can also stimulate his breathing. Once the pup starts crying you can let mom take over loving and feeding her puppies.
7) Signs which indicate veterinary assistance is needed in your whelping female include: a. Gestation length greater than 68 days b. More than 30 days have passed since a definite temperature drop without progression into labor c. Mild or intermittent labor contractions occurring for more than 3 hours without hard labor d. Hard labor occurring greater than 2 hours without the birth of the first puppy e. Hard labor contractions occurring greater than 1 hour without the birth of subsequent puppies f. A volume of clear fluid is passed without a puppy being delivered within 2 hours g. A puppy or its sac has been protruding for greater than 15 minutes h. There has been a period of rest lasting greater than 4 – 5 hours between puppies when unwhelped puppies are known to be remaining. i. The uterine fluid discharge is greenish-black with a foul odor j. Uterine blood loss appears extreme
Contact Manchaca Road Animal Hospital and make an appointment to have regular checkups for your mom-to-be and newborn puppy health visits.