Guidance for care of the Whelping Bitch
Care of the Whelping Bitch
The Stages of Whelping
FEEDING— It is important that a pregnant bitch maintains her condition well throughout the
entire gestation period. A high quality complete puppy food can provide the added nutrients
and highly digestible formula needed for the increased demands on the bitch. After about 3-
4 weeks of gestation, this puppy food can be introduced gradually (over a period of 5 days)
into the diet and the amount of total food consumption increased until by week 9 (around
whelping) she is eating around a third more than normal. Feeding several meals throughout
the day will help spread out food consumption and the amount given will depend on the
manufacturers guidelines for that particular food.
WORMING— Ideally, a bitch will be wormed daily from day 40 of pregnancy up to the 2nd day
following whelping. The round worm toxocara canis will infect all pregnant bitches and their
offspring so worming is vital for the puppies. The best wormer for pregnant bitches is fenbendazole (Panacur).
Several days prior to whelping, a bitch may act restless and behave abnormally including
nesting, or being more attentive and she may refuse food.
STAGE ONE— Uterine contractions begin in this first stage. She may pant, shiver, even vomit
and this stage can last between 6 and 12 hours.
STAGE TWO-Abdominal straining begins. Foetal fluids are then passed and a puppy is expelled. The time between each pup can be between 5 and 120 minutes . ANY straining of the
bitch with no pup being produced in 2 hours requires veterinary attention. If foetal membranes have been passed and no pup has been expelled in 2-3 hours then you must contact
If your bitch appears to be in significant pain or a puppy appears to be stuck in the birth canal
please contact us.
STAGE THREE—Expulsion of placenta (usually follows each pup but not always).
The puppies will be covered in a thin membrane which is normally licked and chewed away by
the mother. If this doesn’t happen then gently clean away the membrane and dry the pups.
If in any doubt please contact your vet.
Signs such as restlessness or nervousness in a bitch after whelping should be investigated as
she may have low blood calcium levels.
Infection of the uterus / womb (metritis) or mammary tissue (mastitis) can happen and require treatment.
Puppies and bitch should be wormed at 2, 5 and 8 weeks following whelping.
As soon as the bitch has had her puppies it is important to increase her food gradually over 4
weeks due to the huge increased demands on her body . By week 3 she should be eating
300% of her normal portion size.
Once the puppies start eating solid food at around 4 weeks, and gradually wean, the bitch’s
intake can be gradually reduced back towards normal.