Prenatal supervision begins with the prenatal veterinary visit, which is essential for the first time or at risk-mothers. The visits should take place in the eight week of gestation.
-One or more abdominal X-rays during this time will determine the number of fetuses more accurately than ultrasound. This examination also reveals possible abnormalities that could cause dytocia, such as the small size of the pelvis, foetal mummification (shown by cloudy images, bone dislocations) or disproportion between the foetus and the mother. However, note that the positions of the fetuses as revealed by the X-ray are not good predictors of dystocia, because the position may change (rotate 180°) at the last minute.
In the three days before whelping, the vulva
becomes swollen and relaxed due to oestrogen saturation, which sometimes
causes symptoms of a false heat.
Rectal temperature falls by 1° C in the 24 hours
before whelping. This indicator can be used if the temperature is taken
in the morning and evening in the four days before the predicted whelping
date. A fall of one degree relative to the four previous days indicates
that whelping is imminent.
This fall in
temperature occurs at the same time as the reduction in progesterone.
These two tests are evidence of the maturity of the fetuses and indicate
that their birth may take place naturally or by Caesarean section without
major risk to the new born puppies. We would point out that under certain
conditions we can consider the medical induction of whelping.
Finally, the appearance of the mucous from the cervix indicates that whelping is imminent, and precedes the first contractions by a matter of 24 to 36 hours.
Unless the prenatal visit revealed specific risks,
it is not unusually necessary to intervene during whelping.
The first signs of whelping appear on average 63
days following ovulation. Note that this not correspond to the date of
When pregnancy extends beyond the 65th
day, one should start to be concerned (check the assumed ovulation
dates). If it passes day 70, this is quite abnormal!
The first contractions are uterine contractions, which often cannot be detected except by the nervous behaviour of the bitch, which looks repeatedly at her sides and usually seeks a quite place to be alone and make a bed, if she does not already have a nest. Loss of appetite (anorexia) is normal at this time, and can even extend to vomiting. This preparatory phase last an average of 6 to 12 hours, but can last up to 36 hours in primiparas. If the owner is worried, he should check vaginal dilatation
Using one or two gloved fingers, at the same time
determining the presence and position in the birth canal.
The entrance of the first puppy into the birth
canal causes visible contractions of the abdominal muscles. (
Each puppy is generally within about fifteen
minutes (unless the contractions are intensive) by its afterbirth, which
is usually eaten by the mother. Puppies are born at intervals of a few
minutes to half-hour. A delay greater than two hours between puppies is a
sign of an abnormality such as primary uterine inertia (caused by
fatigue, hypoglycaemia or hypocalcaemia) or secondary uterine inertia due
to blockage (transverse presentation, presence of two foetuses in the
birth canal at the same time, blockage of the birth canal). In these
cases, medical and /surgical intervention is necessary.
Systematic use of oxytocin (a hormone that
stimulates uterine contractions and is naturally released by the
posterior hypophysis) is discouraged. Unthinking use of this hormone in
the absence of an exact diagnosis may
Primary uterine inertia (i.e., when
no anatomical obstacles are present) occurs frequently in certain bitches
prone to it, such as:
In these cases, perfusion of
calcium gluconate while monitoring the heart rate is usually sufficient
to restart uterine contractions. Massaging the nipples can cause reflex
secretion of endogenous oxytocin, which is preferable to giving it as a
This is why we strongly recommend, whenever possible, that the first
puppies whelped be left with the mother that will suckle and thereby
stimulate the production of oxytocin.
Obstetrical manipulations are very limited in dogs.
When medical treatments do not work, or there is obvious obstruction of
the natural passages, episiotomy (incision of the superior commissure of
the vulva) or Caesarean section is indicated.
These are employed when the term is passed or when
the litter consists of one or two puppies; the size of the foetuses would
then be excessive in comparison with the diameter of the pelvic passage.
The viability of the puppies about to be born
depends on their maturity (which can be verified by the progesterone
level), the duration if unproductive contraction
cause anoxia and pain in the puppy in the birth canal and also in the
waiting puppies), the promptness of the intervention and the type of
It is important to direct each newborn puppy to a
teat if the mother does not push it in that direction herself, so that it
can drink the colostrums (first milk), which contains protective
antibodies that confer passive immunity on the puppy (in contrast to the
active immunity gained through vaccination or infection).
When the number of puppies is less than the number
predicted from X-rays, a new abdominal X-ray should be taken in order to
find any missing puppies and avoid an unnecessary Caesarean if they are
found …in the mothers stomach. In fact, it is not uncommon for the mother
to eat stillborn puppies with the placenta.
Certain homeopathic herbal products aid the
emptying and involution of the uterus. Some simple rules of hygiene
prevent the uterus from becoming infected during the expulsion of the
lochia (greenish discharges during the three days following parturition).
Systematic use of antibiotics is absurd in economical, medical and
sanitary terms. Not only might the antibiotics pass into the milk and
poison the puppies (sometimes causing malformation of the dental enamel),
they also select for resistant organisms against which they are no longer