Birthing Emergencies

It is best for pets to be spayed or neutered; it makes them healthier and happier.  You may, however, take in a stray or otherwise acquire an animal who is pregnant.  If you suspect pregnancy, take the dog or cat to your veterinarian for advice and treatment.  Once you know the animal is pregnant, prepare in advance by providing a whelping box, bedding and heat source.  If you are faced with an unexpected birth, use the following information as a guide. 

In both dogs and cats, normal pregnancies last 62-64 days.  About a day before giving birth the body temperature decreases to less than 100 Fahrenheit, decreased appetite is noticed, and nesting behavior (gathering materials for a bed) may get very intense.

Labor and Delivery

Stage one - the cervix dilates.  The animal generally appears nervous or anxious and may pace, pant, lie down and get up a lot; this may last for 6 to 12 hours.  Contractions will not be visible. 

Stage two - forceful visible uterine contractions occur.  She actively strains to expel each puppy or kitten.  These contractions look as if she is trying to defecate while lying on her side and she often is panting. 

Normal position of puppies and kittens

Slightly more than half of puppies and kittens are born head first and the rest are born rear-end first.  Both positions are normal. 

After birth

(Next section - Birthing Problems)