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.
Stage two labor usually lasts 3-6 hours. May last 10-12 hours if she is disturbed.
One puppy or kitten should be born every 4-6 hours if the contractions are weak and every half hour if contractions are strong and forceful.
The first kitten or puppy should be born within one hour of the start of stage-two labor.
The placenta should come out with each puppy or kitten, or shortly afterward. (This is referred to as the third stage of labor.)
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.
Mother should clean off each puppy and kitten after being born.
The mother should break the cord with her teeth.
Usually, she will eat the placenta.
The mother will
have a vaginal discharge that is red to brown or dark greenish in color (lochia),
which may persist for up to four weeks, but should be small in amount after
the first few days. If this discharge appears bright red, or begins to
look like pus or have a foul odor, an infection may be present and she needs
to be examined by a veterinarian.
(Next section - Birthing Problems)