Whelping and Queening a Litter

Having a pet give birth can be an overwhelming process for pet owners, especially if complications arise. The process of giving birth for canines (whelping) and felines (queening) is instinctual, so making sure that you are prepared and well educated about the process is essential.  If you have done your homework and know that your pet is healthy, know their due date, and know how many fetuses are present you should be ready to watch something amazing happen.

Reasons for assistance with whelping or queening a litter include:

  • Certain breeds (e.g. Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, and Persian Cats) tend to have difficulties delivering their offspring, and a Cesarean section might be necessary. Having a veterinarian on stand by and makes the transition from a live birth to surgical extraction of the newborns easier and less risky.
  • If you have a small dog that was bred by a larger male, the risk of oversized fetuses is greater.  Generally, the fetuses mirror the size of the mother, but if there are only a few offspring in the litter, there is the potential for overly large fetuses.  Having your pet examined to determine the size of the fetuses before labor starts is best, but if this is not possible, make sure you have a veterinary team ready when your pet goes into labor.
  • Older animals, or animals with pre-existing health conditions may need more supportive care during delivery.  Hopefully, a veterinary consultation before labor occurs has better prepared you and your pet for delivery.

Why would I need a veterinarian for the delivery process?

Prior to birthing, care for a pregnant pet involves a special diet, exercise, booster vaccinations, and parasite control. During the birthing and nursing processes, complications can arise especially for a new breeder or a pet owner facing an accidental breeding who might not be versed on the process of delivery. The following are the normal stages of labor and delivery:

1st stages of labor:  Mother becomes restless, paces, nests.  Temperature drops to around 98.5 degrees.  No evidence of contractions or pushing at this time.  Can go on for hours so the best thing to do at this point is put the mother in a quiet place with a birthing box and leave her alone.

2nd stages of labor:  Mother begins pushing and having active contractions.  If she pushes for more than 60 minutes and does not deliver a fetus, it is time to call for help.  After she has a fetus, the time for her to have another is extremely variable.  As long as she is not pushing, let her rest.  Once contractions and pushing begin again, she should not be allowed to strain for more than 30 minutes for all subsequent puppies or kittens.

3rd stages of labor:  Placenta is passed following delivery of the fetus.  Do not attempt to pull on the placenta.

Some of the most common mistakes pet owners make while their pet is in labor include:

  • Hovering:  Your pet's instinct is to find a quiet isolated place to deliver their litter.  You must leave them alone and only have one family member check on them very quietly every 30 minutes to observe for distress.
  • Trying to get them to eat and drink during labor.  They will not be interested, and if a C-section ends up being necessary, they will be at greater risk for aspiration when they are anesthetized.
  • Trying to speed up delivery by walking their pet.  It is best to let nature take its course.  As long as the mother is comfortable and is caring for the newborns that have been delivered, leave her alone.

If you believe your pregnant pet is experiencing complications, please contact our office immediately.  Most complications can be easily overcome with early intervention.

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