Whelping puppies or kittens can be very stressful for both human parents and the dam or queen. But, we are here for you! It is always better to be prepared before the babies start arriving. Signs of labor usually start about 6-24 hours prior to the actual delivery. Things that you may see at home are decreased appetite, pacing, nesting or digging around like she is trying to “arrange” things, vaginal discharge, and/or milk production. Usually the mother’s temperature will drop and stay between 97-98ºF (normal is 101.0-102.5ºF). Getting in a routine of checking her rectal temperature (in dogs) twice a day starting 2-3 days before predicted due date may help you in estimating her parturition.
Signs that there may be a problem and you should call or go to the vet or emergency clinic if after hours include panting or pacing for longer than 12 hours without the production of a puppy, water breaking and no puppy within 2 hours, pushing and contractions for more than 30 minutes with no puppy production, longer than 60-90 minutes between birth of puppies, a rectal temperature of 97-98ºF for longer than 24 hours with no puppy produced, or if dam altogether quits laboring or contracting (and you know there are more puppies to come). The veterinarian will evaluate the dam and decide whether to monitor her or proceed to a Cesarean.
Many owners of Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and other bully breeds prefer to have Cesareans. Our doctors have a lot of knowledge in these breeds and daily, sometimes twice daily ultrasounds are recommended. We will not take puppies early; hours matter in their development and premature puppies rarely survive. We will wait for the dam to give us solid signs that she is in the early stages of labor before puppies are taken and sometimes this may even mean waiting until she is having contractions. This is an instance where having vaginal smears can also help in determining when to go to surgery. Things that we look for on these daily ultrasounds leading up to delivery include decreased heart rates of the puppies indicating stress from uterine contractions, puppies that aren’t moving as much also due to the uterine contractions, and development of key organs including kidneys and small intestines that develop and become functioning in the last days. Combined with the clues that you observe at home and what we see on the ultrasound, cesareans will be done accordingly. Unfortunately, this may require a trip to the Tyler Animal Emergency Clinic if it is not during regular business hours.