It's no secret that the world is becoming more impatient. We crave instant gratification, and one company that quickly recognised and addressed this demand was Amazon. When I first learned about Amazon Prime, I didn't understand why someone would sign up for a subscription service just to gain additional benefits. As an avid eBay user with a feedback score of 1591 and a red star next to my profile picture, I was pretty proud.

Although I had been an Amazon user since 2006, I had never ordered more than 10 items in a year, until 2018, when the number jumped to 44. It then peaked during the pandemic to a whopping 389 items! The reason for this surge was apparent — aside from the obvious challenge of shopping in brick-and-mortar store, Amazon Prime’s “One-day” delivery and free returns were game-changing for modern-day, online consumers. Instant, obligation-free impulse. However, this constant convenience challenges many dog owners when it comes to their pregnant pets, and it can feel like F-O-R-E-V-E-R waiting for her pregnancy confirmation scan.

A dog's pregnancy lasts just nine weeks. A rather short timeframe, considering that you don’t confirm pregnancy until you ultrasound scan at nearly halfway through. This means the reality and acceptance of having a litter on the way, has to shift gears rapidly.

However, the delivery process of puppies is typically not as fast, leading to the common question, "How will I know when my dog has finished delivering all her puppies?".

While some may have had their dog ultrasound scanned (or x-rayed if in America) to gain an idea of puppy numbers, these methods should only serve as indicators. It's nearly impossible to be 100% correct, all the time. It's a miracle that we can even detect unborn, semi-developed foetuses inside a tightly packed uterus in the first place - so not to be discredited. But many variables can impact an ultrasound scan's accuracy, including; the technician's skill set, equipment quality, large litter sizes, puppy size and puppy position, scanning outside the optimal window of 28 -35 days post-ovulation (if identified) and how obliging your girl was to stand still during the appointment.

An ultrasound scan is just a snapshot of that exact moment time. It’s possible for embryos to be absorbed by the mother's body later in gestation, resulting an in overestimated scan count. This may be due to foetal abnormalities or development issues, Dam’s hormonal imbalances or disruptions, maternal stress, nutritional deficiencies, infections or environmental factors. Reabsorption is a natural process that maximises the chances of a successful pregnancy for the remaining foetuses. It can be the cause of a reduced litter size and very occasionally, complete litter loss.

While canine pregnancy scans are a valuable tool for assessing pregnancy, for the reasons mentioned, they may not always match the number of puppies born, so additional factors should be considered when preparing for whelping.

I always say that dog breeding is like building a jigsaw puzzle; the more pieces you have, the easier it is to understand. Therefore, I always recommend if a female ‘could be’ pregnant, you should seek pregnancy confirmation and, where possible, an ultrasound to gain an idea of the expected number of puppies.

Welcoming a litter of adorable puppies into the world is an exciting time for any dog owner. Monitoring the whelping process closely, to ensure the mother dog delivers all her puppies safely, is essential. Knowing when the whelping process is complete is crucial for the health and well-being of the mother and her newborn pups.

Here are a few indications a dog has finished whelping all her puppies (I must admit some are incredibly minor, so you really need to know your female and be able to read her body language to understand the subtle cues).

Visible Contractions Stop

During the whelping process, the Dam will experience uterine contractions as she delivers each puppy. Contractions can be easily seen as the sides of her tummy/flanks rippling, or she may express a high-alert, listening appearance when she is bearing down and pushing. Once all the puppies have been born, these contractions will gradually diminish and noticeably stop altogether when whelping is finished.

Every labour is different, but it's widely accepted that your female should typically deliver one puppy per hour when in active labour. So, knowing how many puppies you are expecting gives you a guide as to how long her labour may be. However there are different stages of labour, and contractions can begin before pushing. When your girl begins pushing, you should expect a puppy to be present within 30 minutes. If not, it may suggest a puppy is poorly positioned or stuck.

Inertia Types and the Importance of Calcium Supplementation

You need to be aware that contractions can slow or stop prematurely due to inertia. Primary inertia in dogs refers to the initial stage of labour, where the mother dog fails to experiences effective uterine contractions (typical with solo puppy litters). Secondary inertia occurs when labour stalls or stops after active contractions have begun, possibly due to exhaustion or more complex issues such as a stuck or wrong-positioned puppy.

To help avoid secondary inertia, you should give calcium supplements once active labour and pushing has begun. Calcium is essential and a required element to for smooth muscle contractions, including during labour and delivery. If you need Calcium urgently, we recommend Canine Nutrition Coach Natural Calcium.

What Is a Whelping Pause?

A 'whelping pause' refers to a temporary break or interruption in the labour process during the birthing of puppies. This pause can happen between the delivery of individual puppies, or after several puppies have been born in quick succession (once an entire uterine horn has been emptied).

A dog's uterus is uniquely shaped like a wishbone, characterised by a central portion with two distinct ‘uterine horns’ extending either side, outward. This anatomical structure allows the dog to carry some puppies in each uterine horn during pregnancy. Each horn is a separate compartment, providing space and support for the developing foetuses. This facilitates the growth and development of multiple puppies, ensuring optimal conditions for their gestation within the mother's womb. It is common for one uterine horn to be born first, followed by a swap to the other.

The mother dog may appear calm and relaxed during a whelping pause, with no visible signs of labour or contractions. Whelping pauses are a natural part of the birthing process and can vary in duration. They may last for a few minutes to several hours, depending on various factors such as the size of the litter, the mother dog's health, and her level of fatigue. Whelping pauses allow the mother dog to rest and regain strength before continuing the labour process (Mother Nature cannot be rushed!). Dog owners must monitor the situation and give her supplements such as Calcium, along with Oralaid or Puppy Stim to provide essential electrolytes and energy. There is no set timeframe, but most vets would recommend contacting them if it exceeds 4 hours. They will want to check the puppies’ position and signs of foetal distress, to consider oxytocin (or natural alternatives such as Caulophyllum 30c) or if emergency c-section is required.

It's also worth noting that the puppies higher up in the uterus, have the furthest travel - when the Dam could have already laboured for many hours. I've known a puppy being born alive after a 12 hour whelping pause, after the previous puppy. All the time the foetal sac is entire (not torn), and the puppy is not distressed, whelping pauses are safe.

Sense of Contentment

There will be many subtle signs of finished labour, and a sense of contentment can typically be observed.

A dog in labour will often exhibit signs of restlessness, pacing, and frequent repositioning as she prepares to deliver her puppies. Once all the puppies have been born, she will begin to settle down and exhibit calmness. She may start grooming herself or her newborn pups and generally appear more relaxed. The puppies will be nursing peacefully, indicating that all is well and that the birthing process has ended.

You will often find mum may want to eat to restore her energy reserves, drink to meet the needs of increased milk production, and toilet.

Expulsion of Afterbirth

After each puppy is born, she will also expel the placenta (or afterbirth), which is the organ that nourishes the developing puppies during gestation. Typically, the afterbirth is expelled within a few minutes, to an hour, after each puppy is born. Once the Dam has delivered all her puppies, it is unlikely that more afterbirths will be expelled.

Placentas can be retained, and I wouldn't be overly concerned with this. They are typically expelled over the coming days once the puppies start to suckle, triggering oxytocin causing the natural contraction of the uterus.

Palpation, the technique of gently feeling the abdomen, can help determine if all puppies have been born during the whelping process. By feeling the dog's abdomen, especially after each puppy's delivery, it is possible for an experienced hand to identify any remaining puppies - felt as distinct lumps or bulges. This can be made more challenging depending on the breed and build of the dog, and this method still does not indicate if any puppies are already in the pelvis.

It's recommended to stay with the Dam for at least 4 hours after the final puppy to ensure there are no further signs of active labour or contractions, signalling another puppy delivery

Palpation

Palpation, the technique of gently feeling the abdomen, can help determine if all puppies have been born during the whelping process. By feeling the dog's abdomen, especially after each puppy's delivery, it is possible for an experienced hand to identify any remaining puppies - felt as distinct lumps or bulges. This can be made more challenging depending on the breed and build of the dog, and this method still does not indicate if any puppies are already in the pelvis.

It's recommended to stay with the Dam for at least 4 hours after the final puppy to ensure there are no further signs of active labour or contractions, signalling another puppy delivery

So, in summary, monitoring your girl for all of the above signs will help determine when she has finished whelping all her puppies. There is no easy way of knowing unless you decide to x-ray or ultrasound post-whelp, which many would consider excessive and unnecessary.

Being an attentive, patient, and supportive dog owner, you can ensure the health and well-being of the Dam and her precious newborn pups – by taking careful observations throughout the whelp. If you have any concerns regarding your female, her whelping and the expectant puppies you should always seek veterinary advice. By actively monitoring the above points, you are then able to have an informative conversation with your vet for the best outcome.