The big day is fast approaching. You should have all of the supplies ready and waiting at least a week before the expected due date.
The whelping box is the single biggest item needed. It should provide enough room for the bitch to lay and stretch out comfortably without being so big that the puppies get 'lost.' For large breed dogs, it is also nice if a person can sit in the box with mom during labor and delivery and to play with the puppies later. The floor must be level and stable. The sides should be high enough to keep 4-week-old puppies in, but be hinged or have a door so the bitch can come and go. The sides may set inside the edges of the floor. This allows a blanket to be stretched tight over the floor and held in place by the sides. A safety rail is necessary around the entire perimeter. This allows the puppies to fit underneath in case the bitch lays down and they are in the way. It should be high and wide enough for a month-old puppy to fit under. The whelping box should be set up in a warm, quiet, safe location.
A heat lamp should be placed high enough that the bitch cannot contact it, but close enough to heat the area. It should only heat a corner of the whelping box, so if the puppies are too warm, they can move away from the heat source. The heat lamp light should be diffused with aluminum foil with holes poked in it with a needle. This protects the bulb from accidental contact and protects the puppies eyes from bright light.
Newspaper can be put in the whelping box during delivery. As it gets wet more layers are added. Once she is done whelping and is taken outside to relieve herself, the entire box is changed and dry paper put in with a blanket stretched tight over the top to give puppies traction.
Have large plastic garbage bags handy to place used newspaper, paper towels, and other garbage.
A laundry basket or box should be available to place puppies in while the rest of the litter is born. This protects them while the bitch paces and moves around during labor. A heating pad should be placed on the bottom with a fleece pad over it. (The puppies should NEVER be placed directly on heating pads, as they may be burned.) Another 1 or 2 towels should be placed over the top of the basket to keep the heat in. The fleece and the air in the basket should feel comfortably warm to your hand. If the puppies are moving around and crying, they are too cold or too hot. If they are bobbing their heads, searching, and crying, they are hungry. They should be put with mom as soon as possible to nurse. The puppies can be placed with the bitch between births to allow them to nurse and bond, and if necessary, be put back in the basket while the next sibling arrives.
A large stack of soft, clean towels should be handy to help clean off puppies if necessary. Large litters may require 2-3 dozen towels. White or light colored towels will show the color of any discharge or placenta. Have a laundry basket handy to throw them in as they are used. Wash as soon after birth as possible with detergent and bleach to minimize staining of the towels. An easy alternative is to use paper towel that can be discarded.
Other supplies to have on hand include the following:
- Sterile hemostats and blunt-end scissors to cut the umbilical cord, if necessary
- Alcohol and matches to sterilize the hemostats and scissors (dip the instrument in the alcohol, hold downward, light with a match - do not hold upward, as the alcohol (and fire) will go down your hand)
- Heavy sewing thread, dental floss, or suture (to tie umbilical cords if necessary)
- Lubricating (petroleum) jelly
- Several pairs of sterile surgical gloves
- Rubber pediatric bulb syringe or other suction devise to clear airways
- Surgical antiseptic scrub/iodine
- Tube feeder, syringe, bottle and nipple, and puppy milk replacer (such as Esbilac)
- Gram or ounce scale depending on average size of newborn puppy for your breed
- Nail polish to mark puppies for identification (puppies look remarkably similar and the best way to identify them is with marks)
- Thermometer – rectal to monitor the bitch's temperature
- Household thermometer to monitor the air temperature in the whelping box
- High-quality puppy food, cottage cheese, vanilla yogurt, and/or vanilla ice cream for the bitch
- Fresh water for the bitch
- Regular number for veterinary clinic and the emergency veterinary clinic number
- Numbers for family/friends/sitter to watch the children during delivery and, if necessary, to go to vet clinic
- Whelping books
- Vetwrap to wrap the tail of a long-haired bitch
- Flashlight with new batteries
- Clock or watch to time the birth
- Camera, film, and extra battery
- Something for you to do while waiting – cards, magazines, etc.
- Ink pen (and an extra) and note pad – mark each pup's arrival time, sex, weight, color, and markings (either natural markings or id mark you apply), and if placenta was expelled
- Make sure the phone cord reaches the whelping box or that the battery for the cordless phone is charged
- Cot for you to sleep
- Newspaper – to help line the floor of the whelping box
- Small Box or basket – to put the puppies in while another puppy is being delivered
- Hot water bottles – milk jugs, two-liter pop bottles, etc... You can use these to help keep puppies warm when they are in the small box away from mom
- Puppy Formula/Milk Replacer/Goats Milk – just in case there is a situation where mom cannot feed the pups
- Snacks for mom – yogurt, cottage cheese, goats milk, vanilla ice cream. It is a good idea to give her some high in calcium snacks AFTER she has had the first puppy. If there is a break in between puppies, sometimes a little calcium will help get labor started again
- Pen and paper – to record the puppy’s time of birth, weight, etc…
- Puppy Scale
- Vet and ER Vet Phone numbers – You should have this info on hand in case a problem should arise where you need immediate vet assistance and your vet is not available (such as night time).