Tag Archives: birth of puppies

Whelping Drugs

Whelping Drugs. What are they? What do they do? How to use them? When to use them? 

Thought I’d take a minute to run through a few oft mentioned drugs or aids that breeders or vets may recommend for you to have on hand for use during whelping and delivery of your litter. I’m hoping my fellow breeders will chime in with comments and suggestions to flesh this article out more so that it includes their experiences and the products they find most useful!


Calcium – use one of two forms for dosing

  •  Injectable form – 3cc in each syringe and up to 3 of the 3cc doses may be given for the larger dog like our Setter
  • TUMS chewable antacid with 1000 mg of Calcium

Calcium will increase muscle contractions and is used when the uterine contractions don’t have the strength needed to push the puppy out. Calcium is a safe drug when injected subcutaneous (under the skin) or as a treat in the chewable Tums form. The PH level of calcium is very low and can cause tissue damage if all injections are given in the same general area. It is important when giving more than one injection to move them to a different area over the shoulder, such as starting out on the left side of the shoulder and giving a second injection on the right side of the shoulder and a third injection in the middle of the shoulder. Calcium may be used when the bitch isn’t pushing and it has been more than 1 hour since the last puppy was born. If the bitch is pushing hard (visible contractions) but no puppy is being expelled it us time to call your vet or emergency clinic.

Photo courtesy of Silvia Timmermann
Photo courtesy of Silvia Timmermann

Oxytocin (common brand name Pitocin) – I do not recommend using oxytocin without veterinarian supervision, please see the previously published article Oxytocin During Whelping (click here for link). Oxytocin is a natural hormone that causes the uterus to contract, as compared to the calcium which strengthens those contractions. Allowing newborn puppies to nurse will cause the release of oxytocin from the dam’s body, so it is best to allow newborn pups to nurse as much as possible from the dam between births. Calcium should be administered, and is recommended before any dose of Oxytocin is given.


Dopram (Doxapram) is a controversial drug used to start or stimulate respiration in newborn puppies following a difficult birth or a C-section. There may be serious side effects from the use of this drug, therefore before choosing to keep it on hand for use please be certain to understand proper use, administration, and the side effects that may be caused by use. I have no experience with this drug, never having used it during a delivery, therefore I cannot endorse or deny it’s viability. Dopram V is a respiratory stimulant which stimulates an increase in tidal volume (the volume of air that is inhaled or exhaled in a single breath), and respiratory rate (number of breaths taken within a set amount of time). It is important to understand that you would be wasting precious minutes for the puppy, if you have not first cleared the airway before administering Dorpram. It is more important that you to learn to safely clear an airway and stimulate breathing the natural way before administering any drug to the newborn pup.

Nutritional Aids for the puppy

Puppy Glucose Solution is my “go to aid” for every puppy, especially those needing a boost of energy to get them nursing during the first 48 hours of life.Click here for complete information “First 48 Hours for Newborn Puppies”

I found these two products that were also recommended by other breeders.

Photo courtesy Silvia Timmermann
Photo courtesy Silvia Timmermann

PUPPYSTIM provides immediate energy supplies from fast absorbed triglycerides (fat), essential fatty acids and glucose.
It also contains: Colostrum (Immunoglobulins) for complementary passive immunity for the first 24-36 hours of life. Natural, safe, friendly probiotic lactic acid bacteria to colonize the gut and exclude overgrowth of potential pathogenic bacteria such as E.Coli or Salmonella etc. A complex package of vitamins and essential mineral iron (in an immediate bioavailable form), improving a puppy’s early condition and resistance to stress and infections. A blend of special plant extracts of Guarana and Kola for stimulating puppies’ early physical activity and well-being to thrive.

NUTRIDROPS are a high energy, nutrient rich supplement.
Ingredients: Propylene Glyco, Cane Molasses, Beet Molasses, Choline Chloride, Methionine, Lysine, Vitamin A, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Di-alpha-tocopherol Acetate, Thiamine, Ammonium Polyphosphate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenate, Potassium Sulphate, Magnesium Sulphate, Manganese Sulphate, Zinc Sulphate, Iron Sulphate, Copper Sulphate and Cobalt Sulphate.

As always, I look forward to your comments, questions, suggestions and advice in our comment section! Share your best puppy birthing ideas and recommendations please!

Photos courtesy of Silvia Timmermann

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Whelping List – Organizing supplies

Pandemonium and chaos immediately follow the discovery that your bitch is in labor especially if you haven’t even pulled out the whelping box yet, not, mind you, that I’ve ever done that, but it could happen, and if it could happen it would happen to me! I suppose a bat flying through a church lady meeting might more chaos, but I am thinking it wouldn’t cause the same amount of pure panic – well…maybe it would. I know some of you are stone cold new to breeding and whelping, and if this is your first litter you’re probably like every new mom, wanting to browse all the shops for cutesy baby gear. Pre-puppy prep isn’t nearly as exciting or fun as soft blue blankets and little pink booties, but hey, it is what it is and we’ll have to make do with our more boring list of supplies.

Ivy with pups
Photo by Laurie Ward

First, obviously (or maybe not so obviously if this is your first litter and you’ve never chased an even dozen of those little heathens around your kitchen) you will need a whelping box, whether you buy one, assemble your own or simply toss down a plastic swimming pool, the whelping box would be at the top of the items on our pre-labor list We’ll be sharing whelping box ideas in its own separate  article as there are many options to choose from, so no worries, we’ll hook you up, but here we’re simply listing it.

Here it is then, click the title for your  Whelping Supply Checklist in printable PDF format and you can also read on below for instructions on the Puppy Glucose solution and the Puppy Holding Box.

Whelping box – details on how to make the best choices to fit your needs will follow in a separate article.

Heat Lamp – to hang over the whelping box for warmth. Red heat lamp bulbs provide slightly more warmth and are more energy-efficient. They provide a more calming environment for the dam as they throw off a dimmer light. I’ve been told they are easier on pup’s eyes when they first open, don’t know if this is true or an old wives tale.

Indoor/outdoor thermometer – to monitor the temperature in the whelping box, this will need to be securely fastened and protected from chewing by the dam.

Rectal Thermometer  –  to monitor your bitch prior to her due date for the drop in body temperature that warns labor is about to begin.

Vaseline – for lubrication in case of stuck pup and when taking the bitch’s temperature.

Temperature chart or paper – to track and record the bitch’s temperature, 2-3 times daily, starting at least one week prior to the due date

Newspaper – this serves as bedding for the bitch and puppies, to line the whelping box before, during and after whelping as it will soak up birthing fluids and can easily be replaced during the whelping. You may be able to locate rolls of this paper to purchase or use actual newspaper.

Bath mats –  or other non-slip rugs or carpet cleaned of all chemical residue (do not use new carpeting or rugs that have not been washed for newborns). This will serve as bedding for the whelping box after the puppies have all been born and are ready to settle in comfortably with mom.

Clean towels – towels and more towels. Used to clean and dry the puppies following birth. Small towels like hand or dish towel size work best, or use bath towels cut  into smaller sizes. Be sure to have some small washcloth sized pieces to use to grip pups if needed during birth.

4” x 4” gauze pads – to hold slippery umbilical cords while tying.

Blunt tipped scissors – child’s safely scissors are perfect to cut umbilical cord, dull scissors are best as a jagged or rough cut will clot faster.

Un-waxed dental floss or clamps – use to tie the puppy’s umbilical cord to stop bleeding.

Isopropyl alcohol – to clean and dry the umbilical cord. Blot on the cord for the first few days to help dry it so it can fall off more easily.

Iodine or Betadine – for cord care after umbilical cord is cut and to clean puppy abdomens.

Baby suction bulb – to remove mucus from newborns mouth and nose as needed.

Alcohol wipes – use to clean cord clamps and scissors between pups.

Scale – to obtain birth weights and measure growth.

Clock/watch – to note the timing of births and monitor and track the timing of hard labor and birth. Visible and prolonged labor without a birth occurring are a sign of something gone wrong. Note the time of contractions.

Nail Polish or Model paint – 4-6 various colors – you will use this to mark each pup so you can tell them apart to monitoring growth and development.. Buy multiple and easy to distinguish colors and use them to place a colored mark on each puppy, as they are born, and on different parts of the body if necessary. I start with the top of head for each color (and sex) then move to the puppy’s back or perhaps tail with the same color if I need to reuse a color. For example I might have a red girl head, a red girl back and a red girl tail if I had more puppies of one sex than colors. I have always preferred this method of identification as compared to using ribbon, string or yarn around the newborn neck The one and only time I decided used colored rick rack to mark puppies with a collar, I lost a puppy during the night while I slept. His collar tangled in the bitch’s long coat, the more she licked him and he rolled, the tighter the hair tangled in the ribbon until it became so tight the puppy strangled.

Calcium antacid tablets or calcium supplement – to use as calcium supplement if needed during labor. Vanilla ice cream is another calcium boost with a sugar fix for energy.

Puppy Glucose solution – this well established advice comes from what many consider as the bible of dog breeding  written by Anne Seranne “The Joy of Breeding Your Own Show Dog”. I have used this glucose solution and Anne’s advice for decades with very positive results.

Prepare this 5% Glucose solution just prior to whelping and store in a dropper bottle:

  • 1 tsp Kayro (Corn) syrup
  • 4 TBL boiled water
  • few grains of table salt (sodium chloride)
  • few grains of salt substitute (potassium chloride)

Pre-boil store water and store in closed jars to be used later for mixing formula.

Hand Sanitizer

Latex gloves

Paper towels – to clean up messes.

Trash bags – to contain messes, one for dirty newspaper/trash and one for used towels.

Tablet, notebook or form – to record time of birth, weight, sex, identifying mark and to keep any important notes about the puppy.


Puppy Holding Box – You will need a temporary place to put the pups aside to keep them out-of-the-way while Mom is whelping the next puppy. A 24” by 18” plastic box with a lid (such as a Rubbermaid box) can work, a small cardboard box works equally well and is cheap as well! You’re going to use the heating pad listed below in this box to keep the pups from getting chilled while being held here.

Heating Pad – to keep puppies warm while in holding. I would cover the pad with a towel in addition to the soft pad that generally is included. Be sure to monitor the heat setting to keep it at or below body temp as you do not want to dehydrate those puppies by overheating them.

Hot water bottle – this is handy to have on hand if you need to make a trip to the vet’s office and the distance is long. It will hold warmth longer than the heating pad and can be refilled with hot water easily when it cools. It isn’t necessary but they are very, very handy.

Favorite whelping book – reference material right at your fingertips will help to keep you occupied while you wait. I have some parts of my books memorized!

Phone – with emergency Vet #’s clearly saved and easy to find.

Ivy pups3
Photo by Laurie Ward

Car gassed up and ready to go “just in case”.

Using glucose solution to give your pups a faster, stronger start from “The Joy of Breeding Your Own Show Dog”

This resembles a Ringer’s Glucose-Saline fluid but, of course, cannot be used for subcutaneous or intravenous injection because it is not sterile. Store the solution in a dropper bottle. As soon as a puppy is dry and breathing normally, weigh it on a gram scale and give it five or six drops of the solution for each 100 grams of body weight. It is best to administer the glucose drop by drop on its tongue and not introduce it directly into the stomach by tube. By giving it on the tongue the swallowing reflexes are being developed. Make sue the puppy has swallowed each drop before the next is given. Usually even the weakest pup will accept it gratefully. Then put the puppy with it’s dam for stimulation and warmth. Every four hours weigh the puppy, record the weight, and repeat the glucose, increasing the amount if the puppy wants it, to as much as a full dropper or more for each 100 grams of body weight, until the puppy shows signs of gaining weight. Then offer it to the puppy every eight hours until it is 48 hours old. It should not be forced to drink it. Usually even the smallest puppy will begin to take hold and nurse strongly with good suction at the end of 24 hours, and will reject the glucose, indicating it is getting sufficient energy and nutrition from its dam. You can tell when its suction is getting stronger for, suddenly, the puppy will close its mouth around the dropper and suck all the solution from the tube.”

Ivy pups
Photo by Laurie Ward

Using the Puppy Holding Box

Fit a small heating pad without the automatic shut off into half of the box, run the cord out through a hole you will make in a corner of the box. Cover this with a bolster type crate mat to protect the pups from cold edges or roll a towel up to buffer the puppies from the cold edges. As an alternative, use a microwavable heating pad. Test the temperature to make sure it is not too hot before using it to hold the puppies. You will want to place the pups in the box, out of harms way while Mom is whelping the rest of the pups. She can get pretty frantic and could step on or injure a puppy while in hard labor during delivery. This is also the best way to transport the pups to the vet and works well as any other time you need to keep them warm but away from Mom (like when you clean the whelping box). Always warm the box before placing the pups in it. When at the vet’s office you can ask to plug your box in to keep it warm for the trip home. You can also use a hot water bottle in place of the heating pad for warmth, especially during travel as it doesn’t cool as fast as the pad.

Another link for helpful information: AKC – Responsible Breeding

I always welcome the comments and suggestions of our fellow breeders. Sharing your ideas, thoughts and expertise with our readers on this topic will be of great value to them so please jump in to add to or disagree with any of the material I’ve published here.

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Photos from Laurie Ward, Evergreen CO

Oxytocin during whelping

It’s been six years since the author, Joanna Kimball first published this article about the danger of using Oxytocin during whelping, so this may be very old news for most of you.  There are some who may have missed the message though, so I’m sharing this here as a “just in case” to ensure the topic has been offered to all. For myself, I have never used Oyytocin so I have no experience good or bad to share, whenever there was anything going on with my bitch during whelping that concerned me, I either called my vet or went to his office or an emergency clinic, I was never comfortable using drugs like this as a lay person.

Photo by Sarah Armstrong
Photo by Sarah Armstrong

If you keep Oxytocin on hand for whelping, or have been advised to do so, please read this article to ensure you understand how it impacts the unborn pups.

Oxytocin in whelping | Ruffly Speaking by Joanna Kimball

Photos by Sarah Armstrong, MI

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ