Breeding and Whelping
We want to let our six-month-old cocker spaniel have puppies before she’s spayed. When should she be bred and what can we expect during her pregnancy and delivery?
Female dogs (bitches) should not be bred before they are a year old. If they become pregnant before then, they are often too immature to be good mothers and tend to have more problems during delivery.
Bitches are receptive to male dogs for breeding during the estrus period of their reproductive cycle -- commonly called the heat period. Although there is considerable variation among individual bitches, most will come into heat every six months, and most will have their first heat cycle at about nine months of age. The gestation period in a dog is 63 days, though the time can vary.
Before breeding your dog, have your veterinarian give her a physical examination to determine if there are problems that would interfere with breeding, gestation, or delivery. She should be current on her vaccinations and free of parasites before breeding.
During pregnancy, your dog should be kept on a high quality diet. She will not need extra calories until about the last three weeks of gestation. She also should have regular exercise. Late in pregnancy she should be checked by your veterinarian to make sure there are no problems with the pregnancy. You will need to prepare a place for the delivery that is familiar to the mother. It should be safe and comfortable and provide some privacy.
There are three stages of labor. During Stage One, there are uterine contractions and relaxation of the cervix. The contractions cannot be seen but often, during this stage, the bitch will be restless and display nesting behavior - that is, digging or tearing material to make a nest. The first stage of labor normally lasts 6-12 hours, but it can last for 24 hours.
Stage Two is the delivery of the pups and Stage Three is the delivery of the placenta. Together these two stages last from a few hours to more than 24 hours. During this time, the mother has visible contractions. The first pup usually arrives 10-30 minutes after visible contractions begin. The normal interval between deliveries of the puppies varies but usually is 10-30 minutes. Call the veterinarian if there is more than 30-45 minutes of straining between deliveries.
Placentas are usually passed within 5-15 minutes after delivery of each pup. Sometimes one or two placentas may follow the delivery of two pups that had no placentas. Normally about half the pups are delivered head first and about half tail first.
Most of the time delivery goes smoothly and no assistance is needed, but if trouble arises, your veterinarian can help with medicine or by performing a caesarean. Both mother and newborns should be examined by your veterinarian within 24 hours of delivery to make sure there are no more pups in the uterus and to detect any problems with the puppies.