Getting Ready For Your Whelp

© 2004 Karen Copley


It seems hard to believe that a few weeks ago you were in the breeding mode………now, with your whelping looming closer on the horizon, you begin to worry if you have everything that you need. A well prepared whelping can make the difference between disaster and success. Missing that essential item from the supply list can make the difference between a successful delivery of a pup, or a catastrophe. Lets review some thoughts on how to set up the whelping box/whelping area and the supplies that can make the whelping a success.


Whelping box: Used to provide a "home" for the new mom and pups. While there are many theories about what kind of "box" works best, I believe that there are several important components to the whelping box. A whelping box can be easily made with plywood, or elaborately constructed out of Melamine. How it’s made as long as it is secure is not what is important, but that is does its job of providing a safe environment for Mom and pups. Other choices for whelping boxes while offering the advantage of being easily washable but not offering the benefit of pig rails is the child’s plastic swimming pool, or a half of a plastic crate

Box size: The whelping box should be comfortable for the bitch and pups, giving her enough space to stretch out on her side so the pups can easily nurse. Boxes that are to big may encourage pups to wander off from the group and get cold, while boxes that are to small may cause the bitch to accidentally step on or lay on a pup, because she has nowhere to step while entering and exiting and no place to stretch out so the pups can nurse.

Pig Rails: A rail or raised ledge that is 1-6 inches (height of rails off floor depends on how big the pups are. Rails should be up higher than pups up until 2-1/2 to 3 weeks of age). For a medium size dog, the rails are usually 4 inches off the floor of the box.

Access Door: Door on the front of the box that is above the pig rails, that can be opened to allow "Mom" easy access in and out when pups are small. Door can be closed when pups become old enough to climb over the rails and go exploring.


To promote privacy, an ex-pen can be placed around 3 sides of the box and draped with a blanket to form a den-like environment. If you are using a heat lamp to heat the box, be careful that the blanket does not catch fire or retain too much heat.


Keeping them warm: If there is a propensity to make a mistake about the new Mom and her pups I think it is in relation to heat; usually too much heat. Mother Nature needs Mom to be close to the pups, allowing them to nurse almost constantly for the first 3-4 days of life to stimulate milk production. If Mom and pups were in the wild, she would have a den dug in the ground, an ambient temperature of around 65 degrees during the warmer months of the year. She would spend MOST of her time in the den with the pups, providing both warmth and nourishment.


In our effort to improve outcomes, and "combat diseases" such as the Herpes virus, we have increased our temperatures in the whelping box to uncomfortable and even dangerous levels, discouraging the bitch to stay with the pups because she is simply to hot. Overheating the whelping box will make Mom miserable; panting excessively, becoming dehydrated or having to leave the pups in order to prevent herself from being overheated. Additionally, "sterilizing" the whelping box from Herpes by raising the box/room temperature to over 90-100 degrees is a fallacy at best. The Herpes virus, as with all bacteria-viruses are only sterilized at a temperature of 2000 degrees, under steam pressure; unlikely scenarios for the whelping box.


Providing or not providing a heat source will depend on your individual environment and relies a lot on your own common sense and observation of the bitch and her pups. If Mom is panting, pups are sprawled out all over the box; you probably have the box to warm. Mom should be able to be in the box, with the pups snuggled against her without panting. Generally a cold pup will cry, so pups that are cuddled and quiet is another good way to tell that the pups are warm enough. I like the general room temperature to be around 75 degrees, keeping the box no warmer than 80-83 degrees where the pups are. To heat the box I place a waterbed heater above the floor of my box, covering it with thick layer of either sheepskin or thick terry towel. Make sure to tape the thermostat probe to the waterbed heater, as this will prevent the pad from overheating. This type of heater is not only thermostat controlled but is also waterproof. I place the heater on one side of the box leaving the other side unheated. My girls like to lie on the side without the heater, but it provides a warm spot if a pup wanders off. In the case of a cold winter whelping, I will use a radiant heat lamp for the first few days, but generally only heat one corner of the box, and not where Mom usually lays.


If you live in a warm area, you may not need a heat source, only insulation between the floor and the whelping box like thick towels or sheepskin. New carpet remnants make a great insulating base for the box, allowing pups to have secure footing. I cover them with towels/sheepskin and when they get overly soiled I throw them away.


Whelping Supply list: Having the necessary tools to whelp a litter can make the difference between success and failure. Here is a list of whelping supplies, Click on link if you need to know how each item is used. A * is beside items I consider a must.

Whelping Supply list:
Having the necessary tools to whelp a litter can make the difference between success and failure. Here is a list of whelping supplies, Click on each link if you need to know how each item is used.

 A * is beside items I consider a must.

(one curved, one straight) 3 1/2 inch for pups that weigh 4-8 oz at birth, 5 1/2 inch for pups that weigh 8-14 oz at birth and 6 inch for pups that weigh more than 16oz at birth.

* Bulb Syringe:
Used to suck mucus out of the pups mouth/upper respiratory tract

*Sterile Gloves:
For vaginal exams on the bitch

Energy boost for both the bitch and pups. Immediately absorbable.

*WhelpWise Service:
Don’t forget to sign up early

*DeeLee Mucus Trap:
A mucus aspirator that can be used for deeper suctioning.

*Iodine pads/liquid betadine:
Used to disinfect the umbilical cord stump

K-Y or water based lubricant:
Used for vaginal exams. NEVER USE Vaseline or mineral oil

Pedialyte or electrolyte solution:
For the bitches drinking water or to hydrate pups

Feeding Tube:
5fr for pups under 8 oz, 8fr for larger pups

Preemie nipple and Preemie bottle

10cc syringes for feeding tube

Feeding syringe


ID bands for the pups

Snuggle Safe

Flashlight and leash for those middle of the night potty trips

Lots of towels, both hand size and bath size

2 Heating pads; one in holding box, one to heat towels with

Blow dryer to circulate warm air in holding box and dry off pups


Ice cream (Vanilla for Mom, Chocolate for me) great energy boost for the whelping

*Friends to help with a GREAT sense of humor/great snacks/great movies


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