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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Whelping/Queening At Home

Recently I was asked whether or not it was safe to allow pet dogs and cats to give birth at home (called whelping with dogs and queening with cats).  After all, humans in Western countries typically give birth in hospitals due to the risks to the baby and mother.  Is it the same with animals?
Definitely not.  It has been years since anyone brought a pet to me during the birthing process, and then only because there were problems with the mother being able to give birth.  Animals run much more on instinct than do humans and the process typically goes much smoother.  Often a dog or cat will give birth when the owner isn't around, so the person happens to go to their bed and find puppies or kittens wriggling around after everything is finished.  In the huge majority of cases the birth will happen safely and without the need for human intervention.

However, problems do occur and may require veterinary intervention.  Babies can be too big to pass through the birth canal or become stuck partway through.  If this happens get your pet to a vet immediately and do not try to pull the baby out yourself.  These cases may require a c-section and you could do more harm than good by simply pulling.  A good rule of thumb is that if the mother is having obvious labor (active abdominal contractions) for 45-60 minutes without a baby coming out, or that long between babies, contact a vet right away.  Some of these cases may simply require an injection of oxytocin or similar care, but there is always the risk of a stuck baby.

Some dogs and cats want to give birth right next to you, so don't be surprised if they pick a spot on your bed or under your kitchen table.  Others want the birth to happen in a quiet, secluded area, including the back of a closet or an unused room.  Let the pet pick their own location as that will be less stressful for them.  Provide a queening/whelping box (just do an internet search for those terms and you'll find links on how to make one) and keep an eye on things, but for the most part you simply let nature take its course.