The term “whelping” is used to describe the final stages of canine pregnancy and the birthing of litters. As is true for pregnancy in any mammal, a pregnant canine will require care and attention to unsure that the whelping goes smoothly and that the pups are born without difficulty or complication. Unfortunately, some complications are impossible to avoid, but knowing what to expect and when to expect it will help you prepare for the best possible whelping scenario.
Canine pregnancy typically lasts about three months from the date of conception. This varies from breed to breed, but is generally true of most medium-sized dogs, such as the German Shepherd. Mark the expected date of birth on your calendar. The litter may not necessarily be born on this exact date, but it should serve as a good reference for when to start preparing for whelping. One to two weeks before the litter is expected, your dog should be noticeably pregnant, with an enlarged abdomen. You should being taking your dog’s temperature regularly during this time, as changes in body temperature will mark the first signs of labor.
Labor typically begins between 24 and 48 hours before birth. The first stages may not be immediately noticeable, but the temperature of your dog will begin to drop from its regular temperature of about 99-101°F. As her temperature drops, she will begin to pant heavily. She may vomit, or begin shaking, and will likely need to urinate frequently. Her temperature should bottom out at about 98°F, at which point she will begin giving birth within 2-12 hours, depending on whether or not it is her first litter. At this point, your dog will be in her second stage of labor, and will be visibly straining with contractions. Newborn German Shepherd puppies will not be far behind, so be sure not to leave her side during this period.
Of course, having your veterinarian on speed-dial is a necessity during whelping. Complications in whelping can risk the life of the pups as well as the bitch. Be prepared to transport your dog to a veterinary hospital if the need arises. Hopefully, all will go well, and your female German Shepherd will have successfully whelped a healthy litter of German Shepherd puppies.