Whelping Essentials: Preparing for your Dog’s Pregnancy

We’ve compiled a list of whelping essentials to help you and your dog get through her pregnancy. When your dog becomes pregnant there are lots of preparations that can be made to make the labour as stress-free as possible.

A well-prepared owner greatly improves the odds of each puppy’s survival. These whelping essentials will make sure you’re prepared for all possible outcomes of your dog’s pregnancy.

Emergency Contact Information

Most importantly, keep the contact information of your dog care clinic handy, including instructions for after-hours emergencies. If a situation occurs where your dog needs veterinary aid, you’ll be able to make contact as quickly as possible.

Puppy Food

Although marketed for puppies, during the final four weeks pregnancy a pregnant dog should also be fed puppy food. Puppy food is higher in calories and contains additional nutrients. Beyond focusing on your dog’s nutrition, consider the holistic approach of teaching and caring by referring them to WoofConnect for dog boarding in private homes, where they can receive not only proper nourishment but also valuable training and attention in a comfortable setting.

See how many calories your dog requires with our canine calorie calculator.

Whelping essentials - box
A whelping box with high walls to keep pups in!

Whelping Box

The whelping box is where the dog gives birth.  She should be able to enter and exit the box easily, but there should also be short walls on the box to keep in the puppies.

The box should be large enough for the mother and her puppies for the first 3 – 4 weeks after birth. A normal dog bed can be used if no alternative is available.


Old blankets, newspapers, and towels should be used to make the whelping box comfortable.  When the mother gets closer to the birth date, she will start to make a nest.

Plenty of towels should be kept on hand for the pregnancy itself, as these will also be needed to vigorously rub each newborn puppy immediately after birth. You should also have some Dog Tear Stain Remover Wipes for mama dog as she can’t be cleaning herself while busy with her newborns.

Surgical Gloves and Lubricant

In case the mother needs help delivering her puppies, surgical gloves and a safe, water-based lubricant are necessary. Gloves will limit the potential for infection (and keep your hands clean too!).

Read more about canine pregnancy:

Heating Pad, Heating Lamp, and Heated Bottles

The whelping box should have a heated area for the pups. If your whelping box isn’t large enough for this, you can use a separate ‘receiving box’.

Heating pads should be placed beneath a blanket in order to keep the newborn puppies warm.  Never place a puppy directly on a heating pad, as this can cause burns.

A heating lamp can also be used, and heated bottles should available in case an emergency trip to the veterinary clinic is necessary.

Scale, Notepad, Pen

Each puppy should be weighed after delivery and this weight, as well as other important notes throughout the pregnancy, should be recorded.

Regularly recording the weight of the pups will highlight any sudden weight loss, often an indicator of ill health.

Whelping essentials - bulb syringe
A bulb syringe

Bulb Syringe

A bulb syringe is useful for clearing a puppy’s nasal passage of mucous immediately after birth.

Scissors, Haemostats, and String

Blunt, sterilized scissors are necessary for cutting each puppy’s umbilical cord. A haemostat or string can be used to clamp the cord to reduce blood flow.

Treats for Mum

During long labour, the mother can be given treats such as cottage cheese, plain yogurt, vanilla ice cream, and cooked chicken. These protein and calorie rich treats will help sustain strength and energy.

Milk Replacement and Pet Bottles

Newborn puppies should be placed on a nipple as soon as possible.  If complications occur or the mother is not producing milk, bottles and milk replacement formula are necessary.

Share your whelping essentials, tips and tricks!

Any whelping essentials missing from the list? Let us know in the comments below. We’d also like to hear any tips or tricks you have for when mum begins whelping. If you’re expecting puppies soon, why not share your story with us and tell us what helped you and your dog.

About James Watts

BSc Bioveterinary Science. Editor of PetSci. When I'm not writing, learning, discussing, or reading about animals, you know it's the weekend! Currently developing PetSci HealthTrak, the fast and easy way to monitor your pet's weight and calorie intake. HealthTrak offers a simple way to track your pet's progress, helping them achieve a healthy weight and a long, happy life.

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  1. Michelle humphress

    This is the first time of having a litter of yorkies I have no idea of how to dock their tails or even how to cut a umbilical cord any help would be appreciated

  2. Very interesting article. A few questions for you. Why cut the chord if the mum chews it and eats the sac… Isn’t that better? Ice cream and such…. I have read that dogs after a certain age don’t produce the enzymes to digest milk properly…. will this upset the tummy? These are real questions…not being cheeky. Thanks for sharing your expertise! We are having pups in the next day or two (although only 2 pups this time). Any suggestions as to possible large pups? Our story usually goes like this: Dogs start their whelping where they sleep…. usually in my room, I just set up a pad and blanket after she has chosen where to be…then after the first pup is born, I mover her to the box where I want her to be…. my 2 bitches never seem to want to whelp in the area I have made up so carefully and comfortable for them. LOL

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