Breeding & Whelping, Common Terms and Definitions



Absorption (of Whelps)
Although a bitch may prematurely abort her puppies, "absorption" is more common. In such cases, the bitch, in early pregnancy, absorbs her puppies back into her system. Alternatively, in failed deliveries "mummified" puppies or "jelly babies" may be passed at the time of whelping.
A female of canines.
Brachycephalic Breed
A canine breed that is Brachycephalic has skulls that are large and broad with very short muzzles. These breeds (e.g. bulldogs, Boston terriers, etc.) routinely require Cesarean sections for delivery.
Breech Birth
A birth in which the puppy is born hind legs (rear end) first.
Brood Bitch (see Bitch)
See Bitch.
A highly contagious canine venereal disease which can also be transmitted non-sexually. Both male and female should be checked for this incurable disease before breeding.
Cesarean Section
Surgical delivery of a fetus through the abdominal wall and uterus.
Bitches milk produced in the few days before and after birth. Colostrum is rich in immune factors which protect the puppies from infection.
See Bitch.
The failure of labor to progress caused by one or more puppies blocking the birth canal. The obstructing puppies may be oversized or malpositioned.
A male of canines. But the term is often used to generally refer to both males and females.
An abnormality of development, especially of the hip. Dysplasia commonly results in lameness and faulty movement.


A condition of the bitch which may occur before or after whelping but often several weeks after the puppies are born. It is caused by a shortage of calcium in the bloodstream. Signs are restlessness and anxiety, stiff-legged gait, and other symptoms pertaining to muscle weakness or rigidity. Sometimes called "milk fever" although the body temperature is usually subnormal.
The abnormal increase of fluid in any organ. Puppies in some breeds experience this condition at the time of birth rendering them much larger than a normal whelp.
Fading Puppy Syndrome
A condition in which apparently healthy puppies fail to thrive. These puppies quit nursing, lose weight and can quickly die. Fading puppy syndrome occurs from birth to 9 weeks of age.
The dam may "flag" when she enters estrus and is ready to mate. She will position her rump toward the dog and lift her tail up and to the side.
To assist the bitch in delivery, a helper will feather her. This stimulates stronger contractions to encourage labor. Feathering is done by wearing a latex glove with lubricant (e.g. K-Y jelly) on one finger, gently inserting the finger into her vulva and tickling or "feathering" the top of her vagina.
Surgical tool used for grasping and manipulating. Can be used in whelping to remove retained afterbirth and to clamp an umbilical cord that persists in bleeding.
Gestation Period
The period of time in fetal development from conception until birth -- 63 days for canine pregnancy.
Heat Lamp
A lamp, often infrared, used to maintain proper temperature for newborn puppies.
Hemorrhage, Postpartum
Bleeding in the bitch after whelping. This may be caused by lacerations during delivery, uterine rupture, or surgical problems. The bitch may pass a heavy, persistent flow of blood from the vulvar area.
See Eclampsia.
The mating of two closely related dogs (e.g. mother/son, father/daughter, sibling/sibling). Compare to linebreeding.


The mating of two dogs of the same bloodline which are not closely related. Similar to inbreeding but different in degree.
An inflammation of the mammary glands usually due to infection. Canine mastitis which usually occurs a few weeks after whelping can be very painful for the brood bitch. Symptoms are red, dark breast, hot or painful when touched.
Mummified Puppy
A whelp whose development stopped during pregnancy. The dead puppy is passed as a brownish lump and may sometimes block the birth canal during delivery (requiring C-section).
Normal Presentation
Head first birth. Compare to breech birth.
The breeding of same-breed mates that are not related. Compare to inbreeding.
A hormone produced in the bitch naturally that induces uterine contractions. As a drug it may be administered to the bitch as a treatment to help with whelping. Its use may be ineffective or harmful in some complicated cases.
Pelvic Canal Obstruction
See Dystocia.
The sac that envelopes the fetus and attaches it to the uterus during pregnancy.
See Progressive Retinal Atrophy.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
In canines, a hereditary blinding disorder which affects nearly every breed. PRA is difficult to control through breeding because clinical signs of PRA don't usually emerge until later in life. Testing is continually being improved to identify carriers.


The male.
To surgically remove the ovaries of the bitch.
Stud Dog
A male dog used for breeding.
The phenomenon in dog breeding when the male's penis swells inside the bitch's vagina. This "lock" may last from a few minutes to 30 minutes.
Toxic Milk
A condition in which puppies do not take to the bitch's milk.
Tube Feeding
The process of feeding puppies through a tube. The tube is inserted into the stomach through the mouth and formula is inserted into the tube with a syringe.


Uterine Inertia
A condition in which contractions become less frequent in occurrence or stop altogether but there are more puppies to be delivered. Oxytocin may be administered or C-section may be required. This may be caused due to whelp obstruction or a bitch resisting delivery.
External parts of the female genitalia.
Water Puppies
See Edema.