What You Need to Know About Whelping with Your Cocker Spaniel

Welcoming a litter of Cocker Spaniel puppies into the world can be an exciting, but also nerve-wracking time for any dog owner. As your Cocker Spaniel approaches her due date, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the different signs of labor and preparations you need to make to ensure the safety of both the mother and her puppies. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through all the stages of whelping in Cocker Spaniels, from recognizing the telltale signs of labor to post-whelping care. So let’s dive in and learn what to expect during this exciting time!

Signs of Labor

Signs Of Labor
Is your Cocker Spaniel expecting? It’s essential to know the signs of labor to ensure that the delivery process goes smoothly. As a responsible dog owner, it’s your job to be prepared for whelping and know what to expect. By understanding the signs of labor, you can make sure your Cocker Spaniel has a comfortable delivery, and you are ready to assist when needed. In this article, we will discuss the key indicators that mean your dog is ready for delivery. But before we dive in, make sure you read our previous guides on preparing for breeding, gestation period and prenatal care for your Cocker Spaniel to ensure you are prepared for the next stages.

Temperature Drop

One of the major signs of whelping in Cocker Spaniels is a temperature drop. This is often an early indicator that your pup is about to go into labor, and it’s essential to be prepared. A temperature drop will typically occur 24 hours before labor begins, and you should be monitoring your dog’s temperature regularly. A dog’s normal body temperature is around 101.5°F (38.6°C), but as labor approaches, you may notice a drop to 98-99°F (36.6-37.2°C).

To ensure that you can accurately predict when your Cocker Spaniel is about to go into labor, it’s a good idea to start taking their temperature daily around 55 days into the pregnancy. When you notice the temperature drop, you should prepare for labor and make sure that everything is in place. This is a good time to ensure that you have everything ready from the whelping box setup to the emergency kit.

To monitor your Cocker Spaniel’s temperature, you will need a digital thermometer. You can choose to use an ear, rectal, or oral thermometer. However, an ear thermometer may be less accurate, and an oral thermometer may be challenging to use with your pup. A rectal thermometer is the most accurate and easiest to use, and you should ensure that it is well lubricated with petroleum jelly before inserting it gently.

Here are some signs to look out for to help you know when your Cocker Spaniel’s temperature has dropped:

  • Use a digital thermometer to take their temperature daily at the same time
  • Record the temperature reading each time you take it
  • A sudden 2°F (1.1°C) drop in temperature is a clear indicator that your pup will go into labor within 24 hours
  • Make sure that you take their temperature again just before labor begins to ensure that it hasn’t risen again

Knowing the signs of whelping and the changes in your dog’s body temperature is crucial in preparing for your Cocker Spaniel’s labor. Being aware of the different stages your dog will undergo during whelping, including stage one, stage two, and stage three, will help you be in a better position to handle the birthing process. Once the litter is born, you will need to ensure that both the mother and pups are healthy and cared for in post- whelping care.

Nesting Behavior

As the due date nears, you will notice some behavioral changes in your Cocker Spaniel. One of these changes is nesting behavior. This usually occurs a few days leading up to delivery when your dog starts searching for a comfortable and safe place to give birth. Here are some signs that your Cocker Spaniel is experiencing nesting behavior:

Increase in scratching and diggingYour dog may start to scratch and dig at various places in the house, attempting to create a cozy and secure spot to birth her puppies.
Affection towards bedding materialsYour dog may start to gather bedding or other soft items and carry them to her chosen spot. She may even attempt to shred and rearrange these materials to create the perfect nest.
Making a “nest”Your Cocker Spaniel may start to pace around or circle the area where she plans to give birth. She might even start to “dig and push” the bedding to create a suitable spot to have her puppies.
Frequent nappingDue to the extra exertion and activity of building a nest, your Cocker Spaniel may need to rest more. Expect to see an increase in napping and a decrease in general activity during this time.

It’s important to note that not all Cocker Spaniels will demonstrate nesting behavior. However, if you do notice these signs, it’s important to provide her with a comfortable and quiet space where she can safely give birth to her puppies.

Loss of Appetite

Loss of appetite is a common sign that your Cocker Spaniel is approaching whelping. While it is normal for dogs to experience some morning sickness during pregnancy, a sudden and significant loss of appetite could be an indicator that your dog is about to give birth. Here are some symptoms you should watch out for:

  • A sudden loss of interest in food
  • Turning away from treats or favorite foods
  • Eating less than usual
  • Skipping meals altogether

It is important to note that some dogs may continue to eat normally right up until the onset of labor, so the loss of appetite alone should not be taken as a definite sign that your dog is about to give birth. However, you should still be vigilant and monitor your dog for other signs of labor.

If your dog does experience a loss of appetite, make sure to provide ample water to prevent dehydration. You may also consider dividing meals into smaller, more frequent portions throughout the day, as your dog may be more likely to eat smaller amounts. If your dog still refuses to eat, consult your veterinarian for advice on how to best manage your dog’s symptoms.


As the due date approaches, you may notice your Cocker Spaniel becoming increasingly restless. This can be a sign that labor is imminent. Restlessness can manifest in a number of ways, including pacing, inability to settle, and constant moving. In some cases, your dog may even refuse to sleep or eat.

Here are a few signs of restlessness to look out for:

Signs of RestlessnessDescription
PacingYour Cocker Spaniel may wander around, unable to settle down. She may walk in circles or repeatedly go from one room to another.
Inability to SettleYour dog may be unable to sit or lay down comfortably. She may get up and move around shortly after lying down.
Constant MovingYour dog may keep changing positions, unable to find a comfortable one. She may move from sitting to standing, and back again, in rapid succession.
Refusal to Sleep or EatYour dog may be too restless to sleep or eat. She may walk away from her food bowl or lie down for a few seconds before getting back up again.

If you notice any of these signs of restlessness, it’s a good idea to get your whelping kit ready and keep an eye on your dog. Restlessness is a common sign of labor in Cocker Spaniels, and it’s best to be prepared for the arrival of the puppies.


During whelping, it is normal for a Cocker Spaniel to experience vaginal discharge. This is perfectly normal, but as a pet owner, it is important to know what type of discharge to expect as well as to watch for abnormal discharge that may signal a problem.

Normal Discharge

  • Clear and odorless discharge means that everything is progressing normally.
  • In the early stages of labor, mucous may be present in the discharge which is normal.

Abnormal Discharge

  • Green, red or brown discharge could indicate an infection or monitor if the discharge persists for a long period of time.
  • Bloody discharge can be normal during labor, but it should be consulted with a veterinarian if it lasts for over 24 hours while the dam has not yet started labor.
  • Foul-smelling discharge, particularly if accompanied with fever, should prompt an emergency visit to the veterinarian immediately.

What to Do
If you notice any abnormal discharges, you should consult a veterinarian right away as they may be a sign of a problem. In general, monitoring the discharge by inspecting the bedding regularly is helpful in reassuring yourself that the labor process is progressing well.

Preparing for Whelping

Preparing For Whelping
As the due date approaches, it’s important to start preparing for the arrival of the litter. There are several steps you can take to ensure that the birth goes smoothly and that the dam and puppies are healthy. Let’s take a look at some essential preparations that every Cocker Spaniel breeder should make before whelping.

Prebirth Vet Visit

Before a pregnant Cocker Spaniel goes into labor, it is important to schedule a prebirth vet visit to ensure the health of both the mother and the puppies. During this visit, the veterinarian will perform several tests and examinations to assess the condition of the dam and the developing pups. Here are some of the things that you can expect from a prebirth vet visit:

Physical ExaminationThe veterinarian will perform a physical examination of the dam to check her overall health, body condition, and weight. The vet may also use ultrasound or X-rays to check on the size, number, and position of the puppies.
Blood TestsBlood tests may be done to check for infections, hormonal imbalances, and other medical conditions that may affect the pregnancy.
Fecal AnalysisThe veterinarian may also collect a fecal sample from the dam to check for parasites.
Nutrition and DietThe veterinarian will provide recommendations for proper nutrition and diet for the dam during pregnancy and lactation.
VaccinationsIf the dam is due for any vaccinations, they may be administered during this visit.

The prebirth vet visit is an important step in ensuring the health and well-being of both the mother and the puppies during the whelping process. It is essential to follow the veterinarian’s recommendations and guidelines to ensure a successful and healthy delivery.

Whelping Box Setup

Setting up the whelping box is crucial for the comfort and safety of both the dam and her puppies during the birthing process. The box should be large enough for the dam to move around comfortably and for her puppies to have ample space to nurse and crawl around.

Materials needed:

Whelping box1
Newspapers or puppy padsSeveral
Soft blankets or towels2-3
Heating pad or heat lamp1
Plastic sheeting1

Steps to set up the whelping box:

1. Choose an appropriate sized whelping box with high sides to prevent the puppies from escaping. The box should be easy for the dam to access and exit.

2. Line the bottom of the box with newspapers or puppy pads to absorb any fluids during the labor and delivery process.

3. Place a soft blanket or towel in the box to provide comfort to the dam and her puppies. The bedding should be changed frequently to keep it clean and dry.

4. Position a heating pad or heat lamp in the whelping box to keep the puppies warm after they are born. The temperature should be set to around 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Place a thermometer in the box to monitor the temperature and adjust the heating source as needed.

6. Cover the floor and walls surrounding the whelping box with plastic sheeting to protect the area from any messes.

7. Use scissors to cut a hole in one of the sides of the whelping box so the dam can safely exit and enter the box without harming her puppies.

By following these steps and providing a comfortable and safe environment for the dam and her puppies, you can help ensure a successful whelping experience.

Emergency Kit

During whelping, it’s important to have an emergency kit on hand in case any complications arise. This kit should include:

  • Phone numbers: Have your vet’s phone number and an emergency vet’s phone number easily accessible. Also, make sure to have a phone charger handy in case your phone dies during the labor process.
  • Clean towels: You’ll need plenty of clean towels to help clean up the puppies and the mother after delivery. Make sure to have a few extra towels on hand in case of unexpected surprises.
  • Dental floss or thread: In case a puppy is born with its umbilical cord still attached, you’ll need to tie off the cord with dental floss or thread and then cut it with sterilized scissors.
  • Heating pad or lamp: Make sure to have a heating pad or lamp available in case the puppies need to be warmed up during the delivery process. Keep the heating source at a safe distance from the puppies to avoid burns.
  • Scissors and hemostats: You may need to help the mother during labor by breaking the sacs surrounding the puppies. Scissors can be used to carefully cut open the sacs, and hemostats can be used to grip and tear them open.
  • Unwaxed dental floss: You may need to help the mother puppy deliver her puppies by tying unwaxed dental floss around protruding puppy tails if they get stuck during the birthing process.
  • Iodine: Keep iodine on hand to sterilize any instruments like scissors or hemostats that may need to be used during the delivery process.
  • Calcium gluconate: In case of an emergency like eclampsia, you’ll need to have calcium gluconate on hand to give to the mother to help her recover.

Having an emergency kit prepared before the whelping process begins can help ensure a smoother delivery and reduce stress in case of any unexpected complications.

During Whelping

During Whelping
As your Cocker Spaniel enters the whelping stage, it’s important to be aware of the signs of labor and prepare for the event. Once labor begins, you may feel a sense of both excitement and anxiety. During whelping, your role as a pet parent is to provide support and make sure everything runs smoothly. In this section, we will go through the three stages of whelping and what to expect during each stage. Let’s dive in and explore the journey of whelping with your beloved Cocker Spaniel.

Stage One

Stage One of whelping in Cocker Spaniels usually lasts for 12 to 24 hours, and it is during this phase that the dog’s cervix will dilate. This phase is often referred to as the “preparatory phase.” Here is a breakdown of what to expect during Stage One:

What to ExpectExplanation
Mild contractionsDuring this phase, the dog will experience mild contractions. She may seem restless and uncomfortable. It is normal for the dog to pant, shiver or even vomit during this phase.
Nesting BehaviorThe dog may start nesting behavior such as digging, scratching, or tearing up papers or blankets to make a comfortable spot to deliver her pups.
Vulva SwellingThe vulva will start to swell, and you may notice a clear or blood-tinged discharge. This is normal and should not be a cause for concern.
Decreased AppetiteThe dog will usually refuse to eat during Stage One. Don’t worry if she doesn’t eat much or anything at all, as long as she drinks water regularly.
Behavioral ChangesThe dog may appear restless or may seek your attention. She may be more vocal and may prefer to stay close by your side during this phase.

It is crucial to remain calm and collected during this stage, as the mother dog can pick up on your energy and become more anxious. Make sure to give her ample space and avoid interfering with her natural instincts. During this stage, it is also essential to keep monitoring your dog closely and keep a record of the time of each contraction. Remember to seek veterinary help if you notice any signs of distress or irregularities.

Stage Two

During stage two of whelping, your Cocker Spaniel’s contractions will become stronger and more frequent. This is the stage where the puppies will be born, and it’s essential to monitor your dog closely. Here’s what you can expect during stage two:

  • Breaking of Water Membrane – During this stage, you may see the vaginal membrane breaking, and a clear fluid will come out. This is the time when the puppies are passing through the birth canal, and it’s perfectly normal.
  • Active Labor – This is when your Cocker Spaniel will start to push harder to deliver the puppies. You will see the head of the puppy appearing first, followed by the body. If the puppy is facing the wrong way or is too big, your dog may have difficulty delivering it. In such cases, it’s essential to seek veterinary help immediately.
  • Assisting Delivery – If your Cocker Spaniel is having difficulty delivering the puppies, you may need to assist her. Always make sure to wash your hands and wear gloves before doing so. First, try to gently pull the puppy out while your dog is pushing. However, if the puppy seems stuck, never pull it forcefully, as this can result in severe injuries to the puppy and mother. Seek veterinary help right away.
  • Clean the Puppies – Once the puppy is delivered, use a clean towel to remove any amniotic fluid that may be covering its face. This is crucial for the puppy to breathe correctly. Also, ensure that the mother licks the puppy to clean it thoroughly and create a bond with it. If the mother doesn’t do this, use a soft cloth to gently rub the puppy’s body to stimulate the mothering instinct.
  • Umbilical Cord Clamping and Cutting – After the puppy is delivered, you can use sterile scissors to cut the umbilical cord around half an inch from the puppy’s belly. The mother will then lick the area to clean it and stimulate it to close.

Always remember that stage two can take a few hours to complete. However, if it takes more than two hours between the delivery of puppies, seek veterinary help immediately. It’s essential to monitor your Cocker Spaniel closely during stage two and treat her with the utmost care and compassion.

Stage Three

The final stage of whelping is known as the afterbirth stage or stage three. This is when the Cocker Spaniel’s body expels the placenta and any remaining fetal membranes after the puppies have been born. It is essential to keep a watchful eye on the dam during this stage, as complications can arise.

Signs of Stage Three:

  • Contractions and straining
  • Excessive licking of genitals

During this stage, the dam may experience contractions and straining as her body works to expel the afterbirth. You may notice her excessively licking her genitals, which is a natural instinct to clean and remove any remaining fetal membranes.

The Importance of Counting Placentas:

  • Prevent infection
  • Prevent retained placentas

It is crucial to count the number of placentas passed during stage three. This helps to ensure that all the placentas have been expelled, which can help prevent infection and the possibility of a retained placenta.

What to Do with Placentas:

  • Burying placentas
  • Disposing of placentas
  • Not allowing dogs to eat placentas

Once the placenta is expelled, you must decide what to do with it. Some individuals may choose to bury the placenta, while others may dispose of it through their regular waste management system. It is essential not to allow dogs to eat placentas, as it can increase the risk of gastrointestinal upset or blockage.

Post-Whelping Check:

  • Vet check-up
  • Monitor dam for infections

After stage three, you should schedule a veterinarian visit to ensure that the dam and puppies are healthy. It is essential to monitor the dam for signs of infection or any complications following whelping, such as retained placenta or postpartum hemorrhaging. Early intervention is critical in the successful recovery of both the dam and her puppies.

Post-Whelping Care

After the arrival of the litter, your Cocker Spaniel will need proper post-whelping care to ensure both her and her puppies’ health and well-being. The post-whelping period is crucial since the dam will need extra care and attention as her body heals and she takes care of her newborns. Your role as the owner is to provide her with the necessary support to ensure a speedy recovery for herself and the puppies. Below are some essential post-whelping care tips that you should keep in mind to ensure your dog’s complete recovery.

Caring for the Pups

After a successful whelping, caring for the newborn puppies is a crucial step to ensure their survival and well-being. Here are some steps to consider when caring for the pups:

  • Ensure Proper Nutrition: The first few weeks of life are when the puppies grow the most, and they will need sufficient nutrients to do so. The dam’s milk is the best source of nutrition for the puppies, so ensure that the mother is getting adequate nutrition to produce good quality milk. Additionally, monitor the puppies’ weight to ensure they are gaining weight at a healthy rate.
  • Monitor for any Health Issues: Newborn puppies are susceptible to a variety of illnesses, so it’s important to keep a close eye on them. Watch for any signs of distress such as lethargy, lack of appetite, or difficulty breathing. In case of any issues, it’s recommended to consult a veterinarian.
  • Keep Them Warm: Puppies are unable to regulate their body temperature for the first few weeks of their lives. Keep them warm by providing a heat source and monitoring their temperature often. The ideal temperature for the puppies is around 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Encourage Socialization: Puppies that are socialized early on are more likely to become well-adjusted adult dogs. Encourage socialization by gently handling the puppies and allowing them to interact with different people as well as display different objects and textures for them to investigate.
  • Monitor their Elimination: Keep a close eye on the puppies’ elimination. In the first few weeks of life, the mother will typically lick the puppy’s genital area to encourage them to eliminate. If any pup fails to eliminate or if any discharge is noticed, having a conversation with a veterinarian can be a good option.

Caring for newborn puppies can be time-consuming, but it is an incredibly rewarding experience. Keeping them healthy, warm, and socialized will help them thrive and prepare them for life as a beloved member of your family.

Caring for the Dam

After whelping, it is essential to pay attention to the dam’s needs as well. The following table lists some necessary steps to take when caring for the mother dog or dam:

Check the Dam’s Vital SignsIt is crucial to check the mother dog’s vital signs after whelping, such as her temperature, pulse, and breathing rate, to ensure that she is recovering adequately. Monitor her for any unusual symptoms or behavior.
Monitor Her Milk ProductionAfter whelping, the dog’s body produces colostrum, a nutrient-rich milk that is vital for the puppies’ immune system. Make sure that the dam is producing enough milk and that the puppies are nursing correctly for their proper development.
Provide Proper Nutrition and WaterThe mother dog needs proper nutrition and hydration after whelping to support milk production and her overall health. Feed her nutrient-rich food, and make sure that she has access to plenty of fresh and clean water.
Keep the Whelping Area CleanThe whelping area should be kept clean and disinfected to prevent infections. Replace soiled bedding and disinfect the area regularly to maintain a healthy environment for the mother and her puppies.
Exercise and SocializationThe mother dog needs to recuperate after whelping, but it is still essential to provide her with opportunities for exercise and socialization. Give her short walks and let her spend time with her puppies and other dogs gradually.

Remember that caring for the mother dog or dam is as crucial as caring for the puppies. Ensure that she is healthy and comfortable, and if any unusual symptoms persist, consult with a veterinarian.

Follow-Up Vet Visit

After whelping, it’s important to schedule a follow-up vet visit to ensure the health of both the mother and the newborn puppies. This visit should take place within the first few days after the puppies are born. During the visit, the veterinarian will check the dam’s overall health, including her uterus, to make sure there are no signs of infection or any issues that could lead to health problems.

Here are some of the important things that may be checked during the follow-up vet visit:

  • The mother’s overall health and post-birth recovery
  • Health and strength of the puppies
  • Umbilical cords of the puppies and any signs of infection
  • Milk production and any signs of mastitis, which is an infection of the mammary glands
  • The vet may also give the mother and puppies a flea and deworming treatment if needed
  • They may also provide advice on the vaccinations, nutrition, and exercise for both the mother and puppies

If there are any concerns about the health of the mother or the puppies observed during this visit, the vet may advise on further action, like prescribing medication, scheduling more frequent check-ups, or giving extra advice on the care of the puppies. This visit is crucial to ensure that both the mother and the puppies are healthy and thriving.


After everything is said and done, it is important to remember that whelping can be both an exciting and stressful time for both the dam and the owner. However, by keeping a close eye on the signs of labor and being prepared for all of the stages of whelping, you can help ensure a successful delivery for both the dam and her puppies.

It is important to always prioritize the safety and health of your Cocker Spaniel and her puppies throughout the entire whelping process. If at any point you feel unsure or uneasy about anything, do not hesitate to seek the advice of a veterinarian.

Remember that whelping can be a messy and unpredictable process, but with proper preparation and care, the process can also be a wonderful and rewarding experience. So, enjoy the journey and relish in the joy that your new litter of Cocker Spaniel puppies will undoubtedly bring to your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does it mean when my Cocker Spaniel’s temperature drops?

A temperature drop can indicate that labor is imminent. Normal body temperature for a dog is between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. As the body prepares for labor, the temperature can drop to 99 degrees or lower.

2. How can I tell if my Cocker Spaniel is nesting?

Nesting behavior can include digging, circling, and scratching at bedding or other areas to create a comfortable spot for whelping. Your Cocker Spaniel may also try to hide away in a secluded area or become more protective of her space.

3. What if my Cocker Spaniel loses her appetite before labor?

A decreased appetite is normal before labor and is caused by the body redirecting energy towards the birthing process. However, it’s important to make sure your Cocker Spaniel is still drinking water to stay hydrated.

4. Why is my Cocker Spaniel restless and pacing?

Restlessness can be a sign that labor is approaching. Your Cocker Spaniel may pace, pant, and be unable to get comfortable. This is normal and can last for several hours before true labor begins.

5. What kind of discharge should I expect during whelping?

A clear or slightly pink discharge is normal throughout labor. However, if the discharge is thick, green, or foul-smelling, it’s important to contact your veterinarian immediately as this can indicate an infection.

6. When should I take my Cocker Spaniel to the vet before whelping?

A prebirth vet visit should be scheduled around 57 days into the pregnancy to ensure the health of the mother and puppies. Your veterinarian can also advise you on whelping preparation and provide guidance in case of complications.

7. What should I include in my Cocker Spaniel’s whelping box?

A whelping box should be large enough for your Cocker Spaniel to move around easily, but not so large that the puppies can get lost or cold. Soft bedding, heating pads, and clean towels should also be provided to keep the puppies warm and comfortable.

8. What should I include in my emergency kit for whelping?

Essential items for your emergency kit include clean towels, scissors, dental floss for tying off umbilical cords, a thermometer, and contact information for your veterinarian. Additional items like puppy formula and a heating pad can also be included.

9. How long does each stage of labor typically last?

Stage one can last for up to 24 hours and includes nesting behavior, restlessness, and a decrease in appetite. Stage two is the active labor stage where puppies are born and can last between 4-24 hours. Stage three involves the delivery of the placentas and can last up to 12 hours.

10. Are there any post-whelping complications to watch out for?

Complications can include infection, hemorrhaging, mastitis in the mother, and fading puppy syndrome in the puppies. It’s important to monitor the mother and puppies closely and contact your veterinarian immediately if there are any concerns or unusual symptoms.


Britta Thygesen

Britta Thygesen

A passionate dog owner and a full-time certified dog trainer. Aspires to make DogCareHacks a go-to place for all the doggo info. Shares personal experience and professional knowledge.

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