Your golden retriever is about to deliver her first litter. It seems like it was just yesterday when you brought her home as a tiny puppy that barely fit in one hand.
As she grew, she lived up to her breed’s reputation of being delightful, easygoing, and loyal. Now you are eagerly anticipating the arrival of her litter of goldens.
The first thing you must prepare for is the number of puppies your dog will birth. How many puppies do golden retrievers have? The litter size for a golden retriever can vary from four to twelve, however, the average is eight puppies.
There are exceptions to the average. Land of Pure Gold Foundation, an organization that provides funds for cancer research and treatment for working dogs, documented a litter of 17 golden retriever puppies born in one litter in Winnipeg. There have also been cases where the dog only had one or two pups.
Factors That Contribute to Litter Size
Golden retrievers are considered a large breed dog, and genetics often contribute to litter size. Large breed dogs tend to deliver larger litters than small breed dogs.
Here is a list of other factors that may affect litter size.
- The dog is not bred at the proper time.
- The sire is too old and does not produce enough sperm.
- One of the parents could have a physical defect or injury.
- Some of the eggs may not have been fertilized.
- If the dog is in labor too long, some puppies may be stillborn.
Can I Find Out Ahead of Time How Many Puppies My Golden Retriever Will Have?
It is possible to find out how many puppies will be in your dog’s litter by having an ultrasound done by a veterinarian. Twenty-five days after gestation, an ultrasound machine can be used to generate an image of your dog’s uterus.
The ultrasound is safe for both mother and puppies. However, puppies can sometimes position themselves in a way that the image might miss them.
A more accurate count can be obtained from an X-ray 45-55 days after gestation. At this time, the puppies’ bones are harder, and the vet can also make sure they are in the proper position. But, even with an X-ray, you may get one or two surprises on the big day!
Essential Items for Your Dog and Her Litter
In most cases, your golden retriever will require minimal help from you during the whelping (birthing) process.
You just need to be close in case of complications and be prepared for the puppies as they make their entrance. Nature takes care of the rest. The following supplies will help the delivery go as smooth as possible.
The whelping box, also known as a nesting box, is designed specifically to protect puppies during the birth process and while they are very young.
It keeps them safe from being smothered or crushed by the mother as well as keeps them warm. Some whelping boxes have doors for easy access.
Puppies need warmth. They are not able to regulate their body temperature until a few weeks after they are born.
Puppies are accustomed to cuddling in the mother’s womb and look for that same warmth after they are born. A heat lamp will help provide that sense of warmth.
It’s important to monitor your golden retriever’s temperature approximately 2 weeks before her due date. If her temperature drops (98 – 99°), it usually means she will deliver within 24 hours.
This is a great replacement for towels, newspaper, and blankets. It makes the cleanup process much easier. Most whelping pads are washable and can be used in the future for bathroom training.
Of course, you want to weigh those adorable golden puppies! You can use the scale each day to make sure the puppies are maintaining a healthy weight.
Additional Items to Have Handy
It is also good to have these items close by as you will most likely need them.
Vaseline – use on a thermometer to take rectal temperature if one of the puppies gets stuck.
Unwaxed dental floss –ties off the umbilical cord.
Aspiration bulb – suction the puppies’ mouth nose and throat to help clear the airways.
Medical scissors – cut the umbilical cord.
Hemostat – clamp the umbilical cord to allow blood to clot.
Preparing for the Birth of Your Golden Retriever’s Litter
As your dog gets closer to delivery, it is important to monitor her closely. Keep her away from other dogs and people, if possible. Any trauma to her stomach could cause stillborn puppies. Now is the time to put your dog in the whelping box.
She may be slightly uncomfortable and anxious but will settle down once the first puppy is out. There are three stages to a dog’s labor and signs to look for during each stage.
Stage 1 – Pre-labor Stage
Stage one can be stressful, but certainly not the worst part of the process. You should expect:
- Decreased appetite
- Quiet – may want to be left alone
- May want to constantly follow you around
- Temperature drop to 98°and below
- May not want to drink water
- Frequent urination
- Scratching the floor
Stage 2 – Whelping
Stage two is when the pain begins to kick in. You should expect:
- Contractions are evident by noticeable panting
- Frequent licking of her vulva
- May have a loose bowel movement
- Contractions are harder, and stomach will tighten and release
- She may make sounds like crying or groaning
- She may stay quiet and keep looking at her vulva
- She will push out a shiny, dark water sac before the first puppy
- Your golden retriever may stand up during the whelping process
Stage 3 – Care of the Umbilical Cord and Expulsion of the Placenta
Stage three is the more calming aspect, as this is near the end of the birth cycle. You should expect:
- Chews the umbilical cord from each puppy
- Licks the afterbirth from the puppies
- May still be whelping more puppies during this process
- Pushes out the afterbirth sometimes right after the puppy
How to Help Your Golden Retriever During the Whelping Process
Your dog knows what to do but sometimes needs a little help. Each puppy is born in a membrane sac, and that sac must be removed immediately so that the puppy can breathe.
Your dog may take a few minutes then do it on her own, but if she doesn’t you can step in and help. Often, she may still be busy whelping other puppies.
The sac is easy to open. You can start from the puppies’ head and rip it all the way down. Many times, it breaks while the puppy is coming down the vaginal canal.
How Long Does the Whelping Process Take?
Be patient! Golden retrievers are known for long whelping periods, from 2 to 20 hours. A large litter takes a while to deliver, and it is not uncommon for your dog to need a short break in between whelping.
If she seems to be extremely weak or in a lot of pain for an extended period, it is a good idea to consult with your vet.
Your dog will still try and tend to the newborns even while delivering. Sometimes you might need to gently put the puppies to the side within view to allow their mother room to continue the whelping process. She will not take kindly to her babies being out of her sight!
After the Birth
Can you imagine delivering eight babies? Your golden retriever will be exhausted, so allow her to rest and monitor her closely. If you notice a lack of appetite, no interest in the litter, a decrease in milk production, or fever, call your vet immediately.
Although she will be busy caring for her puppies, give her plenty of extra love and attention during the next few weeks. It is a good idea to schedule an appointment for your dog after whelping just to be sure all is well.