Welcoming a new litter of puppies into the world is one of the most exciting times for dog breeders. However, it can also be one of the most stressful and risky if the momma dog runs into trouble during delivery.
While some breeders choose to handle whelping totally on their own, many seek the help and expertise of professional whelping services in order to ensure the best possible care and safety for both the mom and puppies. But this specialized assistance and supervision comes at a price.
How Much Do Whelping Services Cost?
Whelping services base costs range widely from $200 for basic periodic assistance to upwards of $2,000+ for round-the-clock specialty care. Actual total costs depend heavily on supplemental services, complications, and emergencies.
The costs associated with professional whelping care can vary quite significantly depending on a wide variety of influencing factors. These include the specific experience and credentials of the service provider, additional supplemental services offered, geographic location, particular breed needs, and the complexity of each unique whelping situation.
Remember that momma and puppy health are the most important, not the cost.
To give breeders a general idea of cost, here are some averages:
- Basic supervision or periodic checks costs between $200 – $500;
- 12-24 hr. attendance with vet on call costs between $800 – $1500;
- 24/7 on-site professional care costs between $1,500 – $2,500;
- Full-service vet + 24/7 specialist costs $2,000+.
However, experienced breeders caution that you should prepare for unexpected veterinary fees, just in case. Complications could require emergency C-sections ($1,000+), intensive neonatal care, or extra post-whelping support. So, while basic services may start at a few hundred dollars, be ready for your total costs to reach $2,000+ if difficulties arise.
River Retrievers offers whelping services for dogs, with prices ranging from $150 per week for boarding to $500 per week for 10+ puppies.
Carmel Bliss Golden Retrievers LLC offers basic whelping services for $1,000, which includes either boarding of the mother or visits to the mother in her home for up to a week before delivery, and care for the mother and pups for 24 hours post-delivery. For every pup over 10, $100 is added to the total.
Heart and Soul Dog Breeding offers basic whelping services for $1,500, which includes one-day boarding of the mother and care for the mother and pups for up to six puppies. For every pup over six, an additional $100 is added to the total. There are also added travel costs for C-Sections at a veterinarian’s office over 30 miles or a 30-minute drive.
According to a forum discussion, on Retriever Training Forum, the cost of whelping services can range from a basic rate of $200 to splitting the litter profits and costs.
What’s Included in Whelping Services
Whelping services primarily provide supervision and assistance during the birthing process, but many also offer prenatal and postnatal care. Here’s a breakdown of what is often included:
Prenatal Care – Reputable whelping services will often include a variety of prenatal care and support for the pregnant dam in the weeks prior to the due date. Some elements of prenatal care often provided include:
Nutrition Consultation – Providing guidance on optimal nutrition, dietary adjustments, and caloric needs during pregnancy and lactation. Tracking weight gain and growth of the puppies.
Exercise Recommendations – Tailoring exercise routines to provide appropriate activity levels for each trimester. Avoiding over-exertion or high-impact exercise during pregnancy.
General Health Monitoring – Conducting exams to check vitals, weight, and pup development. Screening for potential complications like pregnancy toxemia or vaginal infections.
Whelping Preparation – Advising on preparations like nesting area, supplies, emergency plans, and estimated delivery timeline based on size, breed, and other factors.
Prenatal Veterinary Care – If the provider includes or partners with veterinary staff, they can also conduct exams, lab tests, ultrasounds, and other medical services to monitor momma dog and puppy health, catch problems early, and prescribe any needed treatment.
Delivery Assistance – Of course, the primary service provided by professional whelping assistance is support and care for the dam and puppies during the active birthing process. This can involve:
Birthing Supervision – Monitoring the dam during labor for any signs of abnormality or distress. Being prepared to intervene or alert veterinary staff if emergencies arise.
Assisting with Delivery – Helping reposition puppies, clear airways, untangle umbilical cords, and remove placental sacs as needed. Safely handling and passing off puppies to be revived and cared for.
Newborn Care & Resuscitation – Rubbing and drying off newborn puppies, clearing airways, providing emergency oxygen, or CPR if a puppy is born unresponsive.
Emergency Support – Having access to emergency veterinary care, medications, and equipment in case emergency measures like caesarean sections are required during whelping.
Birthing Area Clean Up – Properly disposing of afterbirth, fluids, soiled supplies, and medical waste after delivery. Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting whelping area.
Postnatal Care – Responsible whelping services typically provide follow-up care and monitoring for both the dam and puppies for a period of time after birth as well. Postnatal care may involve:
Nursing Assistance – Helping weak or rejected puppies nurse, supplementing with bottles if needed, assisting dams with clogged milk ducts, etc.
Newborn Exams – Conducting Neonatal checks for all puppies – weight, temperature, vitals, potential birth defects, etc. First deworming and vaccines.
Supplies – Providing any necessary supplements like colostrum, formula, feeding bottles for supplementation, etc.
Recovery Monitoring – Keeping a close eye on momma dog’s bleeding, uterine discharge, appetite, hydration, milk production, bond with puppies, etc. Looking for signs of complications like eclampsia or metritis.
Extended Care – Some providers even offer 24/7 care for the first days or weeks after delivery to continue assisting with nursing, neonatal care, proper bonding, etc.
Factors Affecting the Cost of Whelping Services
Several factors influence the price a breeder will pay for professional whelping assistance:
Provider’s Experience – those with more whelping experience or specialty veterinary training will charge higher rates. However, they may be worth the price for complicated births.
Location – providers in areas with higher costs of living will have higher fees. Urban breeders pay more than rural.
Supplemental Services – additional prenatal vet care, emergency C-sections, specialized newborn care, and extended postnatal support all add cost.
Breed Size & Needs – large breed and at-risk dogs require more supplies, time, and tailored care, increasing price.
Whelping Difficulties – prolonged deliveries or unexpected complications also drive up the overall cost.
Round-the-Clock Support – 24/7 monitoring and on-call assistance is more expensive than drop-in care.
Choosing a Reputable Whelping Service Provider
To get the best care for your price range, do your research:
- Ask for referrals from trusted breeders in your area
- Verify credentials of vets and specialists
- Look for experience with your specific breed
- Ask about rates and typical costs upfront
- Tour facilities if whelping on-site
- Clarify policies and extras like emergency fees
Avoid “bargain” whelping services that seem too cheap. Paying for quality care from accredited providers is worth it for the health of the puppies. Don’t hesitate to ask plenty of questions too!
Tips for Saving on Whelping Service Costs
While unexpected complications and emergencies may inevitably drive-up whelping costs no matter what, there are some ways breeders can try to minimize expenses for a routine delivery while still working with properly accredited providers and maintaining the highest standards of care.
- Provide Your Own Basic Supplies – Bath towels, nursing liners, heating pads, and basic feeding supplies save on provider markup. But don’t skimp on medical equipment.
- Work With Rural Providers When Possible – If willing to drive a bit, providers in less expensive rural outskirts can offer significant savings versus urban care.
- Have a Game Plan for Transporting Emergencies – Know the route to emergency vet clinics to reduce provider travel fees if quick transport is needed.
- Only Use Specialists Like Neonatal Nurses When High-Risk Cases Call for It – Specialists certainly can improve outcomes but aren’t always mandatory for robust puppies.
- Do Your Own General Postnatal Care for Low-Risk Litters – Providers can coach you through routine newborn care and only come for periodic weight checks or if issues arise.
- Consider Pet Insurance to Cover Unpredictable Emergencies – This can help defray some of the sudden significant costs that may come up for complications.
- Ask For Itemized Invoices – This allows you to understand exactly what services and supplies you are paying for and whether any unnecessary add-ons snuck in.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do veterinary whelping services typically cost?
Veterinary care during whelping ranges from $800 for basic on-call assistance to over $2,000+ for intensive round-the-clock neonatal and emergency care. Extra services like C-sections and hospital stays can also add unexpected expenses.
Are there affordable options for professional whelping assistance?
Yes, independent specialists can provide periodic supervision or on-call assistance starting at $200-$500 which is more affordable than full veterinary care. But they may not be equipped to handle emergencies or complications, so consider insurance and vet access.
When are specialists like neonatal nurses recommended?
They are recommended for high-risk, complicated whelping, or fragile newborn puppies. But for robust puppies born smoothly to a healthy dam, specialists add unnecessary expense in low-risk cases.