Having puppies is an enjoyable experience. Lots of fun and the joy in seeing the litter develop immeasurable. However it is not all rosy. It is hard work, emotional and at times very stressful!
Planning a litter can take quite some time. Getting the health tests in place before committing to the mating. Once the results are received, they must be used to decide whether to proceed and how. The results need to compliment the stud dogs health test results. (the DNA results in particular).
The mating needs precision planning. As timing the correct day can be hard with a bitch who is flagging for every dog she sees from day one of her cycle. It is important to remain in contact with the stud dog owner so they know your bitch has come into season and some tentative dates can be worked around.
I would reccommend using a quantitive progesterone test to establish the most fertile day, then you can visit the stud dog. The fertile time is variable from day 8 through till day 21. Be prepared to see your pet dog mounted by an eager male. The foreplay may not be what you are expecting! (ie none!) A bitch can sometimes turn on the stud dog so be prepared for the owner to ask you to muzzle your dog. Hopefully a succesful mating will take place. The majority of dogs will “tie” during the mating. Once this happened they can stay locked together for roughly twenty minutes or sometimes longer.
Before mating – at start of season.
Check wormer and vaccine up to date. (worm using Drontal Plus).
Give folic acid once a day until puppies arrive.
After Mating, consider pregnancy diagnosis methods.
A vet can palpate for individual puppies from approx 23 days up until 30 days. After this time the puppies then are too big to feel as individuals.
Ultrasound will confirm pregnancy but not necessarily numbers of puppies. Ultrasound can be done from 28 days onwards.
My preference is to scan as sometimes a bitch may have problems such as a phantom pregnancy, pyometra or a tumour which may all be hidden by a supposed unconfirmed pregnancy.
Pregnancy can usually be detected by the owner from 5 weeks onwards (pointy teats and some weight gain, also watch how the bitch eats, as the ribs tend to change shape too!)
Upon Pregnancy Diagnosis
Wk 7. Put the bitch on to a good brand of dry PUPPY food and increase the levels of food at WEEK SEVEN. I would only increase initially from two meals to three, then up to four when the pups are born. Dependant on number of pups as to how much food the bitch will require when the puppies have arrived.
Wk 8. Give the bitch raspberry leaf tea tablets, one daily till the puppies are a week old. This helps tone the uterus for birth and also will help condition the uterus, for contractions during labour and also after when the uterus has to retract back to normal size.
***Save all the newspapers you can get your hands on!***
Whelping Kit – You will need:- apart from nerves of steel…:-
Medium size towels & Flannels
Kitchen Towel, toilet paper & Wipes
Notebook & pen (with vets number noted in it – so handy to find!!)
Small Nail clippers for keeping the pups claws trim at about 5 days old onwards
Caustic pencil (for stemming blood on clipped claws!)
Homeopathic Labour Kit (not everyone’s choice!… I think Arnica 200c is a MUST!)
Glucose tablets. Give 3-4 tablets during the labour, glucose powder to put in water.
Indigestion tablets – for the calcium!! (not essential but easier to have ready – just in case)
Nasal Bulb – for removing fluid from a puppy to enable it to breathe
Dopram – puppy reviver MUST BE KEPT IN THE FRIDGE UNTIL NEEDED
Hot Box – For the puppies during the labour – vetbed & fleece blanket, a hot water bottle or heat bag.
Heat Mat for the whelping box
Nutriplus gel (x3 tubes for Labrador sized dogs)
Puppy Milk Formula
Colustrum and Puppy Vitamins
Bottles in case you end up rearing the litter
Chlorhexidine scrub & nail brush
Syringes (10ml) – several. You can buy from your vet teats that fit on the syringe.
You will also need later on:
Drontal Puppy Suspension wormer, Weaning Bowls, Puppy Toys, Puppy Pen
The Start of Whelping
When the bitch starts scratching up the carpet then it is time to encourage her to “nest” in her whelping box. Put plenty of newspapers in for her to go crazy with and encourage her instincts by letting her nest. At this point there is little point in having vetbed in the box. As when the puppies come the bedding will just get wet and dirty. So it simply creates lots of washing! Let her have the first puppy where she wants to have it and then encourage her back to the box.
Have handy your notebook to note down the times of panting, contractions and pushing, the times of when the pups arrive, if the placenta is present or retained.
Any other notes that may help you later to refer back to.
Make sure water is available during the labour. (you could add glucose powder to it or goats milk – to replenish reserves and offer some energy)
Keep handy the dopram and a flannel. When a puppy arrives, the bitch should automatically tear the bag and the umbilical cord. If she does not then tear the bag for her but you must allow the bitch to lick the puppy for bonding, to stimulate the breathing and to dry the puppy. At this point the bitch will tear the umbilical cord & also eat the placenta. (for big litters I wouldn’t let the bitch eat all of the placentas but it is important they eat some – as it provides energy & also stimulates the contractions to keep coming). You shouldn’t automatically need the umbilical clamps.
Reviving a Puppy
First of all try and remain calm. If a puppy has been born and is not breathing, hold it in your hand tilted with its head downwards. Supporting its head and neck between your index finger and middle finger, with a firm downwards movement try and make any fluids flow down out of the puppy’s mouth. Then apply one or two drops of dopram UNDER the tongue. Then relatively vigorously rub your puppy with the flannel. Keeping the head pointing downwards. Do not give up on your pup. Work on reviving your puppy for at least half an hour (or more!). Administering Dopram approximately 3-4 minutely intervals. (at this point the placenta is still likely to be attached via the cord to the puppy, so take care to support the placenta too).
If you have a retained placenta I would use the forceps to clamp off the umbilical cord. Then apply the little blue clamps on the side of the puppy – approx 2cm away from its tummy. This will enable you to then cut between the forceps and the blue clamp. The puppy will then have the clamp on for a short period of time, whilst the forceps will still be holding the cord that is attached to the retained placenta. KEEP HOLD OF THE FORCEPS as the contractions are so strong it can almost feel like they will get pulled back inside again. You may find the next puppy does not push the placenta out as you might expect. As puppies tend to come from alternating horns of the uterus. So it would be the puppy after that, who will hopefully push the placenta through. If this doesn’t happen then you will have to consult a vet for further advice once the whelping is finished.
If you are finding labour is slow and just not getting started it does help to take the bitch for a walk in the garden keeping a torch trained on her at ALL times, if she squats for a wee – check, double check that she didn’t have a puppy in the garden.
(keep a towel or flannel on you when outside!). Alternatively a small car ride can be useful. Over a few bumps to help move the pups down the birth canal!
When she has finished having puppies offer the bitch a light meal.
After the Birth
Check all the puppies for cleft paletes, hare lips, umbilical hernias and also some can be born without a bottom. Weigh them (grams or ounces – I prefer ounces myself!).
You do not need to give your puppies any supplements if they are taking milk from the bitch. If she doesn’t have milk then clearly you have to be prepared to bottle feed.
The bitches calorie intake needs to be dramatically increased. So in effort to not overload the bitch with too much bulky food I also supplement with nutri-plus gel. As this will help prevent diarrhoea from too much food to digest.
I tend to give the bitch good quality puppy food four times a day, with additions of nutri-plus gel & slices of cheese. Goats milk is also useful. If it is a large litter then you would need to give the bitch more than four meals a day, even a meal during the night. If the bitch develops diarrhoea then natural yoghurt and eggs will help.
The bitch will have contractions after the birth and you may see her nesting after the birth too. This is to help her uterus contract back down to size. The bitch will have a reddy/brown discharge for a couple of weeks after the birth.
This guide is a very basic guide to whelping. It by no manner of means incorporates what to do when things go wrong! I would recommend before anyone considers breeding to ensure they have a mentor who they can approach for advice at any time of the day or night. I would also recommend people do their homework In researching what could go wrong so they know what to look out for and act accordingly.
Breeding is not a way of making money easily. It is very hardwork. This hardwork can be rewarded with healthy puppies with satisfied new owners. BUT it could also be a disaster from start to finish resulting in large vet bills and the loss of the bitch or the puppies.
I urge anyone to really consider the pro’s and cons before breeding their bitch. To ensure the health tests are in place before a mating has taken place. You have to be willing to deal with your bitch in a fashion you would never have considered before.
Breeding is not for the faint hearted. You have to have morals about you, the ability to turn buyers away if they are not suitable. You must act responsibly throughout the entire process.
The health of my dogs and my pups is of paramount importance to me. I put everything “emotionally, practically and financially” into my charges and I would hope anyone reading this article will have the same ethos in caring for their own dogs.