CwnAnnwn Breeding Considerations

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Whelping the Litter

On day 58 after the first breeding, you should start taking your female's temperature about three times a day. A female's temperature will drop from around 101.4 F/38.6 C to about 99/37.2 C or below a few hours (sometimes up to 24 hours) before she is ready to deliver. A fluctuation in temperature is very normal but not a dramatic drop to below 99F. The temperature drop is the best indicator of imminent whelping. Other signs of imminent whelping are restlessness, discomfort, licking, nesting and looking at her vulva. The female may refuse food prior to whelping as well. She will possibly pant heavily.

These are all signs that whelping is very close. Call your veterinarian or breeder and let them know that the whelping has started so that they will be ready to answer any questions or give advice if you have any problems. The female will start pushing and straining at some point and may start digging at the bedding. She will pant heavily between contractions. The contractions should be visible in the muscles along her back. You will see them start at the top of her body and move down.

If the labor continues for an hour or so without producing a puppy, take the female go outside and walk around. This can help her labor progress. Also, the urge to push can feel, to the female, as if she has to defecate. A well-trained female will not want to mess in the house and may fight the urge to push, delaying her labor. If the female is willing to go outside, keep a very close eye on her. Bring a flashlight with you at night. You may want to put her on a lead so she cannot hide in trees or bushes. A maiden female may not know what to do with a new puppy and may abandon it out there.

If labor continues for more than three hours without producing a puppy, call your vet immediately! You will most likely need to take the female in to the vet for emergency care.

If the labor is normal, the contractions will come faster and the female will start pushing seriously. The water sac will appear, possibly break, and the puppy should be delivered shortly afterwards. The placenta may or may not be ready to be delivered yet. You can gently pull on the cord to see if it will come but you should never, never pull on the puppy to check. You may pull the cord off the puppy and risk an umbilical hernia.

The female may want to eat the placentas. Opinions vary about whether or not this is a good idea. Some breeders think it's good nutrition for the female when she's working so hard. Others think that the female may get diarrhea from eating to many of them. Some breeders compromise by letting the female eat one and then keeping the rest away from her. You just want to make sure you have a placenta delivered for each puppy born. If the female should retain a placenta, she is at risk of having a serious infection.

If you want to keep the placentas away from her, you will need to clear the water sac away from the puppy's nose and mouth first. Hold the puppy upside down to help drain fluid and mucus from its nose and throat. Rub the puppy very vigorously, even roughly, with a dry, clean towel until the puppy squeaks. This rubbing will both clean the puppy and stimulate it to start breathing.

Many breeders allow the female to clean the puppy and chew off the umbilical cord herself. Others worry that the female may chew the cord off too close to the puppy resulting in an umbilical hernia and want to deal with this themselves just to be safe. If you do this yourself, you will need to tie it off with plain dental floss and cut the cord about 1" away from the body. Dip the tip and the floss in Betadine solution (or another disinfectant like iodine). I use a clamp then and tie off with the dental floss. It will dry up and drop off in a day or so.

Once the pup is breathing and clean, you will want to check the puppy out carefully, weigh and measure the pup, check for abnormalities such as cleft palate, and identify the puppy in some way. Ribbon works good or nail polish. Measure and cut a ribbon piece large enough to tie loosely around the puppy's neck or paint each puppies nail a different colour. Re-apply every few days. This is only necessary if your puppies are very similar. Other ways to mark the puppies include clipping bits of their fur on different parts of their bodies. I find I can identify each easily from their unique markings.

If the female is having a break between puppies, you should let the puppy nurse. The colostrom (milk produced in the first 24 hours) is extremely important for the puppies. It carries immunities that protect the puppies from infection. The puppy's nursing will also stimulate the female's contractions allowing her labor to progress. Take a chance to rest and relax while you can. Don't worry, however, if you can't get the puppies on the female right away. They can go several hours without getting milk with no problem. Once labor starts up again, move the puppies into to the incubator box for safety while the dam is distracted.

Very often there is a long break between puppies about half way through whelping. You can take the female outside. She may not want to leave the puppies, but you should encourage her. You need to keep a close eye on her to make sure she doesn't deliver a puppy out there and not know what to do with it.

The puppies can come as quickly as 15 minutes apart or as long as an hour apart. If the female goes more than an hour and you are think there are more puppies, call your vet! There may be a puppy stuck and you will want to ensure that you get it out as soon as possible. Failure to do so will result in puppy death and possible distress for your female.

When your female is finished whelping, you will notice her calm down. Her breathing will slow and the contractions will stop. You should take the female and her puppies to the vet within the next four or five hours if at all possible. Try not to go any longer than 24 hours without having the pups and female checked out. If the female has a retained puppy or placenta, she is at risk for serious infection. If any of the puppies have cleft palates or other deformities, you need to know as soon as possible. Such puppies are usually humanely euthanized by your vet as they are generally not likely to live.

There are a many problems you may run into. Keep your vet and/or emergency vet's phone number handy in case you run into a situation you aren't prepared for. If you have any question about what is happening or what you should do next, do not hesitate to call the vet. You really are dealing with life or death situations and it's much better to be safe than sorry. Ideally, you should have an experienced breeder there to help you through your first litter.

Some breeders suggest keeping some drugs on hand to help the female should she have trouble delivering. You can discuss this with your vet but this can be very dangerous. These drugs are very strong and can cause serious complications if the problem is a large puppy blocking the birth canal. The best way is to keep in contact with your vet and take your female in if necessary. Access to ultrasounds, x-rays and proper usage of drugs can save your female and her puppies.

There are some alternative medications that many breeders use and recommend now which have similar results as some of these drugs without the risk of injury. You can search the internet or ask an experienced breeder about these methods. No traditional or alternative medications should be administered by an inexperienced breeder.

You might see is a female that starts labor but doesn't proceed to delivering. Ttry walking her around outside to see if that helps her relax enough to start pushing. If that doesn't work in about 15 minutes, you can try a technique called "feathering." Put on surgical gloves and apply a small amount of lubricant such as KY Jelly. Gently, gently, gently insert one finger into the female's vulva and gently tickle, or feather, her along the top of her vagina. This may help stimulate stronger contractions. If this doesn't produce a quick result or the female is getting tired at all, call your vet. You will be making a trip in to get some expert care.

The vet will probably want to x-ray or ultrasound your female to determine how many puppies are waiting to be born and whether or not you are dealing with a puppy trying to come out the wrong way. If everything looks good, the vet will probably give your female injections of calcium and/or oxitocin. These injections often stimulate strong contractions and get the labor moving along. If they don't work, or if you are dealing with an overly large puppy or a breech, the vet will probably recommend a cesarian section. C-sections should not be taken lightly but they are often unavoidable. They are very expensive and put the life of the mother and puppies at great risk. You should decide at this time whether or not you want the vet to spay your female during the C-section. Sometimes, there won't be any choice. If the uterus is badly damaged or infected, they will have to spay your female at this time, or recommend spaying at a later date when the blood vessels arenít so large. Once you reach the point of a c-section, many of the decisions will be taken out of your hands.

Discussing this possibility with your vet ahead of time is a good idea so you can find out what procedures they use and their policies on reviving puppies as they are delivered. Many vets will not allow you into their examination area, however, some are grateful for the extra hands in reviving puppies. One of the biggest problems with a C-section is the anesthesia given the female. Because the puppies are still attached to her system, they will, inevitably, be anesthetized as well. It is really important that your vet take this into consideration when anesthetizing the female. Ask your vet to administers isoflourene gas. The gas is much easier on the puppies systems and they will be much easier to revive. The recovery of your female will be difficult after a c-section. It is major abdominal surgery and puts a huge strain on her system. However, she should still be able to care for and nurse her litter. Your vet will give you detailed instructions for her care. They will often prescribe antibiotics to help her avoid infection. You should be careful administering any antibiotics as they will generally cause both the dam and the pups to have diarrhea.

In some cases you won't have time to get to the vet, an example is when you can't get a puppy breathing. Every puppy should be rubbed vigorously until they squeak and start moving around. Some of them are born with a squeak and don't need any additional help but some puppies need extra help. If the vigorous rubbing doesn't work, you will want to act quickly. The fastest way to get fluid out of the puppy's throat and nose is to hold the puppy firmly and raise it above your head and swing it quickly down between your legs. The centrifugal force can clear the nose and throat. Make sure that you support the puppy's head and neck while you do this so its delicate neck is not damaged. If this doesn't work, you can try using a bulb syringe to aspirate any possible fluid. While you are working on the pup, keep rubbing it vigorously and make sure it stays warm. Hopefully you will be rewarded with that gasp of life and a healthy puppy. There is nothing more rewarding than hearing that first squeak after working on a pup who wasnít breathing.

At some point, however, you will have to give up on a puppy. This is an extremely difficult decision but if you've worked on the puppy for 15 minutes without response, you are unlikely to revive the puppy. Truthfully, I have worked on pups upwards to an hour. Consult with your veterinarian about what to do with the dead puppy. Sadly, this isn't an uncommon event in a whelping.

Again, there is no shame in calling your vet oe breeder for help. If you are unsure what to do or are presented with a situation you or your female don't understand. Get professional help! It is a matter of life and death.

Once the whelping is over, you will be ready to let the new family settle down and get some well-deserved rest. You will need some rest yourself. Make sure the female has relieved herself and gotten some fluids. You might want to give her a sponge bath so she feels clean and fresh. Feeding her chicken broth with rice is a good first meal along with a bit of Barley Water after whelping this will be gentle on her stomach but give her plenty of fluid and nutrition.

A first-time mother may have some serious doubts about these puppies, particularly if the delivery was painful for her. It is extremely important that you get the puppies nursing both for their sake and hers. Put the female on a down-stay, and put the puppies on her. If she growls or complains, just keep her head away from the puppies. She's going to be tired and won't fight you too much. The obvious benefit here is that the pups will get that necessary colostrum which will provide them with their mother's immunities. The added benefit, however, is that the nursing triggers the release of hormones into her bloodstream. These hormones help promote the female's mothering instincts. The more the puppies nurse, the more loving the mother will feel towards them, it is said. Hopefully, the female will settle down and feel content as the puppies nurse. You should still supervise her with the puppies until you are sure she has fully accepted them and her new role.

Information gathered off the WWW, books, experience and advice.

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