I started to write an article on 'natural' puppy whelping and rearing, but quickly realized I incorporate both natural and traditional practices to achieve the best results and success. Good animal husbandry includes what is safest and what works most efficiently. In my years of puppy whelping and rearing, I have found you need both methodologies to accomplish this. In this newsletter, I have compiled some of my best tips and ideas for successful whelping and rearing and hope you find them useful and helpful.
Important Notes: Breeding dogs and raising puppies is not for the faint of heart! Before you embark on breeding and puppyhood, I recommend the following:
Additionally, there are some important ethical things to consider.
Nutrition and the Importance of Pre- and Post Natal Supplements
The best success for a healthy litter is starting out with a healthy and happy mother. This starts with a quality diet and some supplements to help regulate hormones and prevent nutrition-related birth defects. I always recommend a fresh food raw diet that is full of variety because raw foods offer the highest bioavailable nutrients. By providing a variety of meats and animal-based proteins, you insure your dog gets all the nutrients they need. I recommend using at least four types of meat in any diet, such as chicken, beef, pork and lamb. Other choices can include turkey, rabbit, wild game meat such as elk and venison and fish, such as canned mackerel, salmon or sardines. Not canned tuna, as is does not contain steamed bones and the mercury count is higher.
The supplements I suggest include vitamin E, vitamin C with bioflavonoids, B vitamins, vitamin D and vitamin A. Vitamin D helps with the uptake of calcium, so it is a necessary vitamin during pregnancy and lactation. The Bertes Daily Blend is a convenient source for all these vitamins and it contains kelp and alfalfa for beneficial phytonutrients and trace minerals. Also important are omega 3 fatty acids. Fish Oil capsules are a great source for the omega 3 fatty acids. Vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids are essential for hormone regulation, which helps with fertility. Fish oil also helps with neonatal brain and eye development. Lastly, Probiotics are important because they help keep the good flora and fauna bacterium balanced in her digestive tract.
It is very important to provide the nutritious diet and needed supplements from the moment you know you are planning to breed your girl, not from the time you do the actual breeding. You should feed normal rations up until the last 3 weeks of pregnancy and even at that point, you will only increase the amount of found by ½ of the amount of the regular diet. Then two weeks before whelping time, I also start giving my girls goats milk and plain yogurt once or twice daily.
Timing, Ovulation and Success!
Timing is everything when you want to insure pregnancy. I always advocate using progesterone tests to determine when the timing is just right whether you are doing a natural breeding, using fresh chilled semen, or an AI with frozen semen. Timing is the essence to ensure proper fertilization. No matter what the quality or amount of the semen, if the timing is off you have wasted your time. There is about a 48-hour window of fertility and running a few progesterone tests will insure a much better chance of achieving your goal. As soon as I notice color, I run a baseline test at about 5-7 days into the heat cycle and continue every other day until my veterinarian tells me the time is right. One breeding at the right time can work with two at the very most. Remember, you have a 48-hour window! Semen can live for several days fresh and 2-5 days chilled or thawed frozen.
Now is the anxious time to sit, wait and hope! At 22 to 28 days past the breeding, I take my girl to my veterinarian to have an ultrasound done. Fetal heartbeats can be detected at this early stage. Once I know the goal is been accomplished, I keep my girl from stress and travel. At about 8 week's into the pregnancy, I may have a radiograph done to get an approximate idea of the number of puppies present.
At week 7, I set up her whelping box in my bedroom (always keep them close!) and start letting her get used to it by dressing it up with bedding and some of her favorite toys and chews. I make sure I have an available veterinarian to help me with any problems and a friend or two who will be able to help with the whelping!
A few days before my girls are due to whelp, I purchase a DAP collar and put it on them. This type of collar is made with pheromones from lactating bitches and it helps to calm her, helps build acceptance for the upcoming puppies and helps with milk production. I have found these collars available at most Pet Smart and Pet Co stores. You can also purchase them online.
The following is not a complete list, it is a useful guide and does include most of the essential items you will want to have on hand.
The thermometer helps determine whelping time. I take my girl's temperature twice a day during the week prior to the whelping date. When her temperature drops down to or below 98 degrees, the puppies will be coming within 24-36 hours! It is very helpful to keep a flow chart on this information!
Bath and Hand Towels:
These are for the whelping box and for drying newborn puppies!
Heating Pad and Laundry Hamper:
In the event the puppies start coming fast, the laundry basket is a place to stow them as Mom does her work and the heating pad keeps them warm. It is very important to make sure the heating pad is at LOW and is covered with a towel or two. You do not want to burn the puppies!
The Bulb Syringe is used to remove any excess moisture from the newborns nose and mouth, if needed.
Hemostats, Dental Floss and Dull Scissors:
I use the hemostat to clamp the umbilical cord and the dental floss to tie off the cord. Then I use dull scissors to cut the cord once it is tied.
KY Jelly and Latex Gloves:
These two items are useful if the birth canal gets dry or you need to help a puppy out. NEVER attempt to pull a puppy out without good instruction on how to do so from your Veterinarian!
Large Plastic Bags, Paper Towels and Disinfectant:
The plastic bags come in handy for disposing of soiled items. The paper towels and disinfect are useful for keeping things clean as you go.
Notebook, Pen and Many Colors of Rickrack or Ribbon!
The notebook is to log times of birth, sex, weight and anything notable about the birth. The colored ribbon is to put on the puppies so you can identify each one.
Non-Alcohol Baby Wipes:
These are used to clean the puppies and to help stimulate them to eliminate the first few days. You will find these very helpful if you have a big litter or a mom who doesn't do such a great job cleaning her puppies)
French Catheter Tubing, 10 CC Syringe, Lactates Ringer Solution, Needle and Tubing:
These are needed for the more sophisticated tasks, but may be necessary if you plan to raise the litter. The French tubing and syringe are for tube feeding, if necessary. The ringers, needle, and syringe are for administering subcutaneous fluids to the puppies, if needed. You will need Veterinarian's assistance to learn how to do tube feeding or give subcutaneous fluids. Be sure you ask your veterinarian for assistance so you can learn how to do these before the litter comes!
Calcium and Energy:
Both of these are very important during labor and whelping. To make sure my girl gets both, I give her plain whole milk yogurt, goat's milk and vanilla ice cream!
And Don't Forget YOU! . . .
Coffee pot, snacks, a good book, a charged cell phone and a list of important phone numbers for your friends, your veterinarian, and the stud dog owner.
We will continue with Puppy Whelping and Rearing next month and will cover 'The Time is Here', 'Whelping the Litter', 'Feeding Mom Post Whelping and Lactation' and 'Puppies Need Groceries and Warmth to Survive!' I hope you have enjoyed this part and I look forward to sharing more with you next month!
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