Welcoming a litter of “choir-singing” puppies to a household is something always an exciting time for the entire family! The excitement builds as imaginations run wild as to the colour, markings and temperament of the “future champions”. As all responsible breeders know, there is a huge commitment, care and cost involved in rearing a litter of puppies responsibly. This investment of time, knowledge & care is what distinguishes trusted breeders from the rest. The welfare of mammy & puppies is always to the fore. In this article we look at the 5 key Veterinary points as we plan for a litter of puppies….
- Before Deciding to Breed – Is breeding from this dog a good idea, and if so, does it give the breed and its puppies the best chance in life? We sometimes need to work closely with our vet in delivering the answers here to what are probably the most fundamentally important questions for any breeder to answer. A few heads are better than one!
- Nutrition – When mammy is in pup, it is really important that we keep an eye on the amount of good quality food being fed. As the pregnancy is developing, the embryo is growing (doubling every 7 days in size) and requires more calories, which need to come from mammy and her food! In the last third of pregnancy when most growth occurs; we need to gradually increase the amount mammy eats by 30-50%.
- Exercise – Traditionally we advise to limit all strenuous exercise in the first 2 weeks after mating. The implantation of the embryo into the uterine walls occurs usually around Day (15-18) so less stress enhances the chances of this biological trigger. As vets we also advise that exercise is reduced in the last trimester (1/3) of pregnancy. As the tummy swells, it puts pressure on the diaphragm and chest wall which means mammy will need to work a lot harder to breathe if exercising. Multiple short walls are much better.
- Vet Visits – A pre-natal visit to your vet is always a great idea. It can be timed for a yearly booster vaccination and your vet can also make sure that the pregnancy is coming along as expected. If you want to see how the puppies are developing, an ultrasound view can be performed. It is also a good idea to worm Mammy in the last trimester of pregnancy, as this reduces the burden of hookworm & roundworm which will be transferred via the milk to the puppies.
- Immediately Before & During Birth – This is without doubt the most nerve-racking time for all involved!!
As a rule of thumb, I advise people to avoid the temptation to intervene too early! More complication occurs because of this than as a result of actual dystocia (difficult births). Ensure Mammy has been exposed to a whelping box in the weeks before delivery. As she goes into labour, allow her to have a quite dark place un-disturbed. If you can view from a distance that is preferable. Each puppy will be delivered in its sac, and Mammy will rupture this as she will the umbilical cord. If there are 2 hours or more between consecutive puppies, call your vet as this indicates a possible emergency. If at all possible, have an experienced person alongside you during the birth.