The Brood Bitch and Puppies
by Gaines Pet Food Company
Anyone who is about to read this pamphlet is interested in dogs and perhaps already involved in dog activities. Thus, you probably know about the pet overpopulation problem in this country. Statistics are hard to obtain but many of our major cities report upwards of one million dogs and cats destroyed each year. The great majority of these pets are abandoned to their fates because homes are not available for them or they are no longer wanted in the homes they once had. For this reason, we urge you to consider very carefully before breeding your bitch. Why do you want to have puppies? Breeding a litter for “a puppy just like its mother” is no reason to bring four or five more puppies into existence. If you want another dog, adopt one or buy one; you’ll loveit just as much. Having a litter to teach your children the facts of life is not a good reason , nor is having puppies because you think the biutch would like it or because it seems like “fun”.
Don’t overlook the fact that puppy rearing takes time, work, and money. Puppies need adequately sized, secure enclosures indoors. After they are weaned, at about six weeks, it is your responsibility to see that they are fed, kept warm, clean and content. There will be expenses for food after weaning, veterinary fees for immunizations, dewormings, and perhaps other types of treatment, and for advertising when they are of saleable age. Most professional breeders consider themselves fortunate to break even financially.
Above all, puppies need homes, good ones, with responsible owners. Please do not breed your bitch unless you are sure homes are available for her puppies.
If after careful consideration you decide to breed your bitch, this booklet will help you care for her during pregnancy, whelping and while nursing the litter; and in getting the puppies off to a good start in life.
When To Breed
Generally bitches come in season for the first time at around eight months of age but almost always between six months and a year. Individuals, as well as breeds, have variations from the normal twice a year cycle. If she is well grown and at least ten months old, the bitch of a small or medium size breed may be mated on the first season. However, it is usually considered wiser to wait until the second season, approximately six months later. If she is to be bred, it is advisable to do so at least once before the bitch is three years old, although successful first and succeeding litters have been whelped by older bitches.
A bitch may be bred again the following season if she is in good condition, particularly if having a litter has delayed the season to an eight to ten moth span. But raisin a litter of puppies is a considerable drain on the dam, and time should be allowed for her to replace calcium reserves and for the reproductive system to come back to normal. If she is bred twice in a row, the bitch definitely should be skipped her third season and, as a general rule, a litter every other season is plenty; “Misses” (failure to conceive) and puppy losses will be less frequent.
Step to Take Before Breeding
Care of the brood bitch begins before she is bred. She should be in good health, free from any disease, as well as internal and external parasites. This is not only for the sake of the bitch but also to help insure the puppies’ well being, since contagious diseases and some parasites can be passed on from the dam to her litter. If the bitch has worms she should be dewormed before breeding or if it is necessary to deworm her after breeding, be sure your veterinarian is aware of the pregnancy.
If she has fleas, is troubled with a skin condition or other ailment, make every effort to clear it up before she whelps as it may be carried to the puppies and will be aggravated in the dam by the stress of nursing, causing her great discomfort.
Good breeding condition also means the bitch is neither too fat nor too thin. If she is undernourished, the puppies may be weak. A poor start in life shows up later in bone deficiencies or lack of disease resistance. Also, the dams milk supply may be poor or nonexistent if she is thin or undernourished. If fat, she is less likely to conceive and will have exaggerated whelping problems.
A bitch in this condition should be put on a weight control program before breeding to bring her to a desirable weight.
The bitch needs approximately double the normal amount of food during the latter part of pregnancy and about three times as much during lactation.
The Stud Dog
Choose the stude dog well in advance, and notify his owner when you expect to bring or ship the bitch. She should arrive in advance of the scheduled breeding date so that she can become rested and adjusted to her new surroundings and so the stud dog owner can supervise and choose the time for breeding.
When it comes to the actual mating, time is important. Since the length of season may vary between individual bitches, no day arbitrarily can be called the right one. The bitch ordinarily will be in season for 3 weeks, and the period between the 11th to 14th days is usually when the eggs are released from the ovaries. Conception is best insured when breeding takes place during this period. However, she may be ready as early as the 5th day or not until the 20th. Vaginal discharge tends to taper off at this time but a fairly reliable indication is the bitches willingness to stand for the stud dog. She’ll probably fight off his advances earlier or later during the season.
If you have ample time and the stud dog is not in great demand, the bitch may be bred on alternate days from the time she first accepts the stud until she is no longer receptive. However, some bitches never show signs of willingness and have to be force bred, while others will refuse one stud, yet accept another. The vaginal smear method of determining the correct time for breeding, done by your veterinarian, will save “misses” and unnecessary matings.
The Gestation Period
When the bitch shows evidence of being in whelp, usually by the sixth week, the amount of food should be gradually increased until she’s receiving twice the amount of her regular diet, and divided into several meals a day. She usually will develop a ravenous appetite at this point and needs extra food for the puppies’ rapid growth during this period. As she becomes crowded and uncomfortable during the last weeks, her interest in food may decline. In that case, to insure her getting enough food, give a small amount of a good protein source such as meat, milk, cottage cheese, or cooked eggs, in addition to her regular ration. Regularly feeding a small amount of raw or lightly cooked liver is recommended by some authorities for bitches in whelp. The “plus factors” in liver are not completely understood, but are beneficial. However, vary the basic diet as little as possible during gestation and lactation, as the introduction of different food may cause digestive disturbances, particularly harmful at this time.
Exercise during pregnancy should be a matter of moderation. This bitch should not lead an unnaturally quiet life or be forced to exercise more actively than she wishes. Jumping and rough playing with other dogs or with people should be avoided. Although she often will voluntarily join such activities, this should be prevented as she can injure herself or the puppies. Walking is ideal exercise.
Re vaccination prior to breeding may be advocated by your veterinarian. A “booster shot” will raise immunity if it has fallen below a protective level. Your veterinarian has available to him a method of testing the dam’s level of immunity in order to determine when the puppies should be vaccinated. Soon after birth of the litter he can develop an immunization program for them.
Preparation For Whelping
The place where the bitch is to whelp should be prepared two weeks or so in advance. Let the bitch spend her nights there as well as napping during the day instead of in her usual place so as to become accustomed to the idea. Then she won’t be uneasy in strange surroundings when the time comes for her to whelp.
Although breeders often have specially fitted whelping rooms, many places can be converted for this use. A dry, warm cellar or unused room in the house will do. If the bitch is accustomed to living outside, a corner of the garage or an outbuilding can be used in warm weather. But, then the bitch is an outdoor dog, she must be moved into heated quarters if the litter is whelped in cold weather.
You will need to construct a whelping box, the dimensions depending on the size of the breed. The sides of the box should be high enough to prevent drafts and have a railing around the inside, fastened two or three inches above the floor and out from the walls. This prevents the bitch from crushing or suffocating a puppy that may get between her and the sides of the box. For a bitch of a medium sized breed, a whelping box four feet square is adequate. A 12 inch high partition inside the box gives the bitch an area into which she can go when she wants to rest away from the puppies. Or the box can be built with one side lower than the others or hinged so it can be lowered; again to allow the bitch a means of getting away from the litter. By the time the puppies are big enough to climb over the partition or lowered sides, they’ll be large enough to move out of the whelping box into regular quarters.
Layers of newspapers make excellent padding, spread over the entire bottom of the box in sufficient thickness to absorb moisture. The papers should be picked up and discarded regularly and replaced with fresh paper. An old quilt, mattress pad, or cotton rug placed in a corner of the box makes a bed for the puppies to lie on with their dam. The surface gives the puppies good footing. Puppies always on a slippery surface, such as linoleum or newspaper, will be slow in starting to walk. They also will stay cleaner on a sleeping pad. With several spares, these can be machine-washed regularly.
Bitches of the long haired breeds usually start to lose the hair around the nipples at least 2 weeks before the puppies are due. You can help the process by gently combing out, or if need be, clipping the hair a week in advance. The whole abdomen should be washed carefully before the whelping. Long “skirts” on the hind legs and tail hair, if any, should be clipped shorter as it eventually will be shed anyway. Otherwise it will become messy and tangled as well as possibly getting tangled around a puppy.
Have a warm place to put the puppies as they are born. A box or basket with a low range heating pad or hot water bottle works very well. Wrap a towel or cloth around the heating device; don’t put puppies directly on the surface. If left with their dam, the puppies may get wet and chilled. Most bitches will understand when you are helping, but do not take the basket out of signs because the dam may become confused and might even harm the remaining puppies. Make sure the box is adequately heated. An air surface temperature of 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit is essential for puppies during the first few days of life. If you don’t want to keep the room that warm,use an overhead, high-wattage light bulb as a source of heat. Be very careful the puppies are warm enough. Tiny puppies have no shivering mechanism. They cannot warm themselves and about 30% of puppy losses are due to chilling. Screaming is a sign that puppies are too hot, as opposed to a whimper when too cold and angry yells when they are hungry.
Be prepared several days in advance as the normal gestation period is from 58-65 days, and 61 is as common as 63. The bitch generally will show some sign of uneasiness and discomfort before the puppies arrive. However, a sure way to predict the event is by taking the dam’s temperature with a rectal thermometer, at least twice daily after the 59th day. It will drop from a normal of 101-102˚ to 99-100˚ and when it finally falls below 99˚, whelping will be within 12 hours. Some bitches eat well up to the arrival of the first puppy but lack of interest in even the most tempting food is another indication of approaching whelping. If the bitch does not show signs of preparing to whelp after her temperature falls an obstruction may be present. Consult your veterinarian.
Most bitches have their puppies unaided, needing only supervision to see that all is going well. Too much interference may make the dam nervous. But be ready to help when the first puppy arrives, for you must act quickly if the bitches instinct does not take over. This is especially apt to happen if it is her first litter. Also, some bitches whelp their puppies so easily they do not even know when one arrives. It may drown or suffocate in the umbilical sac in which it is enclosed before its presence is noted. Help her break the sac and encourage her to lick the puppy, in order to dry and stimulate it. Rubbing the puppy gently with a rough towel replaces the action of her tongue if she is too tired or will not take care of it. Hold the puppy head downwards to help drain the fluid from the lungs.
If the dam does not bite the cord herself you can cut it with scissors. Tearing is recommended to prevent bleeding, but a slippery puppy and after birth can be difficult to manage. If you wait a minute r two and then cut it jaggedly sawing rather than snipping, no harm is done. To avoid pressure on the umbilicus hold the placenta above the puppy, not the opposite, while you are cutting. Be sure to leave the cord at least 1-2 inches long; it will shrink as it dries and fall off in a few days. If the bitch seems to be biting the cord off very close to the puppy’s body, take over for her. She can do harm by allowing infection or bleeding to start or possibly causing a hernia.
Keep a bottle of alcohol handy to rinse the scissors before use. Iodine in a shallow dish in which to dip the end of the umbilical cord is easier than painting it on. A pail of warm soapy water to wash your hands and the bitch’s hindquarters, if necessary, should be part of your equipment.
Opinion is divided on allowing the bitch to eat the placenta (afterbirth). Generally, she should be allowed to eat at least the first one if she shows great interest in doing so. But, if the bitch is allowed to eat too many, in her instinctive efforts to clean her home, she may develop diarrhea. You man remove the placentas as each one is expelled but be sure each puppy is followed by its placenta. This is important: a retainted placenta will cause uterine infection in a very short time. A visit to your veterinarian is in order if the bitch finishes whelping but has not expelled all the placentas. He will administer a hormone that stimulates contraction of the uterus, and thus “clean her out”.
If puppies do not follow each other in normal fashion, at intervals of 10-30 minutes or not more than an hour, take the bitch out using a leash if necessary to make her leave the puppies. The exercise and a chance to relieve herself, plus a drink of water, may help matters. If the bitch is straining without getting anywhere the puppy may be presented wrongly: upside down or backward, a so-called “breech”. Don’t attempt to manipulate the puppy, especially by pulling it forward against the bitch’s contractions. Inexpert handling may injure the puppy, bitch or both, or introduce infection. If whelping does not seem to be progressing normally, it is time to call your veterinarian. He will see that things proceed as they should. Do not let the bitch struggle unproductively for more than three hours.
After a protracted or difficult whelping, or if a placenta is retained in spite of the hormone injection, the veterinarian will probably inject antibiotics to prevent infection. The dam will be better off and her milk less likely to go bad if treatment is given before there are problems, so a preventive visit by the veterinarian at the first sign of trouble—retained puppy or placenta, prolonged whelping—is well worth the cost.
Once the bitch appears to be through whelping, take her out to relieve herself and spread fresh papers. She normally will have a slight discharge for several weeks, so keep her off the rugs; draining is nothing to worry about and will gradually cease. Fresh blood could mean serious internal injury—in this case consult your veterinarian.
The Nursing Period
Be sure that each puppy gets a good mean as soon as it is dry. For the first 24 hours after whelping, the bitch’s milk is called colostrum. This substance contains disease antibodies and protects the puppies against distemper, for example, for the first few weeks of their lives. This so-called “maternal antibody protection” wears off eventually but by then the puppies are ready to start their immunization program under your veterinarians supervision.
Most newborn puppies instinctively find the source of food and start nursing. One or two fumblers may have to be helped by gently opening their mouths and placing them on the nipples. Squeezing a drop or two of milk also may help give them an idea. After eating they will settle down to sleep contentedly. Nursing on their dam is sufficient for most puppies. However, the use of a formula or simulated bitch’s milk product will help save borderline puppies. In special cases your veterinarian may suggest therapy using concentrated liver extract, gamma globulin, serum, or distilled water for dehydrated or weak puppies.
Many breeders keep a scale and notebook candy to record each puppy’s weight and identifying characteristics. The record should be updated every week for the first two months or so of the puppies’ lives. Weight gain is one of the best means of determining health status. If a puppy begins to lose you should start supplementary feeding and ask your veterinarian for additional methods to insure the puppy’s health. These records also will prove helpful as a comparative record of growth.
After whelping, the dam probably will be hungry and ready to eat. Contrary to popular belief, broth is not the proper diet for a bitch feeding a litter of hungry puppies. She should be tempted to drink some milk soon after whelping and will be ready for full feeding shortly. While nursing she will eat two or three times as much as her normal amount, divided into several meals a day. If the bitch is on self-feeding, the worry about how much food she needs is eliminated.
Make sure that ample puppy food is in the pan at all times for the dam. She also should have a plentiful supply of fresh drinking water always available. Feeding her ample food during the three to four weeks that she is providing all the puppies’ nourishment is essential. During this period the puppies should at least quadruple their birth weight.
Be sure all the puppies are getting their fair share. In a big litter the smallest are likely to lose out to their largest litter mates. Let them nurse at least twice a day, with the others kept away.
It is possible to raise all of a large litter by helping the dam out with supplemental feeding. If the bitch is unable to feed her puppies at all or the litter is orphaned, these puppies can also be raised by hand. The simulated bitch’s milk formulas on the market are excellent or you can make your own emergency formula from materials on hand: a can of evaporated milk, one-forth can of water, an egg yolk and a few drops of human infant vitamins. You may add a couple of tablespoons of cream.
The formula should be well mixed and stored in the refrigerator until needed, warming only as much as you will use in one feeding. If hand-feeding is supplementary to the bitch’s efforts, half the litter may be kept away from her at a time and fed once each three to four hour period. If the shifts are alternated or all the puppies left with the dam overnight, the night-time bottles can be opitted.
Bottle feeding is work but a rewarding effort. A doll-sized nipple is necessary for puppies of small breeds but premature baby nipples or orphan lamb nipples are better for larger puppies. Do not enlarge the hole too much, as puppies will not nurse if the milk comes too quickly, just as they get discouraged and give up if the nipple is clogged. DO NOT use an eye dropper for feeding puppies. The amount of liquid being released is difficult to gauge. If too much is released, to fast, the puppy may choke. If the formula is not swallowed and instead enters the lungs, it can cause mechanical pneumonia.
Experienced breeders sometimes prefer tube or “gavage” feeding. A narrow plastic tube, such as those used for premature infants is inserted into the puppy’s stomach . The other end of the tube is attached to a syringe containing formula, slowly released through the tube and into the pup. Very small or weak puppies without strong sucking reflexes may do best on this method. It first should be demonstrated by a veterinarian or someone who can show you exactly how to proceed.
Puppies of medium- size breeds take about a half once per feeding at first, gradually working up to drinking two ounces at the age of two weeks. By then the eyes are open and the puppies gradually may be trained to drink or eat from a saucer.
Tine puppies cannot automatically eliminate so you must assist this function when raising orphans. After feeding, rub a cotton swab or cloth-wrapped finger, dipped in oil, over the genital and rectal areas to induce urination and elimination. Do this for a week or so, until the puppies are functioning on their own.
Puppies should be left alone as much as possible to sleep and grow. Excessive handling is detrimental and may introduce infection or cause injury. Avoid putting puppies in direct light when their eyes are opening, about the 10th to 14th days, and for about 10 days afterwards.
When the puppies are 2-4 days old, you may wish to have your veterinarian remove their dewclaws; the rudimentary fifth toes on the insides of the front legs and sometimes on the back legs. Most dogs are born with dewclaws but if left untrimmed, these will curl around themselves and even cut into the skin. (note if the breed is a Briard or a Great Pyrenees, the breed standards require the dewclaws to be left).
If the dam has a good supply of milk, she can provide all or most puppies’ food for about five weeks. At this age, or even as early as three weeks, many breeders start to give semi-solid food. Introduce this semi-solid food by putting it in a shallow pan for the bitch. Curiosity will lead the puppies to investigate, usually feet first, and soon they will teach themselves to lap. Before feeding, keep the bitch away from the puppies for about an hour as they will show greater interest if a little hungry. Gradually decrease the amount of liquid in the mixture as the puppies get older and increase the amount of food. Since puppies have very high caloric needs, you should feed as much as they will eat in at least three meals per day.
When fed semi-solid food while still nursing, the puppies receive considerable nourishment and the drain on the dam is substantially reduced.
By eight weeks of age, puppies should be accustomed to eating what should be their normal diet for the rest of their lives.
It is surprising how quickly puppies learn to be clean. As soon as they can waddle, they will go away from their sleeping place to relieve themselves. Encourage this by having them in a pen large enough for “bedroom” and “bathroom” areas. This is a start toward house-training.
Puppies may be born with or may pick up worms from their dam or the surroundings. Worms are more detrimental to the health of young puppies than to grown dogs. If the puppies are not gaining as fast as they should (about twice the newborn weight in the 1st week) or look thin or potbellied, consult your veterinarian. In the 3rd or 4th week he may wish to check a stool sample for worm eggs. It is advisable to repeatedly check for worms since they are seldom eliminated with a single deworming. Re infestation also is very possible and is another reason to check for worms on a routine schedule.
Your veterinarian will advise you on the proper ages and best program for protecting the puppies against infectious canine diseases.