BREEDING A LITTER

(Part two)

Whelping

 

Your bitch has been mated and you have satisfied yourself that she is in whelp. As previously stated, gestation is around 63 days from the date of mating, this is the average time, but most Scottie bitches tend to whelp two or three days earlier with the exception of a few who can go over by the same amount of time. As with a human pregnancy certain preparations will need to be made prior to the birth. About ten days before I always clip the hair from my bitches tummies, removing this hair makes it easier for the puppies to get to the milk bar. I also feel that it makes it easier to keep the area clean once the puppies are born, saliva and excess milk can cause the hair in this area to matt which can be a breeding ground for bacteria and be very easy for little nails to catch in! Of course should a c-section be necessary your vet will clip this hair away prior to the operation!

The first consideration should be a quiet room away from other animals and the hustle and bustle of the household and of course you will need a whelping box. Nowadays there are disposable ones available and although I have never used one myself, I have been told they are quite serviceable.  Your bitch should be encouraged to get used to spending time in this box, I move my bitches into their whelping box about a week to 10 days prior to delivery date. Other items you will need are vet bed, towels, a heated pad, puppy milk formula  and feeding bottles (just in case), scales, a cardboard box and hot water bottle and plenty of newspapers. You can't have enough newspaper and I start to collect these some months previously.

So you have everything prepared and are waiting for your bitch to start labour. Various signs may present themselves ranging from shredding paper, digging, refusing food, eating and then vomiting, trembling and panting and generally acting in a very restless manner which can last for a whole day or even longer. This is described as stage one and all or just some of these signs will become apparent. One thing I would suggest is that if your bitch does shred a lot of paper keep an eye on her mouth. I once had a bitch, who, through shredding a lot almost welded her jaws together, the paper set like Paper Mache in her mouth! Always notify your vet that labour has started just in case his services are required. It also helps to know if the surgery offers a 24 hour service as you can guarantee if a c-section is needed it will always happen in the middle of the night!

The second stage is the delivery of the puppies and this is when I start to keep a very watchful eye on my bitches, I like to know the exact time of the first contraction. Some bitches do not seem to put in much effort initially, gradually building the momentum, some push strongly from the onset and others give a little sigh and a pup is born. I do not let my bitches push strongly for anymore than two hours, experience has taught me that if a pup has not been born in this time then almost always a c-section will be needed. Of course there is always the exception to any rule and you should be guided by how your your bitch is reacting, some bitches can be given a little extra time but it is no good letting her tire herself out. Any sign of a black - green discharge before the first puppy has been born is a cause for concern and you should contact your vet immediately. This colour discharge is quite normal after a puppy has been delivered.  The first sign that a pup is about to appear is a sac filled with black fluid or this may have burst higher inside the bitch producing a gush of fluid, a puppy should follow shortly, hopefully head first. If the first puppy is coming hind legs first this can prove a little difficult as the widest part (the head) is not paving the way and your bitch may need a little help with its delivery. If this happens you will need to wrap a small piece of clean towel around the puppy and pull gently, downwards, working with your bitch as she as pushes. Do not pull to hard on any exposed limb. Almost half of all puppies are born hind feet first and after the first pup has stretched the passage the following puppies should not pose too much of a problem.

The puppies will be born in a sac and it is important that this is removed from around the head as soon as possible, otherwise the pup will drown. If your bitch does not make any attempt to do this you can do it for her, clearing any mucus from inside the pups mouth and nose. The puppy should take its first cry but if it doesn't, then hold the puppy firmly with it's head between your fingers and gently swing it down by your side. Offer the puppy to your bitch and encourage her to lick it dry, again if she seems reluctant rubbing the puppy with a warm dry towel will stimulate it. An experienced bitch will be able to cope with cleaning one pup whilst she is giving birth to another. Keep a watchful eye for the afterbirths, there should be one for every puppy. Some bitches seem more intent on cleaning these up rather than attending to their babies. One sure thing is that the puppies will make a bee line for the teats, they should hopefully latch on and begin suckling straight away.

Whelping is a messy business and in between births you should try, unobtrusively, to slide fresh dry paper under your bitch, the box and hot water bottle will come into play should you need to remove any puppies or it can be used to take to your vet to transport any puppies home should a c-section be necessary. Once your bitch has finished giving birth the whelping box should be wiped out and clean vet bed put in together with a pig rail which will stop any puppies getting squashed. If your bitch has consumed some of the afterbirths she will not need a feed and should be left to settle down with her babies. Your vet can visit the next day to check that everything is ok, your bitch will probably be given an injection to make sure she is totally cleaned out and possibly a calcium jab especially if the litter is a large one. Please insist your vet comes out, remember only sick animals are taken to a surgery and you do not wish for your babies or bitch to catch anything.

A bitch that has had a c-section will probably still be a little drowsy when you bring her home and because she has not gone through the natural birth process will wonder where these little puppies have come from. She may need some encouragement to let the puppies feed but once one or two have latched onto the milk bar normal maternal instinct usually takes over. Even though the operation has been performed under sterile conditions please insist on an antibiotic injection and a five day course of tablets from your vet. A new vet to a practice I was once registered with refused to give me antibiotics and when my litter was two days old the bitch developed a uterine infection. This resulted in her going off her food and not wanting her babies near her tummy. Even though the infection cleared (yes I did get antibiotics eventually) she would not stay with her pups and let them suckle. Every two hours for the following three weeks I had to hold her down whilst her babies fed. She could not be left alone with them as each time a puppy went near her she would growl. All that for the sake of a few tablets!

I always sleep in the same room as my bitches and their puppies for the first three weeks. I like to keep a watchful eye making sure that the Mum does not lie on her puppies and to be at  hand to give assistance should it be needed. Likewise, I carry a baby alarm monitor around with me during the day rushing into the 'nursery' at the slightest squeak which is almost always nothing other than a puppy getting pushed off a teat!

Sue Baker 2005