BREEDING FOR PET OWNERS
6. Rearing the puppies and care of the mother
If the delivery was without incident, what do I
have to do to care for the newborn puppies?
For the next two
months, even if everything went smoothly with the birth, you have a
lot of work to do! After the birthing process, clean up the mother
as much as possible without upsetting her. Remove any of the soiled
newspaper, bedding, etc.
Normally the new mother will spend most of her time
with the puppies. For the first few days it may be difficult to get
her to leave the nest to go to the bathroom. However, it is
important that she continue to urinate and defecate normally. Do not
be afraid of putting her on a collar and leash and taking her out
for a short period if she refuses to go on her own. She will only
want to be out for a few minutes but during that time you can clean
up the bed and make the whelping box safe for the puppies.
Before she returns to her puppies, check her nipples
and vulva to make sure there are no problems such as bleeding, foul
smelling discharges, etc.
What sort of problems am
I looking for?
Check the vulva to see if there is very much
discharge. After 24 hours this should be minimal. It is normally a
greenish black color and if she has not expelled all her afterbirths
during birthing, the discharge may be quite copious. However, it
should lessen significantly after 24-48 hours. If not, contact your
Check her teats to make sure that none are swollen,
hot, hard or tender. If you find anything abnormal, please call us.
Do I have to check the puppies?
It is worthwhile, particularly with a first time
mother, to check the puppies every few hours to make sure they are
all suckling and are warm and contented. Any that are crying or
appear cold should be placed on the inguinal (hind) teats and
checked frequently to make sure they are not pushed away by the
other puppies. The teats between the hind legs usually give the most
Is it necessary for me
to have a post-natal veterinary check?
It is important to have the mother and puppies
examined by your veterinarian within 24-48 hours of birth. We will
check the mother to make sure there is no infection and that she is
producing sufficient milk. The puppies will also be examined to make
sure that there are no abnormalities such as cleft palates. Any
necessary medications or injections will be administered during this
What shall I do if the
mother refuses to stay with the puppies?
This is not uncommon with pets that are closely
attached to their owners. If the mother will not stay with her
puppies, try relocating her and her family so she can be nearer to
you. Make sure the puppies are not cold. Remember they cannot
maintain their own body heat for a week or two after birth.
During the first four days of life the environmental
temperature should be maintained at 29.5-32oC (85 -90oF).
The temperature may then be gradually decreased to approximately
26.7oC (80oF) by the 7-10th day and
to about 22.2oC (72oF) by the end of the
It is not necessary to heat the whole room to these
temperatures. Heating over the whelping box with the aid of a heat
lamp is usually all that is necessary.
The larger the litter the lower the environmental
temperature needs to be. Since the puppies huddle together, their
body heat provides additional warmth.
The puppies’ behavior and condition gives an
indication whether they are comfortable and healthy. If they are
warm and content they will be quiet and gaining weight, otherwise
they will be restless and vocalizing.
Should I weigh the
Electronic kitchen or postal scales allow regular
weighing of puppies. This gives a guide to their condition and
Is it necessary to keep
the mother and puppies in subdued light?
In the wild, dogs will find a secluded whelping
place, usually a dark or sheltered spot. Some dogs, if they feel
their puppies are too exposed, may become anxious and start
them around the house. Placing a blanket over part of the top of the
box to conceal part of the whelping area may resolve the problem. A
small enclosed box is also a solution.
Some females are more anxious than others,
particularly with their first litter. They may try to hide their
puppies, even from the owners. If the mother does not like the place
you have selected for her, try to compromise. If she is still
unsettled, please contact us since it can affect her milk supply and
may cause problems with the pups.
I am told that some
female dogs will actually kill and eat their puppies. Is this true?
In the wild, a dog with puppies is vulnerable to all
sorts of predators. If the puppies become vocal and distressed, the
danger of attack by a predator increases. The primeval protective
instinct will sometimes surface in even the gentlest pet. This
occurs in some breeds more than others. Killing the puppies and
sometimes eating them is a method of averting a perceived danger.
Since I have not raised
a litter before, how can I tell if there is a problem?
During the first two weeks of life, before their
eyes open, puppies should feed and sleep at least 90% of the time.
If you are weighing the puppies regularly (once a day), there should
be a consistent increase in weight. If any of the puppies appear
restless or make mewing noises, this may indicate a lack of
nourishment or infection.
If you are concerned please consult your
veterinarian as soon as possible.
Declining weight records should arouse your
suspicions. Keep careful records. Identify the puppies with
permanent markers, marked on the abdomen (various colors are
How will I know if the
mother’s milk supply is adequate?
A contented litter of plump puppies is the usual
indication. Any puppies that appear restless and do not have fat
tummies will benefit from supplemental feeding one to three times a
day. Please contact us and we will supply the necessary food and
feeders. It is important that any supplementary feeding is carried
out at the correct temperature. One rule of thumb is to drop some of
the warm, puppy milk replacer on your arm. It should not feel too
hot but about your normal body temperature.
All the commercial products carry detailed
instructions regarding preparation and feeding amounts. We will
advise you on supplemental feedings for your puppy’s needs.
I understand it is
possible for the mother to develop inflammation of the breasts
This is called acute mastitis and can occur very
quickly. This is the reason that mother’s mammary glands should be
checked regularly for any inflammation, tenderness or hardness.
If the mother does not produce milk or her milk is
infected, the puppies will not be nourished and will start to cry
and lose weight. If this occurs, an entire litter can die within
24-48 hours. Total replacement feeding either via a foster mother or
with artificial products is necessary. Please contact us for advice.
Is this the same as milk
No. Mastitis is an infection of the mammary glands.
Eclampsia or milk fever is due to a depletion of calcium in the
blood of the mother due to heavy milk production and is not due to
It occurs most commonly when the puppies are 3-5
weeks of age and the mother is producing the most milk. Eclampsia is
not due to an overall lack of calcium, it merely indicates that she
cannot mobilize sufficient supplies of stored calcium quickly enough
to meet her metabolic needs. Females that are particularly good
mothers, especially attentive to their puppies, always seem to
suffer more severely.
I understand that milk fever is a very serious
condition. How can I tell when it is starting?
Eclampsia is a true emergency
and you must contact us immediately if you think the mother is in
trouble. The signs are initially subtle. The female may be restless,
panting and you may notice that she is moving stiffly. This soon
progresses to muscle spasms affecting the whole body and she can
quickly progress to convulsing.
Prevent the pups from
suckling and contact your veterinarian immediately.
involves injections of calcium and other drugs, often intravenously.
If treated quickly, recovery is usually rapid and complete.