Expecting puppies? Print E-mail
News - Rubrieke
Tuesday, 23 June 2015 02:21
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Dr Liesel van der Merwe

Dogs breed at any time of the year, while cats are induced to breed with lengthening daylight hours and breed in spring and summer.

What to watch for with pregnant bitches
Don’t breed just because you feel it is good for the bitch. She doesn’t really care and she loses her figure. The vulva, especially in larger boerboel or boxer-type dogs, becomes bigger and teats more prominent after birth.

Aggression and guarding characteristics are also not affected in the long term, although they may be more obvious while she is feeding the pups.

Don’t breed in the first heat cycle. This is the equivalent of a schoolgirl teenage pregnancy. The dog is still growing at that age and then needs to grow as well as support the growth of the puppies in-utero, which is a heavy drain on her system and reserves.

Calcium is still being deposited in her own bones for growth and that is one of the main minerals being pulled from her system for puppy skeletal growth.

Plan ahead
If you are going to breed with your bitch, you need to plan ahead. You need to have a safe enclosed area to keep her in her first heat. It may be your yard or it may be the boarding kennels. We see the strangest breed combinations in accidental matings. A keen intact male will literally scale walls to get at a bitch on heat.

There are medications available to suppress heat, but the majority of them will increase the risk of the bitch getting uterine infections, so they are not recommended.

Once the bitch is pregnant there is not really all that much you need to do. A good quality diet is essential, but their requirements are only about 1.3 times the basic.

It is helpful to know how many puppies she is expecting. One puppy in a small breed dog will generally be too big for natural birth and a c-section may be necessary.

A very large litter will normally not result in puppies being stuck, as they are smaller in size. However, especially in very large litters, the bitch may suffer from exhaustion and need medical support and supplementation of glucose and calcium to finish the birth.

It does help if you, as the owner, know how many puppies to expect so that you know if the process is complete or not. Bitches do not have long drawn-out labours as we see with women. You do not really notice their early contractions. Once they are straining properly, the puppy should be born within 20 to 30 minutes. There may be a longish gap between puppies.

Once the puppies are born the situation is very different. The maintenance energy requirements of the mother can increase up to three times normal, as she makes milk to feed the litter.

A good quality, calorie-dense ration is essential here and we generally recommend a puppy diet, as it is higher in protein and calcium. Smaller breed dogs are prone to milk fever if they have larger litters.

This occurs when the drain on calcium from their blood to make milk, exceeds the body’s capacity to draw it from the bone reserves. These dogs show neurological signs of restlessness, twitching, panting and eventually seizures as calcium is essential for nerve function.

In susceptible breeds or individuals, hand feeding the puppies in between feedings will reduce the stress on the mother. Milk replacement solutions are easily available.

Be careful of using towelling material with young puppies. The threads, which get pulled and then tighten around feet and legs, can tourniquet them, which makes amputation necessary.
Obviously warmth is essential in this weather. Make sure you have a good insulating base to the bitch’s bedding or crate. Tiling or concrete is very cold and cardboard or rubber matting underneath can be very effective.


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