Monday, June 19, 2006

What's it like having a litter to raise?

Flamingo raised an interesting topic about the amount of work that goes into raising a litter. Not only is there a great deal of anxiety involved in whelping the litter but there is a lot of anxiety in just raising up puppies until they are 8 weeks.

For the first week, the babies have to be kept warm as they can't regulate their body temperature. I sleep in the whelping room just to make sure that no one gets rolled on by a tired and sleepy dam. I've lost several puppies due to one crawling under the dam and being crushed. It generally happens around day 4. I feel that if I can get the puppies to one week of age, then the chances of that happening lessen.

Another issue is making certain that the puppies have enough milk. Some bitches have plenty while others, especially those after a C-section, may not immediately have a lot of milk. On the last litter with Stella, I had to supplement with goat's milk. She simply didn't have enough milk after her C-section to sustain the babies. I weigh the puppies every day to make sure that they are gaining. If they aren't, then I don't hesitate to supplement.

Once the babies are a week old and eating well, I can relax a bit. I finally can sleep in a real bed and get back to work. The bitch will take care of cleaning the puppies and will keep the box clean. Nevertheless, the pads in the box have to be changed every other day.

At 3 and 5 weeks, wormings are done on the babies. If there is any sign of diahrrea, then treatment for coccidia needs to occur. Shots are given at 6 weeks and again at 8 weeks before the puppies go home.

At around 3 weeks, we start the puppies on a weaning formula. I've been using the same formula for a while and it works well. We grind up Pro Plan Lamb and Rice adult food, mix it with hot water, some Half and Half, some apple sauce, and some chicken and rice baby food. It makes a nice yummy gruel that the puppies lap up.

Once the solid food starts, then the poop factor increases significantly. Some bitches will continue to clean up but we usually always move the puppies to shavings after 4 weeks. The whelping box is broken down and the puppy pen is cordoned off to make an area for sleeping/eating and an area for eliminating. The puppies get the idea that they are supposed to keep their eating area clean within a couple of days. The shavings and bedding has to be changed often as the puppies get bigger. The amount of output increases dramatically from 6 to 8 weeks.

These are just some of the issues that go into raising puppies. There are tragedies that can occur such as disease outbreaks, snake bites (see earlier entry on this), and congenital problems. Being a breeder requires toughness, courage, persistence, dedication, and a great deal of love.

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