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Information you need to read, if you are thinking of breeding

You now have this cute little furry puppy and you think you want to breed. This can be quite an experience, so let me share some of the facts that surround breeding and some experiences that myself and other breeders have incountered......

The heat cycle: You have to wait for your ball of fur to be big enough  and old enough to have her first litter. This means you may have to go through her first 2 heat cycles (sometimes more). When in heat the vulva swells and bleeds, sometimes alot, and sometimes they vomit for several days due to all those hormones running rampant through their little systems. Some females have what is called a silent heat where they don't bleed much, so you don't know she is in heat. That is when the "neighbors loveable mutt" breeds her and you don't know what kind of puppies you are going to have or even the due date if you did not witness the breeding. You must keep her from males for 3 to 4 weeks. "Doggie Diapers" are not birth control  and will not keep a breeding from happening.

The Male: Males are ready sooner than females, usually by 7 months. They may not be big enough even if they are mature enough. A female can and will drag a male all over and can hurt him. Not intentionally, but he could end up hurt just the same. Breeding pairs should be supervised. The male can hurt the female if he weights too much and she can't hold his weight and it hurts her back. Once a male has bred a female he may start to mark his territory, including your female. It is instinct for breeding males to mark their territories. You have to compare pedigrees to make sure you are not too closely breeding your pairs. Then there is the paperwork that is required.

Did you mark down the day or days of the matings? DNA samples may be required. You have to sign that you witnessed this pair breed.

You think she's bred: You have gone through all of this and she is showing all the signs including producing milk, all to find out that she has a false pregnancy and she carries around and gathers all the stuffed animals in the house as if they were her puppies, and cries if you take them away.

So her time approaches: Have you kept track of when she is due because you need to be there. You will need to purchase a whelping box, have clean towles on hand, a heating pad designed for dogs, because puppies cannot regulate their body temperature. You will need a good pair of sissors and a pair of hemostats, and bulb syringe. You will need supplies if moms milk doesn't come in, supplies for low blood sugar etc. She may pant like a freight train, shiver, and moan for hours before its time for the puppies to actually be born. Then there are all the things that can go wrong with the birth and will you know what to do? You want to be home for a few days before birth just in case she goes early. A nervous first time mother can actually eat her pup, not knowing any better, or chew and pull on the umbilical cord biting it too close and actually opening up the belly. I know of one first time mom who ate one of her pups legs while cleaning it. She didn't do it on purpose. A pup can get stuck coming out. Do you know how to coax the pup out without breaking the sack? If it takes too long for the the pup to be born and the sack cleared it can drown in the fluids. Breech pups often need help being born and you have to be careful not to break the pups neck, helping it out. Puppies often need to be stimulated especially with first time moms. That can mean breaking the sack, clamping and cutting the umbilical cord, rubbing the pup vigorously if mom is not cleaning it. If excess mucus is not expelled from the newborn immediately it will give the pup phenomia and it will die. Do you know how to use the "swing " method to clear the mucus from the lungs and nose?



1. The place where the dam (mother dog) is to whelp should be prepared a week or so in advance, allowing her to sleep there at night and rest there during the day so that she will be well accustomed to the strange surroundings when the time comes for her to whelp. Many places may be used for whelping. It should be away from activity, noise, and other pets. Think of ease of cleaning (no carpets), and access to the outside for larger breeds.

2. A whelping box should be constructed using either plywood or sturdy cardboard packing cartons. For a medium sized dam, a whelping box of four feet square is adequate. Make the sides high enough to prevent drafts and line the box with several thicknesses of newspapers. An old mattress pad or quilt in the corner of the box will afford an excellent bed for the puppies to lie on with their dam. The front of the box should be cut away so the dam can enter and leave the box unaided.

3. Provide a warm place to put the puppies as they are born, such as a basket with a hot water bottle or heating pad. The puppies can later be transferred to the whelping box when the mother dog has completed giving birth. If the puppies get too hot they will "scream" and cry, and if too cold they will whimper. Make sure that you do not take the basket out of mother's sight, since this would upset her and interfere with the remainder of whelping. If the puppies are hungry, they will make "angry" cries.

4. It may be necessary, in the long haired breeds, to comb out or preferably cut the hair around the mammary glands and nipples about a week in advance. Most dams will start to shed some hair around the nipples about 2 weeks before whelping. The underside of the mother should be gently and thoroughly washed and rinsed clean before the whelping. Any abnormal discharges such as bloody milk, or greenish yellow pus in the milk coming from the nipples and mammary glands should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian.

5. Have iodine or suitable disinfectant on had for the opened end of the umbilicus on each puppy. Some dental floss will work to tie around the base of the cord if it's bleeding. Tie a knot 1/4 to 1/2 inches from the puppy's abdomen. Plenty of clean towels and a human nasal aspirator for nasal mucus removal are also handy to have. An accurate way to weigh the puppies is essential. You may need a gram scale for smaller breeds, dams less than 20 pounds. A milk supplement and bottle feeder may be needed.

6. Smaller breeds will definitely need a heat source in the whelping box. Covered heating pads work best. Be careful of heat lamps. Some gradient of heat should be provided, so the pups and dam can move to their own comfort zone.

7. Prior abdominal radiographs of the dam during her 8th week will help at birthing to determine the end point and exactly what to expect. This is especially helpful for first time owners. Ultrasound is not as accurate especially in large litters.

8. Have emergency phone numbers handy for regular and after hours handy.

9. It is assumed that with the breeding of this pregnancy, consideration of the parent's genetic contributions, venereal disease transmissions, and recent deparasitizing and immunizations just prior to insemination took place in the dam. If these were not taken into account, let your doctor know. Puppies may be at risk of diseases unnecessarily.


There may be a pre-labor period 8 to 24 hours in duration. The following signs may be seen during the pre-labor period, indicating the approaching whelping.

1. The dam becomes restless, getting up, lying down, and changing her position frequently. She may vomit from nervousness.

2. She may paw and scratch at her bedding as if she were preparing a nest. She may tear newspaper up into little pieces in her attempt to make a nest.

3. Lack of interest in even the most tempting food is usually a sure sign that whelping is approaching.

4. Rectal temperature, taken with a rectal thermometer, will fall below 99 twelve hours or less prior to whelping. If' you start taking the dam's temperature twice a day after the 59th or 60th day of gestation, her temperature will begin to decrease from a normal of 101-102 to 99-100. When it finally goes below 99, she will start giving birth within 12 hours.

5. Milk can be expressed from the nipple near or at the time of birth in those dams having their first litter and about 4 days prior to whelping in those dams which have had one or more litters previously.


Most dams will whelp alone and without assistance, needing only supervision by you to see that all is going well. If you bother the dam too much or interfere you will make her nervous. Be ready to help her or seek help when labor begins if any abnormalities should develop. When in labor, you will see her begin to undergo contractions; she may lie on her side and strain or stand in an "urination stance" (squatting as if to urinate) as she strains. YOU SHOULD TAKE ACTION IF YOU SEE:



These situations may develop during any phase of the birthing period. Before you panic and call, wash your dominant hand well with good soap and water, and try to determine if and what is present vaginally. Having someone muzzle the dam and holding her will reduce the risk of fear or pain bites. Gently ascend a finger or two vaginally and determine if there is something already committed vaginally. If so delays in the delivery may damage the fetus, so try to help the dam pull it out if you can grasp a puppy body part. Try this before calling, you may just save a pup from brain damage or even death packing up and travel to an emergency visit takes precious time.


1. Abdominal straining in the urination stance if lying on her side.

2. Appearance of the "water bag" at the vulva. (The bag is part of the placenta).

3. With continued straining the "water bag" should be forced out within 15 minutes. The puppy will be contained within this membranous sac. The mother should chew the membranes from around the newborn puppy and free it from the sac. She should then bite the umbilical cord in half and lick the puppy dry. This will stimulate the puppy to breathe and cry. She may then eat the membranous sac (placenta.) These membranes will not harm her, but don't allow her to eat more than one or two of the placenta since they may cause some indigestion. Some mothers fail to break the sac and free the puppy. If so, you should help her to break the sac and free the puppy and encourage her to lick the puppy. If she fails to lick the newborn pup, you should gently but vigorously rub the puppy with a rough towel until it starts breathing and crying. Then, sever the umbilical cord about 1/2 inches from the puppy's abdomen with a clean scissors. It is better to "crush" the cord in half rather than a clean cut. You should tie clean thread around the end of the cut cord to prevent bleeding. The cord will shrink up as it dries and will fall off in a few days. (Make sure you have left the cord at least 1/2 inches long) Keep a bottle of alcohol handy for rinsing the scissors before use. A shallow dish of Iodine or bactine solution can be used to dip the end of the umbilical cord after you have tied it.

4. Afterbirth (placenta) should follow each pup within 5 to 15 minutes. Keep a count of the number of afterbirths. Not every puppy is followed by its placenta, and you may have placentas retained that will be a part of the post delivery discharge. This and breech birthing is normal in the dam. This can last up to 4 weeks and be normal. Don't allow the mother to eat more than one or two afterbirths since she may get indigestion and diarrhea if allowed to do so.

5. Another puppy should follow in 1 to 2 hours. If the mother continues to strain and have contractions for more then 2 hours without giving birth to another puppy, CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN.

After the puppy has been dried, umbilical cord severed, (and tied if you severed the cord) encourage the mother to lick her puppy, but she may be disinterested in her puppies until she is through giving birth to all her puppies. Then, place the puppy in the small box or basket containing the heating pad or hot water bottle that your have prepared before hand. Make sure the heating pad is not too warm and cover it with some towels. It is not necessary that the puppies nurse until the mother dog has completed whelping all her puppies. (Unless complications develop during whelping)

6. After the mother has completed whelping she will lie down and rest with no further straining or contractions. Then, take her out of the whelping box and allow her to urinate outside. Return her to the whelping box and give her the puppies to nurse.

7. The mother should be examined within 24 to 48 hours after whelping and given a Posterior pituitary extract (P.O.P.) injection.

8. In breeds that require tail docking and dewclaw removal, 4 or 5 days of age is the recommended time for this procedure.

  IV Post Whelping Chores

There are two common killers of new born puppies: Lack of heat, and lack of groceries! If you find puppies restless, sucking at everything they can for long time periods, crying or fussing all the time, cold to the touch or lethargic, or rejected by the dam you must make sure these two things are fulfilled. Place a thermometer rectally; it should be close to 97 F no cooler. Puppies should be warmed to close to 100F if failing for any reason, and kept there for the first week. Healthy pups at 97F to 100F can be normal the first week and left normally. Once body temperature is taken care of you must be certain that weight gain is occurring. WEIGH THE PUPPIES ACCURATELY and in large litters identify the puppies with a marking system that the dam can't lick off. Check the mother's nipples and breast for milk. If it's not adequate to satisfy complaining puppies or registering a weight gain, you must supplement. There little bellies should be full looking. Supplement and bottles can be purchased in good pet shops.

1.      Determine the happiness of each pup hourly. The first eighteen hours are the most critical.

2.    Weigh the pups often the first few days especially.

3.    Determine slower puppy's rectal temperatures often.

4.    Leave the dam alone to work. If you interfere too much it's counterproductive.

5.   Check the dam's mammary glands daily for signs of mastitis. They should be soft.

6.   Puppies need to be stimulated to urinate and defecate. If the mother is not, do so.

7.    Check the pups for congenital defects cleft pallets, abnormal extremities, etc.




Are you getting ready for the pitter-patter of little paws?  As with humans, one can minimize complications with proper care in pregnancy.  Having puppies may sound easy and it may seem like the dog does all the work but that is not always how it turns out.

So our first assumption is that the litter is wanted (if not necessarily planned.) If the litter is not wanted, please consider that there is a terrible canine over-population problem with some shelters in our own area euthanizing over 100 dogs DAILY.  If your litter is not wanted, please consider spaying the pregnant female or having a medical abortion.

Now on to caring for the pregnant dog:




The expectant mother will gradually require increasing amounts of food to nourish her developing litter. A food approved for growth (i.e. a puppy food) will certainly be necessary during the nursing period and pregnancy may be a good time to transition into this new diet.

About three weeks into the pregnancy, she may experience a little nausea and appetite loss similar to morning sickness. This should resolve within a week, so if an upset stomach or loss of appetite lasts longer than that or is accompanied by listlessness, something more serious is going on and the vet should be notified.

Calcium supplementation may be tempting but is not a good idea.  As long as the expectant mother is on a quality diet, supplementation is unnecessary. Further, supplementation can suppress her natural calcium releasing hormones so that when she really needs extra calcium during nursing, she will not have the proper hormone balance to get it. This can create a very dangerous situation which could easily be avoided by avoiding supplementation of calcium.



Regular walking helps the expectant mother keep up her strength but intensive training, showing, or even obedience school is probably too stressful. Obesity is a dangerous problem for pregnant dogs and serious blood sugar regulation problems can put the litter at risk.  Still, pregnancy is not the time for a weight loss program. Your vet will help guide you regarding the optimal nutrition plan for your individual dog.

During the final 3 weeks of pregnancy, the mother dog should be completely isolated from other dogs at home (see below). This means no walks in public during this stage of pregnancy.


A female dog should not be vaccinated during pregnancy;  there are sera in the vaccine which could be harmful to the developing fetus.  Ideally, the female should be vaccinated just prior to breeding. She will be passing on her immunity to her pups in the first milk she produces (special milk called "colostrum") so we want her antibody levels to be at their peak yet we want to avoid vaccination during pregnancy.


If the expectant mother uses a heartworm preventive product normally, she may continue to do so during pregnancy. All heartworm products available are approved for use in pregnancy and lactation.

Flea control is important during pregnancy though is more important after the puppies are born.  It is important to use a safe product during pregnancy. There are two specifically approved products for this use:

Roundworms and Hookworms can both be transmitted from the pregnant mother dog to her unborn puppies.  This is a nuisance as one usually ends up with both an infected mother and infected puppies but fortunately there is a deworming protocol to control this infection. If you have concerns about internal parasites for the puppies, speak to your vet about worm control. Daily medication will be needed but it is possible for worm-free puppies to be born.


Canine Herpesvirus infection causes a minor cold in adult dogs but can cause abortion in pregnancy as well as death in newborn puppies.  The best way to prevent infection is to isolate the mother dog completely during the 3 weeks prior to delivery and the 3 weeks after delivery. This means absolutely no contact with other dogs.

For more details about Canine Herpes Infection, click here.




Dog Labor Symptoms

Dogs are like humans, and experience as such reasonably similar dog labor symptoms. However, as a result of being dogs, they have some symptoms to themselves. We have attempted to make a list of all the symptoms they exhibit below. If we have missed anything, don't hesitate to drop us an email at webmaster [at]

So, without further ado, look out for the following signs:

Refusal to eat: Dogs always have an appetite unless they are sick or experiencing dog labor symptoms. This should always be a telltale sign, as it is one of the more obvious symptoms. Look out for it, and don't overlook it.

Vomiting and shivering: Just as the dam refuses to eat, she will often vomit out the contents of her stomach. She may shiver as well. The best thing you can do is to provide her with nice, fresh water when she wants it, to minimize discomfort.

Finding a den: As an instinctive reaction, the dog will look for an enclosed place or hidey-hole where they can give birth in privacy. One common place is under a bed, because it is dark and the dog feels safe. To avoid the dog finding an inconvenient spot, it is best that you find her somewhere or create a den before the birth.

Temperature drop: It is usual for a dog's temperature to drop prior to delivery. A typical temperature for a normal dog is 100-102 degrees, and when this temperature drops below 100 degrees, you will know that labor is imminent.

Wanting someone nearby: Just like human mothers going into pregnancy, pregnant dogs like to have someone nearby. Just as a comfort. It is important that you stay with her, as you should be trying to make the delivery as painless and comfortable as possible.

Of course, the only person who knows your dog well is you, so if you notice any unusual behavior or symptoms, bear in mind that your dog could be approaching labor. Trust your intuition and always be on your guard.

Unlike humans, a dog pregnancy can last as little as two and half months, so be prepared. Talk to your vet and try to feed your dog on a high quality diet during the pregnancy. Remember that for the dog, comfort is everything, so you ought to do everything you can to ensure it. The dog labor symptoms are telltale, so be aware!


Care of Mother Dogs and Puppies

This information leaflet is provided as a method of communication between veterinarians and clients whose dogs are about to give birth. It is designed to explain the signs of labor, normal birth process and follow-up care of the mother and her puppies. Your role in preparing for and assisting in the birth is discussed along with problems which require special and/or emergency veterinary care. If you have any questions, be sure to ask your veterinarian to answer them for you.

Preparing for Birth

A couple of weeks before your dog gives birth (whelping), supply the expectant mother with a box for her to have her pups in. The box must be large enough for the mother to stretch out in and allow enough room for a brood of new puppies. The mother dog should be able to enter and leave the box easily. Make sure the sides of the box are several inches high in order to keep the puppies in, box dry and chilly drafts out. Place the whelping box in a warm area which is free from distractions but familiar to the mother dog. She needs a quiet and secure place to rest.

Newspapers or disposable diapers should layer the floor of the box. They make excellent bedding material because they are easy for the mother to shred for her nest, are absorbent, and can be replaced. Blankets, rugs, and towels are also useful, but they must be cleaned frequently. A heating pad under the box will serve as an additional heat source. Local areas should have a temperature of 80-85F so the puppies can choose a warmer or cooler area as needed.

Signs of Labor

The normal body temperature of a dog is 101.5 F with variations of one degree above and below normal. About 24 hours before labor begins, the mother dog's temperature may drop by 2 degrees. By taking the expectant mother's temperature twice a day and recording it, dog owners may be able to predict quite accurately when the whelping process will begin. Also about 24 hours before labor, milk is produced, the external genitalia become enlarged and soft, and a thick mucous discharge appears. The dog will refuse food and will become quite restless. Since whelping is imminent, this is a good time to allow the dog some brief exercise, as well as one last chance for urination and bowel movements.

The mucous vaginal discharge turns to a thin greenish discharge a few hours prior to delivery. Primary uterine contractions (labor) begin shortly afterward. A dog may show no pain from these contractions, but she will be nervous and restless.


When labor signs are first apparent, the expectant mother should be left alone. If she chooses a bedspread or other area of the house over the whelping box for giving birth, do not move her regardless of the mess that may result. Moving her at this time can take her out of labor and make whelping more difficult.

Prior to giving birth, a dog will assist uterine contractions by straining her abdominal muscles in an effort to force the puppies out of the birth canal. The expulsion of each puppy is preceded by a greenish, fluid-filled sac (placenta). Each puppy is attached to a placenta by an umbilical cord. In larger litters, you may not see one placenta passed immediately after every puppy. Some placentas may be retained and be expelled gradually days after all puppies are born. Most puppies are born head first, but as many as one-third may be born hindquarters first. Either position is considered normal.

An experienced mother will break the sac covering each puppy and lick it to clean it. She will also bite off the umbilical cord and eat the placenta and afterbirth. An unbroken sac could drown the puppy as it tries to breathe for the first time. Likewise, a puppy wrapped up in the umbilical cord could be strangled, so be prepared to assist the mother, if necessary. If the mother does not take the initiative, remove all covering membranes from the puppy, clean its face and remove any mucus from its mouth and nose. The umbilical cord should then be tied off with thread 1 inch from the pup's body and cut off beyond the tie. Apply a drop of iodine or Betadine to the end of the cord to prevent infection. The remaining part of the cord will shrivel, dry up, and drop off at 2-3 days of life. Letting the mother eat most of the placentas is likely to cause loose stools, and is no medical advantage.

When each puppy begins to squirm and cry on its own, place it close to its mother so it can receive warmth and mothering and begin nursing. Once this is done, the puppy should not be disturbed.

Most puppies are born at 30 to 60-minute intervals, but many variations are possible. For instance, two may be born in close succession, followed by 2-4 hours of rest. A resting stage follows each birth. At this time, milder contractions help expel remaining afterbirth in preparation for the next delivery.

After the last puppy has been delivered, the mother will appear more relaxed with no straining and will attend to her puppies. Allow her an opportunity to urinate and defecate and get some brief exercise. She may have diarrhea for a couple of days as a result of eating the placentas and afterbirth. Her vaginal discharge may appear bloody or a greenish-black color for a few days to 2 weeks, but this does not indicate a problem unless it persists beyond 4 weeks of whelping.

Whelping Problems

If a puppy becomes lodged in the birth canal, immediate assistance is required. Try removing the pup before calling for help. A delay could lead to puppy injury. Wrap a clean towel or disposable diaper around the part of the puppy you can grasp and pull gently but steadily in an outward and downward direction. If the puppy cannot be removed within 5 minutes, call your veterinarian immediately.

If a pup is born weak or is ignored by its mother, your assistance can save its life. For instance, if a newborn puppy appears cold and weak with irregular or no breathing, hold it firmly and swing it up and down between your legs with its head down. This will help drain fluid from the mouth and lungs. To stimulate breathing, rub the puppy briskly with a warm towel. By blowing gently into its nose and softly pressing its chest with your fingers you can also help induce breathing. When the puppy starts breathing on its own, return it to its mother.

Most mother dogs have all of the necessary tools for normal whelping. Too much intervention on your part may be a disservice to both the mother and her puppies; however, veterinary assistance may be necessary if specific problems arise. For example, emergency care is required when, 2-4 hours of intermittent straining and contractions, the dog enters a resting phase without a successful birth.

Follow-up Care of the Mother

It is a good idea to have the mother examined by a veterinarian within 24 hours after whelping concludes to ensure that no puppies or placentas remain in the uterus. An injection to reduce the size of the uterus helps prevent infections and other complications.

The mother will need more food once her appetite returns, and it should be divided into at least three daily feedings. Dietary supplements can assist milk production. Ask your veterinarian for specific formulations best suited to your dog. Fresh water should be available at all times. If dried milk accumulates, clean the mother's nipples carefully with warm water.

Disease Considerations for the Mother

Uterine infections, mammary gland infections, and eclampsia (milk fever) can occur after whelping. Dark-colored material will be expelled from the uterus for several days following whelping. Under normal conditions, this discharge should cease within 4 weeks. If the uterus becomes infected, however, this discharge may increase and become red and foul-smelling. Other signs and symptoms of an infected uterus include an elevated temperature, and a loss of appetite. The dog will also act depressed. If the mother shows signs of an infected uterus, seek immediate veterinary care and keep the puppies warm and nursing.

An infection of the mammary glands will also cause depression and an elevated rectal temperature. One or more breasts will become hard, swollen, reddish-purple and extremely painful. This condition also requires immediate veterinary care.

Milk production and the nutritional demands of puppies can be a severe strain on the mother. She may suffer from a loss of calcium during the first month after whelping because her supply is utilized to produce milk for the puppies. This calcium reduction can create a disease known as eclampsia or milk fever. Emergency veterinary care is essential if the nursing mother shows any of the following signs:

Muscular incoordination and excessive trembling,

Muscle twitching or convulsions,

Excessive drooling, or

Extreme nervousness and panting.

Calcium injections can reverse these signs, but treatment must be immediate to prevent death. Although both the puppies and the mother will try to nurse, in the case of untreated eclampsia, nursing will further drain calcium from the mother's body.

Care of Newborn Puppies

A good mother will do most of the work in caring for her puppies prior to weaning; therefore, a lot of human intervention usually is not needed. Nursing from the mother not only fulfills the puppies' nutritional needs, but it also provides them with antibodies to help prevent infections. In addition, the puppies have an opportunity to learn from their mother.

The two leading causes of puppy death after live birth are chilling, and a lack of fluids and energy. Puppies that are not nursing with enthusiasm, cold to the touch, or constantly complaining need your help. Warm them to 98-100 F rectally, and provide the necessary food. Ask your veterinarian for advice, but be prepared for these things weeks in advance. Soon after birth, the puppies should be examined by a veterinarian. If tail docking and/or dewclaw removal is desired, this should be done before the pups are about 3-5 days old.

The room temperature where puppies are housed should be no less than 70 F and cold floors should be avoided to prevent chilling. Clip the puppies' nails as they become sharp to prevent them from hurting the mother during nursing. A puppy's eyes should open 10-14 days after birth. As the puppies begin to explore their new environment, a mixture of dog food intended for puppy growth and water or milk can be given to assist weaning. Cow's milk can be used unless it makes the puppies sick.

Behavioral adaptation is as important as physical health in puppies. It is best to handle the puppies as little as possible during their first 3-4 weeks of life. After about 4 weeks, you can assist each pup's positive socialization toward people by cradling each puppy in your arms for about a minute twice a day. Do not handle them too much or permit rough handling by anyone, especially children.

Establish regular feeding schedules and take the pups outside or to a specific toilet area when they wake up and after each feeding - this will help facilitate house-training later on. Do not scold them for mistakes but praise and pet the puppies when they urinate or defecate in the correct place.

At 6-8 weeks of age, a stool sample should be checked by a veterinarian for internal parasites. At the same time, the puppies should be vaccinated for canine distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, and parvovirus. These vaccinations should be considered at an earlier age if the puppies are not able to nurse from their mother. A rabies vaccination can be given at 3 months of age and older.


Under normal conditions, weaning will occur naturally around 5-6 weeks after birth. The puppies will become more independent, and the mother will react negatively to the sharp teeth and nails of her puppies.

To help the puppies make a smooth transition at this time to life without their mother, separate the mother and pups for an increasing length of time each day until they are together only at night. The mother's food intake should be reduced to help her produce less milk.

Gradually replace the puppies' liquid food with a well-balanced commercial puppy food that is intended for feeding during growth. Feed the puppies 3-5 times a day. The whole weaning process should take about 1 week.

If the mother dog continues to produce milk after weaning, her breasts could become engorged and painful. Hot towels and a gentle massage can help reduce the congestion. Complete withdrawal of all food and water for 24 hours often works well. Consult your veterinarian if milk production continues after weaning has been completed.

Orphaned Puppies

One of the primary killers of newborn puppies is the lack of adequate warmth. The mother's natural body heat must be replaced in her absence. Incubators, 60-watt infrared heat bulbs, heating pads or hot water bottles can be used as a heat source. It is estimated that puppies need a constant temperature of 85-90F the first week of life, 80F the second week, 75F the third and fourth weeks, and 70F thereafter. Incubators with thermostats are most efficient but expensive. The other heat alternatives should warm only half of the available space so the puppies can choose the temperature best suited to their needs. Be sure to cover any heating pad or hot water bottle with towels, newspapers, or disposable diapers to prevent burning the puppies' delicate skin.

A substitute for the mother dog's milk must be found if the natural mother dies or is unable to care for her puppies. Cow's milk alone is not a good alternative because it can irritate a puppy's stomach and intestine. A temporary replacement can be made by combining two egg yolks with 1 cup of homogenized milk or goat's milk. Milk substitutes for puppies can be purchased from veterinarians and certain pet, drug and grocery stores.

When preparing the milk substitute, always follow the manufacturer's directions on the label for its proper preparation and keep all feeding equipment scrupulously clean. A good way of handling prepared formula is to prepare only a 48-hour supply of formula at a time.

The easiest and safest way of feeding milk substitute formula to puppies is by nipple bottle feeding or by tube feeding. Nipple bottles made especially for feeding orphan puppies or bottles equipped with preemie infant nipples are best. When feeding with a nipple bottle, hold the bottle so that the puppy does not ingest air. The hole in the nipple should be such that when the bottle is inverted, milk slowly oozes from the nipple. Never squeeze milk out of the bottle while the nipple is in the mouth; doing so may result in aspiration of the milk into the lungs.

Newborn puppies may have a small plug in their anus which prevents normal waste elimination. A mother normally licks each puppy, stimulating urination and defecation. In the absence of the mother, take a piece of cotton, soak it in warm water and wash each puppy's abdomen, anus and rear legs to stimulate the elimination of waste. It will take about 3 weeks before a puppy can function on its own.

A healthy puppy sleeps a great deal during its first few weeks of life, and it should gain weight every day. Consult a veterinarian if a puppy does not sleep well, loses or fails to gain weight or shows signs of illness.


Comments on Breeding

This symposium consisted of the lecturers from the K-9 cruise answering questions submitted by the breeders and exhibitors attending these workshops. The questions will be shared in no particular order of importance and are the opinions and comments of the participants.

Comments on Breeding:

12 weeks after giving birth to the pups the uterus is considered healed. During the heat cycle, the uterus is acting as if it is pregnant regardless of being bred.

There should be at least 135 days between heat cycles for breeding back-to-back.

In a six year old dam the breeding possibilities decreased by 33%.

Brucellosis: is a common bacterium. It is recommended that males be tested twice a year if they are studding outside females. Test females before breeding.

Walrus puppies have heart defects.

Comments on Vaccinations:

Puppy shots should begin at six weeks of age. Last puppy shots should be given between 14 and 16 weeks of age. It is recommended that the core vaccines be repeated at one year of age.

Annual vaccines: Should consider doing kennel cough, bordatella intranasal and Lyme, if problem in your area.

Herpes vaccine: available now in Europe. Is it needed here in the US? Most dogs are exposed to herpes and the immunity lasts forever.

Comments on Breeding Clubs/Parent Clubs:

It was the recommendation of this panel that clubs should not require testing but rather recommend testing. It was also suggested that DNA parentage be provided at club specialties.

Comments on Genetics:

Liver Shunt: is a poly-genetic trait; bile acid test recommended if concerned.

Cleft Palate: is inheritable; autoimmune for some breeds; can be caused genetically or toxicity to certain plants ingested during pregnancy. Folic acid does not stop cleft palate.

Comments on Public Health:

Multiple sclerosis victims may have been exposed to Parvo. Canine distemper has similar features and symptoms to measles. There is a small percentage of post- vaccine encephalitis developing in dogs after vaccinations.

Canine distemper is similar to a canine AIDS (which doesn't exist in dogs' auto immune systems). Even a skunk can infect a dog with distemper. Canine virus mutated from feline virus (1972).

Mink, feline, and canine Parvo are related. There is a marked reduction of brains cerebellum affected in utero. Disinfect 1:30 bleach!!!!

The Parvo virus has mutated several times since 1978. A new strain of Parvo developed in the U.S. in 2005. It is not Canine Corona but Parvo.

Symptoms of Parvo include vomiting and anorexia. There is a significant smell to Parvo diarrhea. In the earlier versions of Parvo, there is a five to 10 day incubation period. Never vaccinate a pregnant dog or puppies less than four weeks of age for Parvo because the vaccine can cause myocarditis. Begin vaccinating when puppies are six weeks old. The panel recommended that the puppies be vaccinated at home before ever going outside. It is recommended they be vaccinated for Parvo at six weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks of age. With the last dose 98% of the puppies will be protected. If you titer many tests will be a false negative even if the dog or puppy has full-blown Parvo. It is further recommended that you re-vaccinate puppies at six months and at one year. Parvo shot should then be given every three years.

Canine herpes virus is considered a reproductive problem and is a common cause of puppy dog. Herpes is forever. Herpes results in:

Stillborn births (15%)

Dystopia (11%)

Dam trauma (13%)

Chilling (16%)

Disease (10%) -- results in 1% of herpes cases

Cannibalism (3%)

Undetermined Weak Puppy (20%)

Parasites, Lactation Failure, and other deformities (12%)

Herpes kills puppies in the first three weeks if exposed neonatal. There is no vaccine. However, once a female has had herpes, it is okay to breed her again.

Canine Herpes Virus Diagnosis:

1. Clinical diagnosis:

Neonatal infection: infection of adult genitalia may result in abortion, fetal reabsorption, premature puppies or mummified puppies, puppies less than one month old, and entire litter dies.

2. Characteristic pathology

3. Viral isolation of canine cells

Herpes virus cannot be transmitted between species. Furthermore in canine herpes there are no signs visible on male dogs. There is no titer test for herpes and no treatment. There is a low risk of reinfection of herpes in breeding bitches (1 in 1000 may be re-infected). An animal on steroids can be re-infected with herpes.

Canine Corona Virus: it is not recommended to vaccinate for this virus. The infections are common. There is a respiratory disease complex which is similar to kennel cough but offers no immunities to the corona virus.

Causes of Intestinal Upsets:

Viruses Toxins

Parvo, all strains Spoiled Foods

Corona Virus Lead Poisoning

Rotavirus Plants

Astrovirus Bacteria: Campy, Salmonella, Clostridia

Parasites: Giardia*, Coccidiosis, heartworms

*vaccination available for repeaters

*treatment Albon and Panacur

Other: HGE, Pancreatitis, food allergies

There is a difference between Giardia and Coccidia. Giardia is a common parasite. Coccidia are an anemia in a puppy.

If you are boarding a dog or attending puppy classes, most will require a bordatella vaccine. The intranasal bordatella vaccine is highly recommended by this panel. First dose should be four to six weeks prior to boarding or class attendance and then repeat at one year of age. The sneezing or coughing reaction to this vaccine is not an allergic reaction.

Rabies Vaccines: Most laws say vaccinate at 12-16 weeks. It is preferable to delay as long as possible on rabies vaccination. The second vaccination in many states is a 3year vaccination, given 1 year after the initial rabies shots.

Thank you to all the judges, AKC representatives and breeders that shared their information on the K9 dog cruise 2009.



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