Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Windy and The Whelping Box Dilemma

Windy and Babies
In Their New Whelping Box

Just a note before we start our article to thank all of you who have e-mailed, and called to say how much you like the web log, we very much appreciate your comments and support. Feel free to share the address with others. We have had many requests for pictures of mom and dad and will be posting these soon. For now here is a picture of Windy with her brood, she plans to have a beauty treatment before posing for any official photos!

Whelping Boxes Are An Ongoing Subject Of Discussion Among Breeders

Whelping boxes, their shape, dimensions, construction, strengths and weaknesses are a constant subject of disucssion among dog breeders. The old fashioned boxes of plywood and 2"x4" construction were sturdy all right, you needed two men, a boy and a pony to move them anywhere. Storage was a problem, where do you put the monstrosity in the year or more between litters? Cleaning, well that was another matter entirely since bare plywood is pourous and any other treatment might hurt the puppies, who like human babies put everything in their mouths.

This was followed by the decade of the plastic wading pool which has been favored by many breeders for years and which we have used almost continually. The wading pool has many wonderful features. First, it is lighweight, inexpensive, easy to clean, non-porous, non-toxic, and when whelping puppies it can be spun around for easy access at any angle. The soft sides are flexible enough that a pig rail is not necessary. When we moved to our new home we brought our pool/whelping box with us.

Just a few days before the first possible whelping date said pool was hauled up from the basement for a good cleaning. Disaster! It seems that moving and being left in the cold, plus some age and wear were too much for the trusty pool. Under our cleaning ministrations it simply shattered. Arrgh! We had ten puppies due in two days. It can be appreciated that purchasing a childs wading pool in January in Ohio is not going to happen.

For the first step Ryan came to the rescue. He purchased a circular saw and put together a whelping frame that would last Wendy and the babies until the "new" and "real" and "expensive" whelping box arrived via UPS. The whelping frame was so successful that we have decided to keep it and use it for the first few days of puppyhood. It is simply a 2"x4" frame, with a rail on top. We place it on linoleum flooring covered with one of our quilts used for whelping. This provided a soft bed for mom, and easy access for us to assist her without any high sides in the way.

The "new whelping box" which is white and can be seen in the above picture has also been a success so far. It is made of corrugated plastic, has a rail made of PVC pipe which has worked very well and has an entry door for mom which can be raised by simply adding panels into the slots on either side. It is easy to clean and Windy seems like it's coziness. Can't you tell by the look on her face!

All items including pictures and text on this blog are copyright (c) and are the sole property of Deborah Lynch, pictures and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

There Is Always One That Sees The World First

Baby Girl Sees The World Through One Eye

Puppies are born with their eyes closed. This, of course, has an effect on their behavior. With our last litter of only two puppies, we were able to observe this difference clearly. Puppies open their eyes between 10 days and two weeks of age. Prior to this they find their way around by scent and sound. Their heads, which like most mammals are large for their bodies, bob back and forth as they try to find their way to their littermates and their mother for warmth and nourishment.

Once they can see, however, their attitude and their behavior changes. They go directly to where they want to go, no more bobbing back and forth. Their behavior goes from uncertain to self-confident, moving purposefully toward a goal.

There is always one puppy in every litter who gets to see the world first, in this litter it is a little girl. Even though she only has one eye open it has changed her demeanor she is looking at the world and figuring out where she wants to go. This baby Keeshond looks something like a pirate with one eye open and one eye closed, but soon she will be making her way purposefully across the whelping box while some of her littermates are still bobbing along.

All items including pictures and text on this blog are copyright (c) and are the sole property of Deborah Lynch, pictures and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Temperature Drop Before Whelping? Has it always worked for you?

The temperature drop was always reliable - but not this time

So, in 30 years of breeding dogs the temperature drop prior to whelping has worked everytime, without fail. In fact, it has been so reliable that when I was pregnant with my son I asked my obstetrician, "How would I know when the baby was going to be born?" He looked at me as if all my brains had failed and said, "You will feel labor pains, of course." No, thats not what I mean I said to him, "What are the signs like 24 hourse before, you know, like in dogs their temperature drops, 24 hours before and you know you are going to have puppies." I said this smoothly with a great deal of confidence, surely humans who were highly evolved had some efficient way of predicting imminent birth. He still had a strange look on his face and assured me that, "There is no such thing in people." I think he was glad when that appointment was over.

This time with Windy, and the litter of ten there was no temperature drop. All other signs of impending labor were in place, lack of appetite, a little bit of digging and sitting in the whelping box. A rather pensive look on her face. But her temperature was 101.4 the evening prior to whelping.

In checking with some other breeders, they also noted that the only time they had not had a temperature drop was in the case of an extra large litter. Is this a pattern? Has anyone else noticed this phenonma? Or, how accurate has the temperature drop proved for you in your breeding program?

There is a place for your comments at the bottom of this post, please share your experiences.

All items including pictures and text on this blog are copyright (c) and are the sole property of Deborah Lynch, pictures and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Puppies Are Growing But Mid First Week Crisis


The Critical First Days of Life

Just about anything can happen to a puppy in the first few days of life. With no working internal thermostat and sub normal temperature for a dog 0f 98 degrees, it takes them almost ten days to work up to normal temperature for a dog of 102 degrees. Therefore, getting chilled is one of the biggest dangers for newborns. Just crawling in the wrong direction can lead to a fatal drop in body temperature and/or pneumonia.

Getting stepped on or fatally injuried is another danger for newborns. For inexperienced moms or dams of large litters it is not unusual to lose a puppy to accidental injury. The tiny puppies are too small to protest loudly if they are being smothered and even if they do protest someone must be within ear shot to rescue them. In one of our recent litters, Emma woke me in the middle of the night during her first week. She was a smaller puppy but had gained weight steadily and she was strong. Her lungs were well enough developed for her to let our a shriek when she was underneath her mother. I pulled her out at 3AM and her little face was red from screaming. Her tounge was sticking out while she was panting in my hand.

By far the largest number of neonate deaths occur in the first 48 hours and fall steadily over the first two weeks. We consider Keeshond puppies well on their way when they weigh over one pound and have doubled their birth weight. This is why we sleep within hearing of the babies for the first several weeks and they are not left unattended for any period of time.

Nursing a Double Crew

Windy's puppies on the fourth day are quiet and nursing steadily. The only worry we have is two small boys who were born at about 5 and 6 ounces respectively. They cannot gain the usual one ounce per day as that would be more than 20 percent of their body weight. The problem is that their litter mates who were born at 9 and 10 ounces are gaining steadily and are now twice the size of the two little boys who have been named "Short Stop" and "Slider". They get pushed off the nipples easily by the bigger puppies and close supervision in needed to make sure they get their fare share.

The Well Runs Dry

So, on the fourth day, Ryan was tring to get the lttle boys to nurse when he came out to the family room and announced, "Windy, is dry. I can't get any milk from her, and the little boys are losing weight." The boys had gained weight slowly but if Windy's milk was gone that would be a disaster. I tried too and could only get a tiny amount from one back quarter. Off to the veterinarians we went for help, tube feeders whatever could stem the tide.

It Fills Up Again

By the time we reached the veterinarians she had milk and the babies after heart checks, hydration checks, and weight checks were pronounced healthy. Supplemental feeding was not recommended as the more the puppies nurse the more milk is produced. Supplemental feeding of puppies reduces the production of dams milk. We were advised to continue rotational nursing which we had been doing, placing the smallest puppies on first when the milk supply was fresh.
A sigh of relief, and the blush of stupidity for pushing the panic button! But, then hey, how many people have had experience with this many Keeshond puppies!

Back home the puppies are installed in the whelping box and all is well for now.

All items including pictures and text on this blog are copyright (c) and are the sole property of Deborah Lynch, pictures and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

They Arrive = A Baseball Team and a Relief Pitcher - Coping With A Large Litter


A normal litter for a Keeshond is 5 to 6 puppies. Imagine our surprise when our maiden bitch, Windy, kept getting larger and larger. In the last two weeks she wasn't doing her usual running and leaping about. She went from full speed ahead to slow and dead stop. In the two days before the puppies were born she stopped eating very much at all. Even my usual trick of feeding canned puppy food to pregnant bitches was not working.

Dam's Diet

We feed a pregnant dam puppy food from the day they are bred. However, Windy had gone on the ABD (anything but dog food) diet about ten days before the puppies were born. She was interested in hamburgers, bacon, vegetables, soup, anything but dog food. We humored her with canned food and some cooked food. But two days before the puppies nothing worked. I assumed she would whelp one or two days early and didn't force the issue. I started taking her temperature twice a day and then three times a day. Since she wasn't eating everything looked like a go.

Pre-Whelping X-Ray - Oops!

A pre-whelping x-ray is routine for us. We do not do ultrasounds to determine pregnancy but will palpate at 28 days to determine preganancy. The x-rays let us know when a bitch is finished and can help if there is a puppy in trouble at the end of the whelping. They are also useful if we except a very small litter or as in this case a very large litter. We had an x-ray taken three days before the due date and it showed 9 possibly 10 puppies. The two veterinarians did not agree, but the one vague skull on the x-ray also had spine. Dr. McKinney looked at me knowingly, so Dr. Boerger didn't hear, she whispered, “It's ten”. Honestly, where I could have been excited, I was scared. How would we get them all out alive? Dr. Boerger offered his cell phone number in case we needed help. That was a huge relief. Our new home in the country is over an hour from any emergency clinic.

Exercise, Thats The Ticket - Well, Youth Doesn't Hurt Either

Dr. Boerger commented that she was in superb condition. Just short of her second birthday, Windy had exercised herself into fitness by galloping constantly over our fenced acre. She would try to get the other dogs to run with her only to humiliate them taking off at a speed that only Andy could match and then just barely. He would run at her flank and finally would stop watching her streak off into another looping circle. It was a beautiful picture the athletic silver and black dogs streaking across the winter grass surrounded by the towering pines that circle our property.

News of some previous extra large litters in our breed was not encouraging. A litter of 14 delivered only seven alive. Another litter of ten ended as a litter of six. Would they all be born alive and if alive would they all be healthy? Even though Windy is a good size bitch, what female has room for a litter of ten? Surely they would be born small, maybe too small. Everything was in place we just had to wait.

The Big Event

Windy kept me up all night on January 17th, she didn't do much, just started panting heavily when she needed to go out. This turned out to be once an hour. The puppies had put a strain on her bladder which was now the size of a pea. We went out at 1PM, 2PM, 3PM, 5PM, 7PM and 9PM then I fell asleep exhausted. Waking up at 10:00AM, I put on my robe and stumbled down the hallway to wake up Ryan, it was the first day of classes of spring semester. As I returned to my room I heard the distinctive, eeh,eeh, of newborn puppies. Windy was there in the whelping box with three newborn babies, cleaned up and ready for breakfast.

Number Ten Comes Flying Into the World

She must have had them after I fell asleep without much fanfare. The rest of the puppies were all delivered by 2PM. Averaging less than a half hour per puppy. One of the first three was a girl, then all boys until the last three – just so she could have some fun with me thinking that we might have a litter of nine boys and one girl. Instead it was six boys and four girls what more could you ask? The last few puppies born in such a large litter are always worrisome as there is more risk the bitch will get tired and the puppies will separate prematurely. Not so this time. The last and tenth puppy a female was presented with head and shoulders first. Her mother then gave such a strong push that the puppy literally shot across the whelping box, did a somersault and hit her bottom on the edge of the box. So much for getting tired. Ryan and I just looked at each other, "Did you see that!", "Wow", "Amazing", but what a way to come into the world.

All items including pictures and text on this blog are copyright (c) and are the sole property of the Canine Studies Institute and Deborah Lynch pictures and text may not be copied or reproduced in any format.