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.

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