In the wild any species with a small gene
pool will eventually die out. If they do not evolve through the natural
selection process, subsequent offspring become prone to disease or infection
from weakened immune systems, and they will eventually either devolve into a sub
species or become extinct. Temperament is also largely hereditary and consistent
in breeding produces delicate, weak or unstable temperaments.
Good breeders know their bitches qualities and faults, and spend many hours studying pedigrees and looking at dogs in order to decide on the right male for their bitch. In an ideal world, only a dog with no faults and a perfectly matching pedigree would be used (if we wish to line-breed), but that is an impossibility, so most try to use the best quality dog available. Using poor examples of the breed, will always result in poor quality puppies. Good breeders do not necessarily use Champions. He may look good, but i) can he produce ~ ie what type of puppies does he sire, does he 'stamp his mark on his puppies' ii) does he 'tie in' by genotype with the bitch if looking to produce 'type' and iii) does he match the bitch in phenotype (looks).
A dog may re-produce consistently good animals of a type who do not resemble him; that does not necessarily make him animal a poor sire. Using a Champion is certainly no guarantee of a quality litter. As a very experienced breeder remarked "there are winners, and there are producers". Breeding from a large gene pool will produce animals of sounder, stronger temperaments. A little drop of outcross makes a big splash. HOWEVER, if consistency of TYPE is required, it is necessary to make an occasional 'in' or 'line-breed' to double up and enhance of a particular animal. Often long established breeders who consistently try to reproduce what they 'once had', will by consistent in/line-breeding, achieve poorer quality stock than their previous animals.
WHEN TO BREED
Most people owning a good working Cocker Spaniel bitch will wish to breed from her at least once and a litter or two during the early years of her life is well worth considering. Not only can pedigree dog breeding offer an owner tremendous interest, probably even some financial reward, but to the younger members of the family it can provide a useful education. The best time to arrange for a bitch to be mated is when she is at her second heat or season, providing this occurs when she is not less than fourteen months of age. If for any reason, the heat in question occurs a month or two earlier than this, then leave her alone until the next season breaks. Should her intervals of heat continue irregularly, it might be wise to have her examined by your veterinary surgeon who will know what to do in order to have her ready for the planned mating.
The breeding life of a Cocker Spaniel can extend up to ten years, even more in unusual cases, but the average Cocker bitch should not be bred from after six years of age. This assumes she has had a previous litter or two and whelped them easily and reared them well too. No Cocker bitch should be mated for the first time beyond the age of three and a half years; to do so could prove hazardous, although not necessarily if her strain is noted for its good whelping ability, when a further six months extension can be granted giving her a chance to prove her procreative powers. In any case, a mature Cocker in whelp should always be referred to your veterinary surgeon who will agree to stand by on the expected whelping date to give assistance if required. Note that because a bitch, especially one of advanced years, has what appears to be a normal season, this does not mean she will definitely conceive, even with a reliable stud dog’s efforts. These days, the incidence of false heats and ‘misses’ (when a mated bitch fails to conceive) becomes more common. No-one knows quite why this is; probably it is due to some chemical deficiency occasioned by the domestic dog’s way of modern living. A bitch so affected does not shed ova at the time of her oestrum, so there is nothing there for the male to fertilise at mating time.
In a way, it is unfair to put the rigours of nursing upon an older bitch.
If you intend to breed, breed from a good, sound, well set up yearling.
She will tackle the job of producing and nursing her first litter with
enthusiasm and no doubt produce something worthwhile for you if you have been careful in your selection of the sire. In any case, if you have a good Cocker you will help the breed along by increasing its population, providing you strive to produce stock which is at least as good as, preferably better than the parents. This might appear a very difficult task, especially if one or both the parents are champions! However, your duty to the breed will be done by ensuring that both members of the proposed union were compatible in type, style, temperament, health, soundness and pedigree before putting them together. This condition is no more than a simple duty to your chosen breed and if you are successful it will prove most inspiring in the satisfaction it gives.
Before contemplating a union make sure your bitch is fit, and apart from the normal meaning of fitness which encompasses soundness (both body and temperamental) as well as health and bloom, it is essential that she carries no excess weight. A fat bitch is likely to ‘miss’ or at least have a difficult whelping, maybe with considerable veterinary expense. Even worse, it is not unknown for mortality to occur when the bitch is obese and ill prepared for the duties of motherhood; this in itself being a peril showing how important it is to ensure the Cocker is in good supple trim at all times.
is the mating of two closely related animals, ie Father to Daughter, Brother to Sister
and is done to enhance qualities in breeders stock.
This procedure has been done for many years and can and has been
successful depending on what is behind the dog's and bitch's pedigree, however, experienced breeders who are sure of the qualities and faults which
lie in the background of their dogs should in-breed their stock. It largely depends what is behind each animal.
(or tying in) denotes one or more common relatives within the first 3
generations of the pedigree. Line-breeding is undertaken to ensure that the
careful breeding that has resulted in a particularly good animal is maintained.
For instance - if we have a bitch whose qualities
Out-breeding is when the dog and bitch have no common relatives in the first 3 generations and when they themselves are results of out breeding. There may be common relatives further back in the pedigree, but for the purposes on breeding for a particular type, these would have little effect on the type of puppy being bred for. It would therefore be beneficial to use a stud dog with known strong benefits to correct a fault on a bitch or if the ultimate intention is to very closely inbreed later on.
Out-crossing is similar to out breeding, although both sire and dam may be line bred. This mating combination is useful to introduce fresh genes into stock and is an excellent means to combine genes from two quality animals to reap benefits from both sides. It can also be useful when a bitch is so tightly line bred herself, to line breed on her would be detrimental in terms of preventing the ever decreasing circles and 'rut' of consistent on-going line breeding that produces nothing of any new benefit to the breed and no new blood to prevent the gene pool stagnating.
If a stud dog or brood bitch is known to
'stamp their mark' on their offspring, (perhaps because they themselves are the
product of tight
Sexual behaviour is seasonable in most animals, but when a bitch reaches the age of about eight months (and in certain cases younger or later) oestrum will occur; in other words, the bitch will be ‘in season’. The condition is recognized by the swelling of the organs. At first there will be a clear mucous discharge, followed by a red discharge which usually continues for ten or twelve days. In some cases it will clear up earlier, in others it will go on longer. This is followed by a heavy white discharge which will go on for another few days. In normal cases the heat lasts from three to four weeks. During the ‘in season’ period a bitch will change her habits considerably. She will become very skittish and perhaps may become faddy with her food. Most people do not show ‘in season’ bitches out of consideration for dog-owners, but in any case her movement may be affected. Generally speaking, however, you should watch for your bitch puppy coming in season at about the age of eight months, although it may not occur until the age often or twelve months or even later — I have known bitches not to come in until eighteen months of age. In very rare instances a bitch does not come in season at all; in a case of this sort you should see your veterinary surgeon.
Another very trying thing for a breeder: a bitch will some times have what is called a false heat, coming in season long before she is due. This condition is difficult to recognize from a true heat. The bitch will even stand to be mated, but does not prove in whelp, and just when she is due for her puppies she will come in season again. This time she may be mated with every success. Often bitches will show colour for a week or even longer after mating— it may be they have been mated too early. If it does not continue for too long it may be disregarded.
After its first appearance the heat should recur about every six months, but there again you cannot always be certain to a month or so. When the bitch has been mated it often recurs when her puppies are four months old, or six months after the previous heat. Until all signs of season have completely disappeared the bitch must be most carefully protected or she is almost certain to get out and mate herself, to perhaps an un certain character; she will not mind if he is a champion cocker or the lowest scruffy mongrel. Some bitches will go to any extreme in order to get out and will travel for miles followed by a retinue of dogs, whilst others are quite indifferent about the whole thing.
The greatest menaces of all are the crossbred street dogs. They will scent and trail a bitch for miles; therefore never let her off the lead when being exercised. It is surprising how a dog can suddenly appear from nowhere, even in the midst of the country when you think it is quite safe to let your bitch have a lovely scamper over the moors. If your bitch has been mated, and her season is over, let her have as much natural freedom as possible right up to the time she is due to whelp. Both she and her puppies will be all the better for it. Failure to take care of one’s bitch when in season, and failure to control a dog when there is obviously a bitch about in that condition, is one of the worst forms of neglect.
Paul Boland B.V.Sc. M.R.C.V.S
First of all we need to decide if we really should breed from one of our
bitches. An example where we would not want to breed from a bitch is where
she has so many serious faults that, even when an
This important part of dog breeding must be properly planned and thought
through. First one must decide at what season to mate the bitch. The
answer is when the bitch is physically and mentally
A bitch can have her season (oestrous cycle) from 6 months of age. Then
she usually has two per year. Pro-oestrus is the beginning of a season and
lasts on average for 9 days. The vulva swells and
Most bitches are mated 10-13 days after the beginning of proestrus with
good results because sperm can survive for 7 days in the bitch and ova
(eggs) are not ready to be fertilised until 3 days after
Most readers will have far more experience than myself and I don't want to
teach a 'Granny to suck eggs'. However, the following is for the novice.
Have at least three people present, one of whom must be experienced. If
possible the dog and bitch should be allowed to sniff each other, as this
will tend to relax them.
Paul Boland B.V.Sc. M.R.C.V.S
The Bitch in Whelp
A bitch in whelp should have every care and attention. The success of her litter will depend largely on the way she has been looked after during pregnancy. She will need plenty of nourishing food, although it is imperative to avoid excessive fatness as this is likely to cause difficulty at whelping time. You cannot do better than to give her a liberal supply of raw beef, or horseflesh; about three-quarters of a pound to a pound daily should be sufficient. This could be divided, and given with some rusked brown bread or biscuit morning and evening. In addition, an egg beaten with milk is good, and a teaspoonful of cod liver oil. Also, calcium should be added to her food intake. There are many forms of calcium with added vitamins and trace elements available from pet shops or veterinary surgeons, but it is necessary to realize that dosage instructions are usually given for ‘medium-sized’ dogs. Remember that this can include the lightly boned miniature poodle, whilst you are looking for a really sturdy dog. Do not under dose, rather tend to overdose a little. One cannot overstate the importance of the care and feeding of the bitch in whelp and of the puppies if the litter is to reach its full potential. Some people believe that a good teaspoonful of milk of magnesia every morning will be beneficial as, apart from being a mild laxative, it will reduce the risk of acid milk, which causes the death of so many puppies.
A bitch will need exercise right up to the last, or as long as she can take it without discomfort, but do not overdo her. If you are conveniently situated, let her have as much natural freedom as possible.
Bitches in whelp should be free from worms, particularly because they may be passed on to the unborn puppies through the blood-stream. It is wise to worm her a fortnight after mating if you see any sign of worms.
The bitch should be given a box for whelping in, large enough for her to stretch herself out. It is wise to have a ledge all round the inside, about two-and-a-half inches wide and three inches from the floor. This will prevent the bitch crushing the puppies on the side of the box and many lives will be saved this way if your bitch is clumsy. It is wise to prepare the bed where she is to have her puppies some time before. If you move her just as she is due to whelp you will be asking for trouble. Do not attempt it; she will probably not settle and as the puppies are born she will try to carry them back to her old bed and you may lose the lot in consequence. Whatever bedding you put into the box before whelping will possibly be scratched out, so it is best to give very little of any kind. Many people line the box with newspapers during the whelping.
Top layers can be removed during whelping, or more layers added, and the whole lot easily taken away whilst the bitch is out relieving herself after she has finished whelping.
Avoid a loose blanket or anything of that sort. It could easily get bunched up and suffocate the puppies. After the puppies are born it is a good idea to put a piece of plywood into the bottom of the box, covered with a piece of fleecy blanketing fitted like a pillow case, so that it cannot be scratched up by the bitch. Providing something other than newspapers seems to give the puppies a good footing, and they are more easily able to get a grip with their paws when sucking.
There are now many materials available to those in hospital use for incontinent patients and, being very warm as well, they have become a boon at whelping time. They can easily be removed for washing, are machine washable, and can be tumble dried very quickly. Most bitches do not try to scratch this type of bedding up, but if they do, then a light backing of cotton or nylon sheeting to form a ‘pillow case’ for the plywood can be used. This type of bedding seems to help puppies to get on their feet very much more quickly than if they are on the floor of a box with a plain wooden surface.
The full period of gestation is 63 days from the time of mating, although it is a common thing for the puppies to be born a few days early; but there is no need to worry, within the limits of a few days or so before or after. If the puppies are born six days too soon they very seldom survive. Some bitches go one or two days over the normal time, but provided your bitch is fit and well and not straining there is little you can do about it. Should she begin straining and no puppy is born after a couple of hours, send for your veterinary surgeon as in such cir circumstances something might be wrong. One can usually tell within a few hours when a bitch is going to whelp. There is a disinclination for food and possibly the last meal she has eaten will be vomited; she will seek a quiet spot if she is not already alone in her kennel, and will probably pant, start to scratch and make a bed. Her temperature will probably drop as low as 98°F(36.5°C). This fall in temperature is almost always a good guide when whelping will begin – usually within 24 hours.
Signs that whelping is imminent—The course of an uncomplicated whelping
It is quite impossible to understand these without a thorough knowledge of the fundamental processes of a perfectly simple, straightforward, normal whelping. Moreover, as some later details are a trifle unpleasant it is intended that this shall be devoted only to the pleasant part of our hobby—a normal whelping. It is doubtless the gratifying culmination of breeding plans made a year or two in advance; of the service satisfactorily concluded; of several weeks of care and affection from the time your bitch proved in whelp. It is the time when the bitch and her owner are closer together than at any other and a time when she trusts and has to rely on you implicitly. By confidence and knowledge let this is a happy climax for both. Don’t wreck plans and aspirations, or let your bitch down through carelessness and ignorance, should the expected normal prove to be abnormal.
Reactions of the Bitch the Day Before She Whelps
Assuming that the mating has been satisfactory, the bitch is safely in whelp, has been properly exercised and if necessary her diet increased and supplemented. She should be examined by your veterinary surgeon during her last week of pregnancy. He may be able to give you some indication when she is likely to come into labour. He may also advise worming if the bitch has not already been wormed. It may be relevant to emphasize that worming should always be carried out before the bitch is mated and again after the forty-first day of pregnancy. Modern worm remedies are very safe and with some it is now usual to administer low daily or weekly doses throughout pregnancy and while the puppies are suckling until they are weaned. Maiden bitches vary considerably in their whelping behaviour. Some go to full term and whelp easily. Many will whimper, tear their blankets, scratch feverishly and make their
beds, or rush wildly from room to room one or two days before their litters arrive. Some try to find a secret place for their lying-in. You must be prepared for all these tricks. Don’t be misled by such antics into believing that the bitch is about to whelp at once. This behaviour may go on for hours or the whole day previous to parturition.
Signs that the Whelping is Imminent
One of the earliest indications that labour may be anticipated within 24 to 48 hours is a drop in the bitch’s temperature, although this is often not seen. Thereafter the following signs should be looked for and noted; they are all pointers that actual whelping will not be long delayed:
(1) The bitch settles down rather quietly, often stretched full out with head between paws.
(2) She pants and breathes heavily, perhaps giving a sharp cry as though in pain; these are the labour pains.
(3) She makes apprehensive turns of her head, looking anxiously at her rear parts.
(4) She will refuse food.
(5) She will more often than not vomit.
(6) The vulva is swollen and softens, and there is a clear mucous discharge.
(7) She will press hard with her rear against her box and make heaving or straining motions.
No.7 is the most important sign of all, and at the first sign of straining you should look at your watch. The time elapsing between these first heaves and the delivery, or more specifically the non-appearance of a whelp, tells you whether the whelping is going to be quite normal or whether you may expect difficulty. It is the most important phase in intelligent co-operation with the veterinary surgeon if a complication ensues, and the information which will help him most. Invariably the veterinary surgeon’s first question is: ‘When did she actually start in labour?’ If you cannot accurately inform him he has to guess. If you can tell him ‘three, four or five hours ago’, he can more readily decide what action to take.
The Biological Factors, and Normal Course of an Uncomplicated Whelping
Labour straining having started, the intermittent heaves may continue for anything from five minutes to one and a half hours before a pup is produced. These should be followed by the appearance of the water-bag (a lay expression; the following is a technical description). The water- bag should not be mistaken for a whelp, as is so frequently done by novices. It resembles a mass of greenish-black fluid contained in a membrane or skin; it varies in size according to the time taken to pass it. Each foetal whelp is encased in a membrane, and contained in a sac of fluid. This is designed by nature to protect the whelp while in the uterus or womb from external shock or injury as it acts like a buffer or cushion. A further purpose of this amniotic fluid sac is that instead of the whelp’s body emerging first, the uterine contractions squeeze the fluid into a bag-shape, which by preceding the whelp facilitates its egress, having gently dilated the vaginal passage.
The way for the whelp thus prepared, the water-bag emerges and bursts, and a whelp should shortly afterwards appear, either nose first with front feet facing forward or hind legs first since both anterior and posterior presentation (this is not a breech!) are normal in the bitch. One vigorous labour strain will usually expel the whelp immediately and entirely.
The whelp is still deriving nourishment and oxygen via the umbilical cord, which attaches it to the placenta. The placenta, commonly known as the afterbirth, resembles a mass of raw meat, and varies in si from two inches in diameter to five inches according to the breed.
Cord and placenta should both come away with the whelp .The whelp being completely encased in the membrane, the normal bitch’s instinct and immediate duty is to tear away this membrane with her teeth, thus allowing the whelp to breathe air for the first time in the post-uterine state. Next, the bitch should start to sever
with her teeth the umbilical cord and finally devour the after-birth. This is a normal function; it provides the bitch with some nourishment, so that she may take no solid food during the first forty-eight hours. She should next energetically lick the pup and generally rough house it all over the whelping bed; this is to dry and warm it and to stimulate the heart action and lungs. By this time the whelp should have given its first tiny cry; when that happens one knows all is well, and in a few minutes it should fumble towards a nipple and start guzzling. The bitch heaves a sigh, settles her head between her paws, and awaits the next onset of pains, which should occur within half an hour and should never be delayed by more than three hours. The whole process is repeated again and is continued until all the whelps have arrived, when the bitch settles herself down. The breathing is calm, deep and slow again; the anxious, strained look disappears. She takes on a seraphic expression and has no further use for her master or mistress for at least two days, merely tolerating their presence. She violently resents intrusion by anyone else. A curtain should be put over the box. Keep her quiet and in semi darkness, and withstand the temptation to show her puppies to all and sundry, since this can not only upset the bitch but also increase the chances of infections, if the bitch is due for a booster against the inoculable diseases which would mean the puppies receiving a reasonable level of maternal antibodies through her milk. The bitch is frequently thirsty at this stage and should be given drinks of warm milk with added glucose, or gravy and eggs if she prefers. Many authorities suggest no solid food should be given for forty-eight hours after whelping but there is no foundation for this theory. If the bitch is hungry after her massive exertions she should be fed but care should be taken not to overdo it within the first forty-eight hours when she well may have diarrhoea as a result of eating her afterbirths.
Try to weigh each puppy as it is born.
Post natal examination
It is not always easy to ascertain whether the last or all the puppies have arrived. By feeling the flanks, foetal movements can sometimes be detected. It is to the advantage of all breeders, particularly the novice, to have a post-natal veterinary examination, preferably within twenty-four hours of the whelping. This is, firstly to ensure that no whelp has been left unborn (which can cause dire complications when one had thought all was well), and, secondly, the veterinary surgeon will give an injection to clear the uterus of any afterbirth or membrane debris remaining. This reduces the risk of temperature from a septic condition and ultimate septicaemia.
Note that throughout the whole of this normal whelping the owner
should merely sit beside the bitch; his presence and occasional soft toned encouragement will give her all the assistance she requires. In abnormal whelping as above described let your policy be: minimum amount of interference or assistance; know what she should do and act only if she fails to do it; know what complications to expect and act correctly when they happen. If the bitch behaves normally, and nothing untoward occurs, leave her alone; don’t agitate her. It is important not to display anxiety and fuss too much over her during the forty-eight hours before the due date. Animals can sense such concern and react to it.
How to act when professional aid is not available—Severance of the cord—Breech presentation—Uterine inertia
In this chapter complications are detailed and advice given about action in emergencies. Step by step, we will consider MINOR complications at each stage of normal whelpings.
(1) A bitch is lazy and nervous; feeling pain and having made a tentative heave, she cries and will make no further labour effort, knowing it will hurt. She will lie passively, sulk, and pack it up. This has been known to go on for twelve hours and calls for veterinary action; an injection has to be given to contract the uterus and expel the whelp, or the whelps must be removed with forceps. Technically, this is an example of uterine inertia.
(2) The water-bag appears, bursts, but is not followed by a whelp. If a period of more than two hours elapses some complication must be feared, especially if the bitch continues to strain heavily. A veterinary surgeon must always be contacted after this period.
(3) The bitch, particularly a maiden one, when the first whelp appears either has no instinct to attend to her immediate duties or is too frightened to do so. Here you must assist. It is essential that the membrane covering the whelp is removed to allow it to breathe. Pull away the membrane from the head and strip it from the whelp. Also separate the whelp from the placenta—that is, sever the cord. You must take care to avoid one of the chief causes of an umbilical hernia. An umbilical hernia is a protrusion of the gut through the abdominal wall at the region where the cord from the placenta is attached to the whelp. Faulty manipulation here will put a strain on the abdominal muscles and cause a hernia.
The correct way to ensure that this does not occur is: Pinch the cord in the thumb and forefinger of the right hand about one inch from the whelp’s body, pinch the cord between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand, with the thumbs of each hand touching. Pull with your RIGHT hand, i.e. pull the pup away from your left hand; NEVER pull the cord from the whelp’s body. The average cord will sever after a twist and pull; if it is unduly tough, cut the cord with a pair of sterilized scissors approximately one inch from the body; squeezing the cord between the thumb and forefinger for approximately thirty seconds usually stops any bleeding. However, you can ligature the cord using sterile thread. Warm the puppy by rubbing it with a towel which is placed in your hand with the puppy on it, using another piece of towel to rub against your hand, just lightly touching the puppy. This stimulates the pup and warms it by friction although it is your hand and not the puppy that is taking most of the force of the rubbing.
Afterwards place it to a nipple. It will probably give its first cry and this usually induces the bitch to begin licking and tending it.
(4) The posterior presentation when the puppy comes backwards, tail and hind legs are being delivered first and this is popularly known as the breech presentation. Strictly it is a posterior presentation, which is relatively common in the bitch. Complications are unlikely to develop provided the puppy is expelled fairly rapidly. As soon as the puppy passes into the birth canal its blood supply via the afterbirth is cut off and therefore it must be born relatively quickly or else it will die of lack of oxygen. The bitch will often deliver a posterior presentation totally unaided but it is a wise precaution to assist her in order to ensure a rapid birth. Using a piece of tissue or a clean towel, gently grasp the legs, tail or hindquarters that are protruding and pull with steady gentle traction at approximately 45° to the bitch
The true breech presentation is a major complication which does occur in the bitch but not very frequently. A really good whelping bitch will often exhaust herself by her abortive efforts to expel it. The uterine muscles then tire and during the delay another whelp can pass down the uterine horn and further block the birth.
Action: Get the bitch on a table. If you have an assistant get him to hold the bitch’s head firmly under his arm, placing the right hand (if he is right-handed) under the abdomen and with gentle pressure raise it; at the same time he can use his left fingers to stretch the lips of the vulva. With a piece of tissue or cotton wool to counteract the slippiness, grasp whatever is presented and gently pull at 45°. If it is a true breech and there is only a tail presented, you may find that you will have to insert a well-scrubbed finger into the vagina to try to hook back the hind legs which are pointed forward. Once you have got hold of them, do not let go otherwise they are likely to slip back within the bitch beyond reach. Do not jerk when the bitch strains but keep up a steady traction which will stimulate her to help you by pushing, centimetre by centimetre. As the puppy is expelled you can work up the body, taking a firmer grip. The puppy has got to come out and ringing the veterinary surgeon at this stage will only create more delay. Therefore do not be afraid, grasp firmly and pull firmly, but do not tug. Note that emphasis is laid on the necessity for minimum delay in a breech delivery. If the envelope covering the whelp happens to be torn and the whelp’s head is uncovered it can’t breathe and after a few minutes in this condition it will die. Or fluid may enter its nostrils and it is drowned. It is better to get the breech puppy away, dead or alive, in order to save the whelps to come, and possibly the bitch. If prolonged, the whelp may be very weak and half dead; therefore sever the cord, clear the membrane, open the mouth with your little finger, draw forward the tongue, blow or breathe into the mouth. Swinging the whelp up and down is also very useful. When you hear the first whimper you will enjoy the thrill of achievement, of having successfully delivered your first breech. This may sound difficult to the inexperienced. In practice it is well within the capability of the novice, and after one or two cases it becomes simple.
(5) An abnormally large whelp, stuck half way; the bitch won’t try to expel it further and runs about with the whelp hanging. Again prompt action is required. It is similar in many respects to the breech delivery, except that the whelp being head first makes the task easier and there is less chance of the feet getting snagged. Although the head is exposed, and you will have cleared the membrane, the whelp still cannot breathe, as its lungs are compressed by the restricted space; consequently speeds, as in the case of the breech delivery, is equally necessary here. Wait for the intermittent straining by the bitch and work your right
finger round the whelp at each strain with a drawing down motion, pushing apart the lips of the vagina (vulva) with the fingers of the other hand. If unsuccessful after a quarter of an hour, SOS your veterinary surgeon.
(6) The after-birth not coming away with the whelp, and only a small portion of cord exposed.
Action: Sever what there is of the cord exposed, as explained at (3), and proceed similarly with the whelp. This condition does not call for urgent veterinary attention, but you should always tell your veterinary surgeon that the after-birth was not passed. At his routine visit after the whelping he will inject a drug which will cause the uterus to contract, and so expel the after-birth and evacuate from the uterus any membranes left behind.
(7) A bitch is sometimes too fat or too heavy in whelp, and when a pup has arrived she cannot reach her end part to perform her immediate
duties. Here you must do them for her as already described.
The last chapter described certain complications which can be successfully dealt with without the aid of a veterinary surgeon, if one is not available.
There are, however, more severe types, treatment for which is quite beyond the capabilities of anyone other than a skilled surgeon. The reader need not be alarmed or imagine that any of them occur frequently, but a brief description is advisable as it should be known that they may happen. Such knowledge should result in intelligent cooperation with the veterinary surgeon, the theme of Part II of this book.
A major complication is always a possibility if nothing has happened after three hours of real labour heaves. If veterinary assistance is likely to be long delayed, or unobtainable, assistance may be attempted by the owner by inserting a finger right up the vagina and into the pelvis and endeavouring to twist, turn and work the whelp over the brim of the pelvis, or clear whatever obstruction is there. Complete sterilization and scrupulous cleanliness is vitally necessary whenever a novice makes a digital exploration of the vaginal passage. If subsequently a Caesarean section has to be performed dirty manipulation would cause a septic condition which would seriously affect the post-operative result. Therefore, wash the bitch's hind parts with soap and water, and whenever the fingers are inserted into the vagina the hands should first have been thoroughly sterilized with suitable disinfectant and water and the fingers smeared with medicated Vaseline.
(1) Lateral deviation of the head. Instead of the nose passing over the brim of the pelvis the head is turned sideways and the neck only is against the orifice. All labour movements of the bitch aggravate the condition. Injections to stimulate the bitch would be absolutely wrong in this situation, as contracting movements would tend to dislocate the
neck and tire the bitch. The veterinary surgeon is frequently able to turn the head and deliver the whelp with forceps, or by Caesarean. In this way that puppy and the others may be saved.
(2) Two whelps presenting at the same time down each horn, meeting simultaneously at the exit of the pelvis and becoming 'locked'. Pretty grim, and a sound argument for warning a veterinary surgeon at the three-hour period, as previously emphasized.
(3) Three whelps presenting simultaneously and getting entangled. Grimmer still, and only an operation can relieve. The writer had this experience with a 6'/2-lb. Miniature. Only two had presented together at first, and while working on these a third presented itself to mess things up even more—a tangled mass of three whelps over the pelvic brim. The veterinary surgeon had never had this complication before. He could do nothing on the spot; it was a case of a shot of morphia, hot water bottles, a dash by car to his operating table, and operative removal. All the whelps were lost, the bitch was terribly ill for three days after the severe manipulations but pulled through, and afterwards was a first-prize winner again, and promoted from the Kennels to be one of the house dogs as a reward for her pluck. Had she been left unattended in an outhouse from the start of this whelping till morning, her suffering would have been terrible and she would have died.
(4) The puppy presents upside down. This is a very difficult complication. Normally the back should be uppermost with the head and rump turning downwards and towards each other, and in this position the whelp slides comfortably over the pelvic brim. With the complication of the belly uppermost, with either a head or a breech presentation, when the bitch strains the puppy is forced upwards against the roof of the pelvis. They can rarely be delivered without veterinary help.
(5) The front legs and feet facing backward and tucked on the chest, instead of forward under the nose. This increases the girth or bulk of the whelp in the region of its chest and impedes smooth delivery. Treatment is as for minor complication number 5 until the veterinary surgeon arrives.
(6) A true breech presentation when the feet, instead of presenting, are tucked under the belly and only the rump or tail appears at the vaginal exit. A rather nasty case, but it can be dealt with by drawing the feet to their correct position, then bringing out one foot and then the other and proceeding as for the simple, uncomplicated posterior presentation.
(7) A fortunately fairly rare condition is when the backbone lodges across the orifice of the pelvis, and digital examination contacts only the back. It is a worse condition than lateral deviation of the head, and veterinary skill deals with it in much the same way as for that complication.
It is hoped that advice given so far in this book has made out a case for the necessity of being with your bitch at whelping time, and has shown some of the calamities that can happen if you leave her unattended. Not only is your presence humane; such attachment to your bitch will also prove profitable to your Kennel account. An owner not prepared to give this care should not breed.
Complications after Whelping
(1) Mastitis or Mammitis, meaning an inflammatory condition of the mammary glands, or breasts. This is by no means uncommon and is caused by the milk not being extracted from one or more glands. It may happen whether whelps are or are not left with the dam. In the former case the whelps appear to ignore one or more glands, sucking only from a few of the teats. The trouble may be detected by the bitch being restless and off her food, and by her high temperature. The glands and nipples affected are swollen and appear to contain hard lumps; they are hot, reddish-purple, distended and very tender. The condition can be very acute and a veterinary surgeon's advice should always be sought when puppies are avoiding any teats which appear hot or painful. Gentle massage and the application of warm flannels in an attempt to draw off some of the milk is a good first-aid measure until the veterinary surgeon sees the bitch. It is always worthwhile taking the bitch's temperature, since with acute mastitis the bitch can quite suddenly become extremely ill with a temperature of 103°F or more. Occasionally, despite the use of broad spectrum antibiotics, abscessation will occur and the veterinary surgeon may advise hot fomentations. If the abscess bursts a quite horrifying amount of bloodstained pus will suddenly run out and the cavity left can be quite huge. However, do not panic, the bitch will be a lot better after this has occurred, the painful period being during the development of the abscess. Her temperature will quickly return to normal and she will contentedly continue to feed her puppies who will suck quite near to the gaping hole! It is important that veterinary instructions regarding bathing, antibiotics etc- are strictly followed. Modern broad spectrum antibiotics will bring about a rapid healing of the abscess. Things used to be very different before these wonder drugs were available.
An authentic experience, with the course of treatment described, will give an instructive example of the veterinary advice and the correct method of carrying out treatment. The case involved a Miniature bitch, weighing barely six pounds. She whelped two puppies seven days too soon. They were too immature to live and died eight hours after birth. Here it was reasonable to suppose that mastitis might occur. A day later another bad whelping case occurred with a six-and-a-half-years-old Standard Smooth Dachshund, which proved fatal after Caesarean section—this being only the second whelping fatality in an experience of over twenty years. As a result of the Standard's Caesarean two moribund orphan pups were brought back from the vet's and hand-reared for twenty-four hours. We then tried to see if the Miniature bitch would suckle the orphaned Standard whelps; such an arrangement would be good for the bitch, to avoid mastitis, and would enable the pups to have natural bitch's milk. She took to them instantly and for three days all went splendidly. We then observed mastitis symptoms and the first-aid treatment already described was carried out, but we could draw off no trace of milk from one extremely hard and tender gland. The temperature had risen to 105 degrees and an abscess had appeared. We now deemed it wise to seek immediate assistance from our veterinary surgeon, and under his supervision the following treatment was carried out.
With continued hot fomentations the abscess was induced to burst, but the remaining condition had to be treated. First the wound was kept scrupulously clean by bathing with hot water hourly. Every two hours the hole was irrigated with acriflavine, 1 in 1,000 solution, and after each wet treatment the wound was left covered with a thick dusting of M and B powder. Temperature dropped and general condition improved. After three days of the treatment, with the abscess cavity clearing up well, the mammary gland tissue was protruding from the hole. This was all removed with a sharp pair of scissors. The acriflavine and M and B powder treatment was continued for a week, the edges of the cavity gradually approximated and complete healing took place. When it is realized that at the worst period the abscess sac was big enough to take a bantam's egg, was raw, purulent and the sloughed gland was exfoliating from it, it will be understood that mastitis can develop into a serious condition. However, if at the more serious stage the veterinary surgeon takes over and his advice is carefully followed no alarm need be felt. Provided one knows the correct procedure and treatment from early recognition to ultimate cure, the joy of success is ample reward for the time and patience bestowed. This instance is the most impressive in my experience of the guts and toughness which some maternal bitches will display when rearing whelps. With something so tiny fostering two Standard pups, at six weeks old nearly as big as their foster-mother, who for about a week was desperately ill and in intense pain, with the lusty pups sucking all the time close to a gaping, painful wound, and proving a zealous and jealous mother, we have an astonishing example of canine grit of the highest type. This bitch never looked back and is as fit and sound (although minus one mammary gland) as one could desire. As a reward she became a favourite house pet, instead of a kennel inmate. The orphaned whelps of the other bitch thrived beautifully, and one became the winner of a CC and two Reserve CCs.
(2) Metritis, or inflammation of the uterus, is not an uncommon complication of parturition. It can be caused by bruising or a reduction in the bitch's resistance due to chilling or exposure to cold after whelping by retained foetal membranes or afterbirth or by the unsuspected presence of a dead whelp. It may result from a protracted labour, dirty manipulation with fingers or instruments or roughness. Sometimes tears occur in the lining to the passage during birth and this can be the source of the trouble. The main signs are a pus-stained reddish or brown discharge, lack of appetite, dullness, and usually a raised temperature. In very acute cases, collapse, coma and death can ensue.
Metritis is an acute veterinary emergency. Even if the bitch's life is not in danger, her milk supply certainly will be if she runs a fever. All the novice can or should do is to have enough knowledge to diagnose the condition. The symptoms described will help him in this respect. He may administer a laxative, as the bowels must be kept loose, and keep the patient very warm until the veterinary surgeon takes over.
(3) Milk fever or eclampsia usually occurs when milk supplies are at their peak, usually two to three weeks after whelping, although cases are known where the condition has occurred prior to whelping. It is not due to an overall lack of calcium but a lack of calcium in the bloodstream due to the heavy demands caused by lactation. It is always the really good Mum, loving and nursing her children with a super abundance of milk that is the victim. Small breeds, Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers etc. are relatively more prone than the larger breeds except those with very large litters.
Panting is probably the first sign, with a look of apprehension on the bitch's face. If she is moved she frequently will appear to walk with a stiff-legged gait and that is the time to call the veterinary surgeon. Very quickly she will be off her legs and eclamptic convulsions or fits can very soon occur. This is one of the few real emergencies in small animal practice and it is for this reason that it is always worth contacting your
veterinary surgeon at the time of whelping, letting him carry out a postnatal examination and discussing the possibilities of milk fever with him. At least then he will be forewarned if there is a panic call at 3 a.m. because the bitch has gone off her legs!
Treatment is usually very spectacular but does involve injections of a calcium product. No amount of extra calcium by mouth will affect the condition. Some bitches appear to be extremely prone and can have several attacks while nursing. In such a case it is better either to hand rear the puppies and dry off the bitch or at least supplement them to ensure there is not this sudden drop in calcium blood level.
(4) Early cessation of milk supply Detect in good time and hand-feed. The whelps will give you the warning by crying continuously. Contented whelps rarely cry. Wean the whelps much earlier than under normal conditions.
Every novice may not know that a dog's temperature is not the same as that of a human. The normal canine temperature is 101-5 degrees, or nearly three degrees higher than in man. Thus a temperature of 102-5 degrees in a dog one would regard as slight, 104 degrees as high, and 105 to 106 degrees as very high to dangerous. As dogs cannot tell us when they are ill, the thermometer should be considered a most important piece of equipment which no Kennel should be without. It is our chief aid to diagnosis. Without it we should be quite unaware of the necessity of calling in a veterinary surgeon, if no other symptoms are apparent. So if one has a dog looking a little off colour and there are no symptoms at all, take the temperature as a routine measure. If the temperature is 102-5 or more seek veterinary advice at once. The ordinary clinical half-minute thermometer is used. It is first soaped or greased, then inserted into the rectum for about one inch. No force is needed, and dogs seldom resist, but the thermometer must be held in place firmly for from half to one minute to prevent it dropping out and breaking.
In cases of a nervous dog who does resist, control is gained by holding its tail firmly, then getting the animal between your arm and your body to steady it, holding its back legs with your left hand at the same time.
Dealing with newly born puppies—Complications which may affect pups after whelping—Hernia, its avoidance and home-treatment—Revival of a moribund whelp—Rearing orphaned whelps—How to introduce a foster-mother
Revival of apparently dead whelps An early experience may make so strong an impression that it remains to influence one's subsequent actions. An incident is clearly recalled that made the writer realize that though a whelp may appear to be dead it can be resurrected, and taught him never to give up hope until all possible remedies have been tried. It happened in this way.
Circumstances had prevented the writer, then a novice, from being present when one of his first Scottie bitches was whelping. When he could attend her the bitch was in great distress and almost unconscious. Two puppies had been born three hours previously, but the bitch had buried them in the sacking and they were dead. They looked so dead that he wrapped them in paper intending later to place them in the incinerator. On arrival of the veterinary surgeon the dead pups were mentioned and he asked to see them. The conversation took place in front of the kitchen fire and, while one whelp was being held up for the vet to examine it gave an almost imperceptible shudder, and there was the faintest movement of a claw. This was due to the combination of warmth from a hand and from the fire. The vet said: 'You've got a live pup there—put it in the oven.' Cotton wool was quickly put in a cardboard box, both pups put in, and it was placed in an oven probably hot enough to cook a meal. After only a minute or two movements were seen from both pups; later they were actually wriggling. In the meantime the vet was dealing with the bitch (a piecemeal removal of the offending whelp with the complication of lateral deviation of the head), while the writer alternately rubbed the pups and held them close to the fire. The bitch fairly soon regained strength. Her intense pain having been relieved, she took an interest in the pups, licked them, and within two hours they had enough strength to attach themselves to a nipple. Both lived and one was ultimately shown.
After that the writer has never thought a whelp dead until he knew it to be very dead.
The cause in the case referred to was quite simple—lack of attention from bitch or human, and exposure to cold.
With any of the major or minor complications already described, as for example a protracted and delayed breech, or where there has been undue compression on the lungs, a whelp when it is ultimately delivered will look lifeless. They are usually cold, long and drawn out, thin and flat, and appear so lifeless that they apparently have about as much chance of survival as the proverbial snowball in hell. Many such cases can be brought to life, though the inexperienced might reasonably have considered the whelps dead.
The following routine methods can be tried before the whelp is relegated to the dustbin. The thrill of seeing a movement or hearing a faint squeak in successful cases repays one for the trouble taken; it is a joy which must be experienced to be appreciated.
(1) Open the mouth and insert the little finger, very gently depress the tongue, blow down the mouth, or, holding the mouth close to one's own, breathe steadily in and out several times. Try to draw the tongue backwards and forwards using a clean finger. This movement being gentle and regular corresponds to normal breathing.
(2) Into a bowl place some hot water (obviously not so hot as to scald the whelp) and immerse the whelp right up to its neck for a minute or two.
(3) For at least five minutes vigorously massage over the heart and lung area, and rub quickly to induce friction on the whole of the whelp's body.
(4) Hold the whelp very close to a source of heat, turning it round so that the heat penetrates all parts of the body.
(5) Hold the whelp's head in your right hand and the body in your left. Raise it to the height of your shoulder, then with a gentle swinging motion bring it down to the level of your knee. A violent movement is not necessary. This will often cause the heart to start beating.
(6) One drop of brandy or other alcohol placed on the tongue sometimes stimulates the puppy to take a breath.
If as a result of any or all of these measures you see signs of life continue your efforts with renewed energy; if life is present you can maintain it.
To sum up, many of the apparently born dead pups one hears of so frequently can be converted into live pups (and future CC winners) if some of the steps indicated are taken promptly.
Hernia, its prevention and treatment. How to avoid it The subject of umbilical hernia could have been included in a later chapter, among the complications affecting the whelp after birth, but since one of its main causes can occur actually at whelping it will be more fitting to describe it and its treatment in a separate section at this stage. Its definition was given in Chapter 10, where it was shown that anyone tending the bitch might cause a hernia through faulty manipulation, and the correct method was described. The second cause of umbilical hernia at whelping time is similar, but caused by the bitch. Some bitches, through fright or over-zealousness, attack the cord almost ferociously, and with one paw on the whelp will snatch and tear at the cord, and by tugging instead of quickly biting will draw the guts from the whelp's abdomen. If you observe this, intervene at once, soothe the bitch, and sever the cord for her in the correct manner already detailed.
The following method has been practised successfully: A piece of cork approximately the size of a 2p piece and approximately a quarter of an inch thick can be bound over the hernia using wide Elastoplast. Ensure there is a piece of cotton wool between the hernia and the cork. The tape must not be tight enough to restrict the abdomen at all, but sufficiently firm to put pressure on the cork to transmit it to the hernia. Some puppies will tolerate this bandage even at a very young age, others are distressed and it should then be removed. Another factor to contend with is the bitch who may become very agitated if a puppy is treated in this way. Again the only answer is to remove the dressing. In puppies of one to two weeks old the cork need only be kept in position for about forty-eight hours and there will be considerable improvement. The reason for this is that the protruding gut is enlarging the traumatic opening in the weakened abdominal wall and if the protrusion is eliminated the torn abdominal muscles will automatically heal very rapidly. With older puppies (up to three months) a similar method can be tried, although in most cases a surgical operation is then necessary. If in doubt consult your vet.
Prolapse of Anus This is an eversion, or turning outwards, of the lower part of the rectum, and is caused in very young whelps by straining to pass faeces. Its appearance is that of an enlarged, very red fleshy mass from a quarter to a half inch protruding outside. This must be immediately reduced by pressing it back again with wet cotton wool, repeating the pressure every time there is a recurrence. If straining is due to constipation as evidenced by the lack of any faeces or a big fat 'belly' a few drops of liquid paraffin by mouth may help resolve the situation. However, most cases of prolapse of the anus are due to an ongoing enteritis and liquid paraffin in these cases will only exacerbate the situation. The condition calls for an expert opinion as soon as possible: therefore call the vet. In the meantime, try to keep the part clean and moist using saline solution. The puppy should be removed from the bitch who will invariably endeavour to clean and chew at the prolapsed part if she is not prevented. Until seen by the veterinary surgeon, it is essential that the prolapsed area is kept moist.
Milk Rash Ocassionally puppies develop allergies due to the bitch's milk. The hair may come away in patches and dry flaky scabs appear and scale off. This can also occur at weaning time when other protein foods are being introduced. If the puppy is still suckling from the bitch, try weaning on to other forms of protein. If the puppy is already off the bitch, discontinue the present formula and consult your veterinary surgeon regarding alternative nourishment.
Eye Trouble Failure to open at normal time, runny or watery eyes, conjunctivitis, matter formation and tendency for lids to stick together, pus formation with a large bulge under the lid. In any of the above conditions simple first aid is to bathe regularly with cold water. Any eye problem with a young puppy should be mentioned to the veterinary surgeon as soon as possible.
Intussusception This is invagination of the bowel, or more simply a telescoping of one part of the bowel into another. It is not uncommon in young whelps up to eight weeks old, and is often present at the same time as a prolapsed anus. Symptons are lack of appetite, marked abdominal distension, vomiting, rise in temperature, bloodstained and jelly-like discharge, crying out in pain, and marked tenderness on palpating the abdomen. Worms can often be a cause and with modern worm remedies it is worth worming the puppies from fourteen days onwards. If the puppy is gravely ill the veterinary surgeon should be contacted immediately. Modern anaesthesia means that operation to remove the intussusception or resect part of the bowel carries an encouraging success rate, even in very young puppies.
Deformities Hare lip, obvious malformation of joints or limbs, the latter being unequal in size, either elongated or shortened. Always follow your veterinary surgeon's advice. These deformed puppies are often a burden, not only to themselves but to you as they develop and, although upsetting, euthanasia is often the wisest course.
Inability to suckle This may arise from a variety of causes, but whatever the cause carry on as for orphaned whelp, described below, until normal suckling can be induced.
Briefly, the essentials are time, patience and perseverance. A whelp must receive some nourishment within three hours of birth. Today Lactol,* Welpi** and other simulated bitch's milk preparations are available and the manufacturers' instructions regarding reconstitution should be carefully followed. Anyone contemplating a litter should previously provide themselves with a premature baby feeder (Belcroy) which can be obtained from most veterinary surgeons or a Catac open-ended feeder specifically designed for feeding orphan puppies (and kittens).
In an emergency, a small needle-less hypodermic syringe or a medicine dropper can be used but with these there is always the danger that the puppy sucks in more air than food. All the proprietary foods carry instructions regarding the approximate quantities necessary to be fed at each meal but as a rough guide the puppy's stomach should be watched and not allowed to become over-distended.
At birth and for the first week feeding every two or three hours is mandatory but provided the puppies are kept in a temperature of around 80°F and the atmosphere is kept moist with a piece of damp cotton wool or damp towels in the box with them, they can quite successfully go through the night between 12 p.m. and 6 a.m. However, it is mandatory that they are kept in a constant temperature and for this purpose an infra red heater is ideal.
When feeding the pup it should be held in a fairly upright position and in this way milk is unlikely to enter the trachea and cause the pup to choke. If the puppy will not feed, do not try to force it. Ask your veterinary surgeon, who may show you how to feed by gavage or stomach tube which as a last resort has been known to save weakly puppies.
After each meal the puppies must be stimulated to urinate and defecate. The bitch normally does this by licking them vigorously and in her absence this can be stimulated by rubbing the puppies along the back and round the perineum (anal region) using a damp piece of cotton wool. It is imperative that this procedure should be carried out after each meal, otherwise alimentary problems will ensue.
Although probably elementary, it must be emphasized that scrupulous cleanliness must be adhered to. Enteric infections in orphan puppies are easily acquired from dirty feeding utensils or a dirty technique adopted during preparation of the food.
Handling and socialisation of these orphan puppies leads to a very strong human/animal bond and they are frequently very much more advanced than puppies reared 'naturally'. Weaning should be commenced as soon as their eyes are open, from about the sixteenth to the eighteenth day. Tip their noses with the feeding bottle so that a little of the formula adheres to their lips. In this way they will soon learn to lap and then their noses can be dipped into a shallow saucer of the same formula. Raw, scrapped meat placed into their mouths soon has them chewing and as soon as this is accomplished you can then try them on one of the proprietary puppy foods.
Foster-mother Although many whelps have been reared by hand from birth in some such way as just outlined, the introduction of a foster-mother and her management must be described, as it will save much time and labour, and bitch's milk is better than any substitute, since it contains many of the antibodies which will protect the puppy against common diseases such as distemper, parvovirus and many of the enteric conditions. Any breed about the same size as the normal dam can be chosen. If she comes with one or two whelps of her own she may prove chary of the strangers. This is overcome by keeping her away from the whelps she has to adopt until the following has been done: if she has any sacking or bedding of her own rub the whelps all over with this; put her whelps with the new ones and rub them together; go to the teats, squeeze out some of her milk and smear this all over the orphans. All this is done with the object of making the whelps new to her smell like her own. This done, she will probably settle down at once and let the orphans suckle from her. If the foster-mother has no whelps of her own smear with her milk those she has to adopt before introducing them.
Cats will often make excellent foster-mothers.
To conclude this section a statement made earlier is repeated— namely that although some rather grim details connected with whelping have had to be given it must be remembered that in the majority of cases the process is an interesting and happy event for the bitch and her owner. As this is not always so, however, every breeder should know what may occur and know how to act if skilled assistance is not immediately available.
Before contemplating having a litter from your bitch there are certain things you must do. Firstly ensure that she has been comprehensively wormed. Today modern worm remedies will cover both tape and round worms and it is worthwhile contacting your veterinary surgeon and discussing this problem with him. He will no doubt not only advise worming before mating but actually during pregnancy; some of the remedies available today are quite safe to administer even late in pregnancy. Both bitch and puppies will then have to be wormed, especially against round worm, when the puppies are only two or three weeks old and this too has to be repeated on several occasions.
While discussing the proposed mating with your vet, check on the bitch's inoculation status. Has she been fully inoculated? When is a booster due? If she is nearly due for her annual 'top-up' it might be worth having this done a little early to ensure she has the best possible immunity when she goes to visit the stud dog and subsequently when she whelps. The dam's immunity is passed on to the puppies both via the bloodstream and also more importantly by her milk supply and therefore a fully inoculated bitch at whelping is conferring on her puppies the best possible immunity she can.
Today dogs are normally inoculated against distemper, hepatitis (a liver disease) two forms of kidney disease (caused by a leptospiral organism) and also canine parvovirus disease. It is canine parvovirus in recent years that has caused the majority of the headaches with inoculation, since the immunity that puppies receive from their dams can sometimes be relatively long lasting. Until comparatively recently this used to interfere with early inoculation, neutralising any vaccine, so that once the maternal immunity waned, sometimes as late as four or five months of age, the puppy was completely vulnerable. Today the new generation of canine parvovirus vaccines have gone some way to overcoming this problem but the advice of your veterinary surgeon should always be sought regarding conditions in your particular area.
Another class of diseases that must be considered is the so-called inherited and breed pre-disposed diseases. These range from cataract and Progressive Retinal Atrophy ( a cause of increasing blindness) to disabling diseases such as Hip Dysplasia. Joint Kennel Club/British Veterinary Association schemes aimed at identifying individual carriers are available for some of the eye conditions and also Hip Dysplasia, conditions which have been recognized in a wide range of breeds. Your veterinary surgeon is the best person to advise. Therefore that pre-mating chat becomes even more worthwhile.
It is not uncommon for bitches after a heat to develop a phantom pregnancy when they, although not in whelp, think they are and will develop milk and adopt a nesting behaviour. Sometimes their whole demeanour will change and they will become aggressive even towards members of the family if they are disturbed. Invariably these animals make splendid mothers but please do not think that mating will be the answer to the bitch's problems. The next time she comes in season her desire for puppies will be even greater and therefore her phantom that much worse, so do not be misled by well-intentioned people who tell you, when you have a bitch in a false pregnancy, to have her mated.
Finally, I would like to say just a few words about mating, pregnancy and whelping in general. As a veterinary surgeon who has owned and bred from bitches of various breeds all his life, I am utterly convinced that dog breeding is a specialized business and should not be entered into lightly by enthusiastic amateurs who feel that it would be nice to have a litter. There are many unwanted dogs in the world today, rescue kennels are full to overflowing, not only with mongrels but with pedigree pets who are 'people mistakes'. Do not add to them! Carefully consider the amount of work and expense that will be involved in rearing a litter of puppies and, last but not least, consider the disposal of those puppies. If there are any doubts that you will not be able to cope, don't join: leave breeding to the specialized breeders!
In practice I frequently hear the story that well-intentioned owners have been told that a 'litter will do the bitch good'. After nearly thirty years in practice I have still to find this bitch that 'has been done good'. A pet bitch, suddenly presented with a family of her own is frequently confused and torn between her desire to be with her proper family with whom she has grown up and her instinctive urge to be with her natural family. If she normally sleeps in the owner's bedroom and has suddenly been relegated to the kitchen because she has a litter of puppies, she cannot reconcile this and will not settle, carrying puppies from pillar to post. This is upsetting for all concerned, not least the puppies. At the end of the day there is the question of disposal. All those people who enthusiastically wanted a puppy at the time of whelping suddenly find a multiplicity of plausible reasons why they don't want one of the pups and so the problems mount.
Think carefully before you add to the cohort of unwanted puppies. Do not think however that I am opposed to anyone with a pet bitch breeding from her. On the contrary, many of the top exhibitors and breeders in this country today started in just that way. All I am emphasizing is that you should carefully consider your circumstances. Have you the time, the facilities, the market; above all, the energy and enthusiasm? If the answer to all or most of these questions is 'Yes' you will find that those established within your breed and not least your veterinary surgeon will do all they can to help.