Lot's to think about!
Preparing for a litter from Facebook’s PBGV Preservation Breeders Group. Comments by experienced breeders.
Tiffany Cannon. One piece of advice I needed for my first litter 10 years ago was about when to offer water. I remember calling my mentor Julie Shannon for help when I had fussy puppies. They were eating great and fat little ticks but they were still fussy and somewhat frantic about nursing. I remember when I asked Julie what could be wrong...she said...’well, they’re probably thirsty.’ It never occurred to me that pups who were drinking their nutrition might still need more fluids to stay hydrated. I now have a very shallow walled dish (actually a microwaveable steamer tray) that I keep in the pen for water starting as soon as their eyes open and they get their sea legs. I touch the water and put a drop on their noses and am amazed at how they take to it instinctively. I’ve had some big litters (7 and 9) and find they really like having water much earlier than I would have thought. Of course, I have only enough for them to lick a bit...not deep where they could aspirate or drown if they have an inevitable face plant!
Veronica Scheer. When I was preparing for my first litter, my mentors were literately a life-line. Jeanne & Lynne were on speed dial and when the time came, they immediately came to my house. One thing I thought was helpful is having a go-kit in case I needed to take them to emergency. It including heating pad/adapter for car, towels, carrying case, flashlight, wee pad so pups never touch vet table, emergency phone numbers and address programmed into GPS. Glad I did not have to use it as our delivery went well.
Megan Esherick. I second this and would add make sure the car is set up for the bitch and litter. After many years of natural deliveries, we had to make a late night vet run this summer because we thought Spice had more puppies (turned out she didn’t). The go kit was ready, but the cars weren’t set up.
Tiffany Cannon. VERY TRUE! Couldn’t agree more. I have indeed delivered a puppy in the car on the way home from the vet. Puppy #1 was stuck. Emergency vet got him out for us and as we were rushing home, Puppy #2 popped out. I luckily had the seat covered and a secondary whelping kit with me so I could cut the cord and suction the airway.
Patti Whitlock. Paper towels, garbage bag, heating pads, scissors, towels, bedding, and suction. All next to whelping box. Oxytocin on hand. Paper and pen to keep track of arrival times, sex, and markings. Lots of caffeine! And a great whelping box. Also a clothes basket with heating pad and blanket on the side. I use paper towels to clean off pups, then nasties go right in garbage! Makes life easy.
Helen Ingher. Dental floss to tie off cords.
Julie Korenchuk. Scale to weigh. Bottles to feed is needed and feeding tube. Fluids if needed. Phones charged. Emergency numbers. Camera. Thermometer. I also have a heat lamp if needed.
Donna Bruce. I set up the whelping box in the dormer of my bedroom. That way I am close to the attached bathroom. So, if the need occurs, I can still keep an eye on mom. I also have a good night light for the area. I keep it on at night when I move her into the box. With the rest of the room dark at night, the night light gives off enough illumination to check on mom before and after whelping. For maiden bitches, I keep the dormer light on for the first few nights, until she gets used to having the babies around. Experienced bitches, once everything is over and done, I just use the night light. I have to add, I am a very light sleeper. The mom digging in the bedding wakes me right up. The best thing with a litter is if I sleep through the night after they are born. Quiet babies are happy babies. Puppies cry if they are hungry, if they are cold or uncomfortable. They will cry if mom steps on them or leaves them out of the pile.
Someone mentioned a scale. I weigh each puppy right after it is born. I then weigh them again morning and evening for the first few days. Weight is the best indicator that the puppies are thriving and growing. I start out weighing them in grams, instead of oz. Growth, or lack of, in oz. can be deceiving. Grams are easier to note increases or not.
Helen Ingher. I prefer a heat lamp instead of heating pad. A larger area can be heated. I keep a thermometer in the lamp’s direction to monitor.
Jan Zigich. I have the whelping room all set about a week prior to the predicted event. I have all my "tools" set out (forceps, baby bulb for sucking mucus, towels for the expected puppies, heating disc in a basket for temporary placement during whelping, paper towel, garbage bag, floss, scissors, a scale, paper for notation and a book on whelping I have had and referred to for over 20 years. A few years back, Ross thought he needed an oxygen chamber so he now has his "ice cream bucket" with oxygen tank always in the room for a quick dose to wake a slow pup up. I do have a heat lamp and heat pad in the room but I try to keep the room at a regulated temp so not to create too much heat for the mother. I can usually tell pretty quickly if the pups are warm enough - just by their physical placement (spread out/laying on their backs....) in the box and if they are fussy. I sleep in that room for about 2 weeks after puppies are born.
Donna Bruce. As far as room temperature, I hang a refrigerator thermometer by the box to make sure the temperature there is where I want it. As heat rises and cold falls, the temperature by a whelping box on the floor can be different than what a wall thermometer reads. I like to keep the whelping area between 70-72°F. As Jan said, if they are cold, they will be fussy; too warm and they will be all over the box, on their backs.
I prefer a UV or heat lamp to a heating pad. The heating pads tend to draw the body heat if the puppies down toward the pad, leaving their backs open to chill. Be sure to point the heat lamp toward one side or corner of the box, not covering the entire area of the box. This allows mom and the pups to move in and out of the heated area as needed and not overheat. If you have central heat or A/C, be sure that you are not setting up the box right under, or over, an air register. Any type of draft can chill puppies, something you never want to happen.
I always make sure that mom has plenty of fresh water 24/7. I use a bucket hooked to the side of the Xpen I have surrounding the whelping box. Pinned up buckets cannot accidentally be knocked over like a bowl can, wetting bedding and puppies.