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Puppy Talk

What to expect when you're expecting Puppies! - Part 5 - The first week of puppies

Peaking puppiesBoy oh boy, this was a tiring week - and an extremely emotional one as it turned out. My last blog post ended with a rosy image of the sun rising over our little house in Oxfordshire with six puppies snuggled up with their mummy in an upstairs bedroom, and the day that followed was pretty much spent watching the puppies, making sure they were all feeding, and making sure Maisie had access to her food and water. She did make her first loo dash a few hours after the last puppy's arrival, and it was no problem for her to be parted with them for a minute or two. Needless to say, she did her business out in the garden quickly and was back with her girls as soon as she could manage.


I would say that your most important task over the first few days of the puppies' life is making sure that they all get a roughly equal feed. The nipples closest to her rear end are the ones that produce the most colostrum, and this is literally the elixir of life for new born pups. Make sure you know the difference between your puppies very quickly, and try to rotate pups on the back teats so they all get a good feed. We kept a notebook by the whelping box for all manner of observations throughout the first week or two - who was being greedy and hogging the back teats, who was sleeping a bit too much and not feeding as avidly, that sort of thing. We found that the pups would sleep for around half an hour and then feed for around ten minutes before falling asleep and falling off the teat. And this was basically their life for the first week!


Puppy ChaosWeighing the puppies every day for the first three weeks or so is a good idea as you can pinpoint difficulties very quickly this way. We found that slim line electric kitchen scales with a large mixing bowl made for a useful set of puppy scales, and we tried to weigh them at the same time each day for parity. Starting at around 300 grams each, they put on something like 10% weight a day. A good book like The Book of the Bitch will give you an idea of a healthy rate of weight gain.

A Sad Day

On day two, we very sadly lost a puppy. Having been alerted already to her weight which was a bit lower than the others' we spent the day keeping a special eye on her and attempting to keep her on the best teats - with varying levels of success. Come the evening she appeared to lose interest in suckling altogether and we tried to bottle feed her some puppy formula, keeping her as warm as we could in the process on a heat pad. The graveness of this puppy's situation accelerated very quickly - one moment she was simply bit dozy and not suckling as enthusiastically as the others, and the next moment we were frantically dialling the vet's out of hours number before realising that she had slipped away already. Being the smallest puppy and the last one out, this wasn't an unusual thing to happen and this particular pup did have a difficult birth as mentioned in my previous post. Could we have prevented losing her? We don't think so, though if we did it again we would have called the vet as soon as we felt there was a problem - if only for reassurance that we were doing all we could. 


You'll find that your bitch is rather 'leaky' for a couple of weeks after whelping. Vets advise that foul smelling and green coloured discharge could mean trouble, so always speak to your vet if you are unsure or worried. Maisie's discharge was pinkish, brownish and sometimes a little clotted, and was all considered normal for the days and weeks following whelping.



This series of blogs won't replace a professional guide by any means, but intends to cover all the bits and bobs I wished I had known from the start, plus things I worked out along the way that were well worth knowing.

Disclaimer bit: I am not a vet and all advice given here is purely based on my personal experience. I can thoroughly recommend The Book of The Bitch as a professional guide for all stages of the process. 

Alice West

Alice West lives in Buckinghamshire and is the proud owner of two gorgeous black Working Cocker Spaniels called Maisie and Dotty, and a one-year-old human called Matilda. Dotty came from Maisie's first litter of puppies - all girls - born in December 2013.

Running a copywriting business from home means Alice can enjoy lovely dog walks on her lunch break, and is distracted frequently by Spaniels chewing her shoes, begging for food and fighting over toys. She works Maisie and Dotty on a very sympathetic local shoot in the winter months. 

View Alice's Google Plus profile here

Alice West

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