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What to expect when you're expecting Puppies! - Part 4 - Whelping

Maisy and her babiesIt was actually quite difficult to get into the corner of the box and see what was going on during Maisie's labour, as she was very determined and licked each puppy clean as soon as they were born. The following placentae must have been eaten up immediately too, as we found no evidence of it, apart from lots of staining on the newspaper; every colour from pink to brown to green. I know - lovely! Apparently it's great for the bitch to eat her placenta as it's full of nutrients, though eating it can make her stools rather tarry for some time after.

One, two, three, four...

The first four puppies were born at twenty minute intervals, and our only real involvement was soothing words of encouragement and lots of stroking, which she seemed to appreciate. We also moved the pups slightly away from Maisie as she was about to deliver the next one, gathering them in a small soft dog bed placed on top of a heat pad. This was just to let her concentrate on the delivery and not get distracted by the pups. During the downtime between births we tried to get the puppies suckling, which they did with little help. The teats closest to your bitch's back end are the best teats and contain most of the colostrum that puppies need in their first few days of live to survive. Make sure each pup gets an equal turn on the back teats, especially in the first few days of life. If all your pups come out the same colour like ours did, it's essential that you can distinguish between them somehow from an early stage, so you can keep track of each one's feeding. Some breeders tie a different coloured threads around puppies' tails to help tell the difference!

A difficult birth

How many cute pupsAn hour elapsed between puppy four and five, and this one needed a little help from us as she presented herself back legs first. Maisie seemed a bit stressed about this one and groaned a little, but Ed managed to hook his third and fourth fingers around the pups' back end and gently pulled her out with a downward motion. Pups born with some difficulty (like this one) may need some help taking its first breaths. Maisie licked off the membrane sac and bit the umbilical cord efficiently, and as this pup was quite still and hadn't opened her mouth to breathe, Ed held her upside down and gave her a gentle shake to bring up any fluid left in her lungs. Next up we rubbed her vigorously in a towel and dropped some Dopram in her mouth, and she finally took her first breath. This all happened within a space of a few seconds but it can feel like a lifetime when it happens in front of you. Keeping calm is key. A vet has since told me that Dopram can be dropped in the nose, mouth or eyes - it has the same stimulating effect.

Another difficult birth

All Pups AsleepThe sixth and final puppy was born in much the same way as number five - with difficulty - so Ed helped ease her out and we gave her the upside-down jiggle / towel rub / Dopram treatment too. This one looked and felt even more lifeless than number five when she came out, so we went through the motions of helping to revive her, but we both thought she was stillborn. This was an eventuality we had prepared ourselves for, and you should too if you're considering breeding - a litter without at least one stillborn is quite lucky, and apparently up to 25% of a litter may perish before their first week of life. But number six duly opened her mouth and took her first gasps shortly after. Phew!

So within four hours of waking up to the sounds of a puppy's first cries, we sat down with our coffees and watched the sun come up as Maisie set about feeding her six girls. The real fun was just about to begin...

If you missed the previous part, here is Part 3 - Preparing for Whelping.





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. 

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Alice West

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