Sunday, July 13, 2014

What's up with whelping: we're itching for puppies!

With puppies due in a little over two weeks, Cinder has been readying herself for motherhood. Mother Nature does a fantastic job of equipping animals with all they need to take care of themselves and their offspring when they have babies. But there's nothing wrong with a little help, so I have also been preparing for Cinder's babies. When the Reggae Litter made its debut at the Ranch in July of 2011, Tak welcomed our assistance.

Mama Tak nursing her litter, the Reggae pups

Some have asked what is needed to prepare for a litter of puppies. So I thought I would prepare a list of supplies I use to prepare for tiny furry canines to make their entrance into the world.

My 10 year old, Elise, and I recently finished building a whelping box that is simple in design, affordable (about $50), and made from one sheet of plywood. Here's what you need:
  • One 4x8 sheet of plywood (you can use any variety and grade of wood; I chose a mid-grade for durability). $25 
  • 16 feet of 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe $6.50
  • 8 Metal "L" shaped brackets to connect the pieces of the whelping box $8
  • 8 Plastic "J" shaped brackets to fasten PVC to the sides of the whelping box $8
  • 1/2 inch decking or wood screws $5
  • Circular saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Drill
You can cut the plywood, or have your local hardware store make the cuts for you when you purchase  it; they have the ability to make more precise cuts than I can, so I usually have the hardware store cut it for me. Cut the plywood in half, and then cut one of the halves in thirds. Now you have a 4x4 piece for the bottom (if you choose to have a bottom; I prefer not having a floor for easy cleaning) and three 1x4 pieces for the sides. You can purchase the extra 1x4 piece or do what I did, which was to cut it from the bottom...which I didn't use for a bottom. Ultimately you need four sides of 1x4 pieces. Attach these pieces together with the "L" brackets.

I borrowed a friend's whelping box when Tak had her pups three years ago. It had pig rails made the old fashioned way out of slats of wood. I chose to make pig rails from PVC pipe. Pig rails are important because, should a pup get between mama and the side of the whelping box, the rail prevents the pup from being accidentally squished.

When Elise and I were all done piecing our whelping box together, this is what it looked like. My office has now been transformed into a whelping room.

My tiny office, which is now back to being a whelping room. This is where two litters have previously whelped, as well as numerous baby chickens

Some sites suggest a huge laundry list of supplies needed to assist mama during labor. I like to keep it simple. After all, animals are keenly aware of what needs done during labor and delivery.

Here is my simple list of supplies I have on hand during labor
  • Thermometer & Petroleum jelly - when mama is getting close to her due date of 63 days from the day of the first breeding, I begin taking her temperature rectally. A dog's normal temperature is around 101 degrees; just before the onset of labor, mom's temp will drop sharply to around 98. When this happens, labor is about to begin. 
  • During the actual birth, I prefer to have puppy pads, the disposable pads normally used for puppy potty training, on the floor. No mess! Just toss them in the trash when mom is done giving birth.
  • Clean blankets and/or towels for after the pups are born, and also for rubbing newborn pups to help stimulate breathing. I purchase the ones we use for whelping at local Goodwill or thrift stores. 
  • Unwaxed dental floss - this is for tying the umbilical cord in case, for some reason, mom is not chewing it. Normally, the mother will instinctively chew the umbilical cord in half releasing the pup from its placenta. BUT if mom isn't gentle, the chewing can pull on the belly of the pup causing an umbilical hernia. Our own leader, Ruffian, had this when she was a yearling and had surgery to correct it. I like to assist mom with this part of labor when at all possible to prevent the risk of umbilical hernia. If nothing else, I like to hold each pup close to mom's mouth as she chews the umbilical to prevent too much pulling. 
  • Sterile surgical scissors - for cutting the umbilical cord. These are also used later to remove dew claws. 
  • Bulb syringe - Mama dog knows to lick each pup and chew the sack of membranes from its face. If, for some reason, she isn't, I like to have a bulb syringe handy to suction the mucus from each pup's nose and help stimulate breathing.
  • Nutrical - this optional dietary supplement is loaded with calories and nutrients to help mom maintain strength during the hours of laboring. 
  • Calsorb - like Nutrical, Calsorb contains extra calcium. When a dog whelps, if they don't have enough calcium, several things can go wrong, including postpartum eclampsia.  As a precaution, I like to give mom a little bit of Calsorb between the birth of each pup. Some substitute vanilla ice cream as well. 
Optional Whelping Items
  • Digital scale for weighing puppies
  • Different colored ribbon or yarn for distinguishing puppies from each other. Usually Alaskan husky pups are a wide variety of colors so this isn't necessary. 
The average gestation for a dog is 63 days from the time of breeding. Cinder was first bred on May 26, making her due date July 28.

Sled dog litters are traditionally named in themes. For example, the Reggae litter were all named after Reggae musicians, another litter born here, the Jazz litter, were all named after Jazz musicians. We have a handful of name themes rolling around, but would love suggestions! If you have a theme suggestion for Cinder's litter, please let us know in the comments section on this blog! I look forward to reading them!

Two weeks and counting...

 from the whelping room!

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