21 March, 2009

Care & Feeding of Too Many Dogs - Pt 1

For the past three months our lives have been focused on exactly one thing. Puppies. Midwifing puppies, housing puppies, feeding puppies, cleaning puppies. Puppies! We just sent our last pup to it's new, loving home and have received reports back from owners and vets alike that, whatever we did, we did it right. I thought I'd share some details of our puppy-raising experience, stage by stage. This first part of the story covers late pregnancy through the puppies' third week.

Pre-birth: It definitely takes awhile to even realize a dog is in "the family way." There are no easy tests or methods of discovery. You just begin to notice that your dog's belly is getting fatter and fatter, and teats begin to form. Then you start praying for a rare 1-pup litter. In this stage, we made sure Laney got as much food as she could stand, boosting the protein gradually and feeding her on demand. When she began digging in the yard and sniffing around the house, hubby constructed a cardboard nesting box and lined it with towels. Some dogs prefer a quiet out-of-the-way spot, but our dog loves her people and preferred a back corner of the living room for her delivery.

Labor: We left it all up to Laney. After all, nature knows best. For the 24 hours before delivery, she spent a great deal of time pacing and panting, testing out her box and generally going bit stir crazy. Delivery began as a surprise to us both! She birthed the first while standing in the middle of the kitchen. I made certain the pup had a soft landing, then watched to make sure she accepted the puppy. She was a champ! She expertly removed the amniotic sac, cleaned off the little girl and moved her to the whelping box. Over the next ten hours, she birthed seven more little dogs. We kept the room draft-free and watched everyone closely for the next day or two. All the pups nursed well and we couldn't have asked for a more textbook delivery.

Weeks 1 & 2: This is the time to sit back, coo cutely and the little critters. There isn't much else you can do. While we busied ourselves with changing towels and keeping Laney happy, she mothered her pups like a pro. With her watchful permission, we handled the puppies daily, and gently, wanting them to be used to touch as early as possible. Laney's food at this time nearly tripled in volume, aiding in milk production and ensuring she had enough energy to deal with a litter of eight.

Week 3: It was around this time that we moved the whelping box to a spare room. Hubby fashioned a lovely, more permanent whelping box of scrap wood, which allowed Laney more room to nurse and gave us an easier cleaning strategy. I really do recommend cardboard for the birth, though. Many fluids and other slimy things are involved in any birth and it's much easier to simply toss out the original cardboard box. At the end of this third week, all eight puppies began to open their eyes.

Though it was a surprise to us, having adopted an already-pregnant dog, puppy rearing continues to be a very entertaining, rewarding, and often maddening experience. Stay tuned for the continuing saga of Puppydom when I cover weeks four through eight.


Margo said...

Just LOVE the pic of the puppy and the cabbage

Kelly the City Mouse said...

That one HAS to be one of my favorites of the whole two months. I've got some other great pups-on-the-cityfarm photos that I'll share in the next post.

Maggie ~:) said...

Midwifing and raising kittens is hands down the BEST part of being a pet foster mom! I had originally said I wouldn't do it again, but I am so happy I got suckered in again this year. One day when I have a house and a yard, I'd love to graduate to puppies.

dixiebelle said...

Cute!!! What a good mum she's been too...

Kelly the City Mouse said...

Maggie: I would take raising kittens over puppies ANY day! I'm very much a dog person but kittens are soooo much less hassle. I've raised two litters of cats and they were SO much easier and far less noisy lol.

Dixiebelle: Welcome to the plot! She was a very good mom. Sadly, some of that is wearing off lol. She's now a bit of a competative sibling.