When all of the pups are born, make sure that each one has a chance to nurse. Remember that newborn pups need the colostrum-milk to get immunity against disease. Place each pup on a teat, if they haven't already found one. The bitch may become so absorbed in licking a pup or herself, that she may forget to nudge the pups toward the teats.
Under normal conditions, the bitch will chew off the navel cords. If she doesn't, you can snip or break them. But do not cut them any closer than one inch from the navel. The navel cord stumps usually dry up and fall off in about 2 or 3 days. Once in a while, a cord breaks off too close to the pup's navel and a small rupture ensues. The rupture may heal as the pup grows or it may have to be surgically repaired. As a precaution against navel infection, you can apply an antiseptic to each of the navel cord stumps. Tincture of iodine will be satisfactory.
Just when you think that all the pups have been born, the bitch may go into labor again. She may be trying to expel another pup or a retained placenta. Let her alone and see what happens. If she works for more than an hour or two without any results, call the veterinarian. Sometimes you can feel an unborn pup on the underside of the bitch's pelvis. More often you merely feel the swollen uterus.
When it's all over
When you are satisfied that no more pups are due, let the bitch rest. She's just been through a strenuous experience. She may want to go outdoors to relieve herself or she may not want to leave the pups. But let her make the move. If she does go outside, don't leave her out too long. Later on, she'll get back on her regular house-training schedule.
Next, clean up the whelping box, clear away the equipment and let the new mother take care of her pups. You might try her with some food; warm milk or warm milk and Pablum will be nourishing. Don't be surprised if she refuses to eat. It will not be long before she is looking for her meal, especially when the pups start nursing in earnest.
The bitch will have a discharge for the next week or ten days. If all went well during whelping, the discharge will be red or dark red in color. But a greenish discharge means trouble. A placenta or portion of a placenta probably has been retained. (You may have miscounted them in your excitement!) Serious infection can result from a retained placenta. This infection can cause the bitch's milk to dry up and the bitch and pups may die. Don't waste any time when you spot this greenish discharge; get her to the veterinarian or call him for instructions.
For the first few days, you will have to keep a close watch on the new pups. Make sure that each one is getting enough to eat. The rear teats usually hold the most milk, and the larger pups will shove the weaker ones aside to reach these well-filled teats. If the litter is a large one—over 8 pups—it will be necessary to feed the pups in shifts. Divide the litter into two groups and feed one group at a time, three or four times a day.
Some bitches can't or will not nurse the pups. When this occurs, you have two alternatives: 1) find a foster mother; or 2) hand-rear the pups. Your veterinarian may be able to help you find a foster mother or perhaps the local humane society will help you out.
In using a foster mother, proceed cautiously. First, make sure she is in good health. Second, see that she has enough milk to feed the litter. And three, remove the natural mother when using the foster mother.
Many foster mothers will not allow strange pups to nurse. You'll have to use some subterfuge. Squeeze out some milk from the foster mother (do this in another room) and rub it on each pup. This usually deludes a foster mother into thinking the pups are hers when she sniffs them and smells her own odor. Shepherds use this trick when they put an orphaned or rejected lamb on a foster mother. They go a bit further, though. Usually a ewe used as a foster mother has lost her own lamb. So, the shepherd will skin her dead lamb, tie the hide over an orphaned or rejected lamb, take some of the foster mother's milk and smear it over the hide covering the lamb. It all sounds complicated, but it works.
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