B-Litter Diary - Conception to Birth

Welcome to the diary of our B-Litter from Nena and Kathare. 

We take the decision to breed a litter of puppies very seriously and a lot of work and planning (usually years) goes into the process of planning a mating, including deciding if a bitch is suitable to be bred, making sure she has had all the appropriate health tests performed so we can use them to help us make our decisions, choosing an appropriate dog to sire the litter (wherever he may be in the world), and making the arrangements so the mating can happen.  Then comes the actual mating itself and ensuring that the bitch is healthy and happy throughout her pregnancy, and the birth and raising of the puppies. While mum can do a lot of the work with the puppies, there is a lot of work for us to do too, to ensure they get the very best start in life.

This page outlines some of the things that occur from the time of conception of the litter, through the pups' birth, until the time they go to their new homes.  I hope you enjoy reading about some of the things that we do with the aim of raising healthy, happy and well adjusted puppies.

4-5 February 2017      

This weekend Nena was inseminated using Frozen semen from Kathare.  Kathare lives in the United States so frozen semen is necessary for a long distance relationship.  The last year has been busy with Kathare's owner in the US organising collection and freezing of Kathare's semen and then with arranging its shipment to Australia in a special dry ice shipping tank.  There is lots of red tape and paperwork for this process.  The semen was thankfully safely in Australia and ready to go when Nena came into season. 

Once Nena was in season, we conducted progesterone tests through our local vet clinic to help us determine when she would be ready for the insemination. When the tests told us she was almost ready (She ovulated on 2 February), it was time to take the trip to Calga on the NSW Central Coast where Sires on Ice has their canine reproduction facility. On 4 February Nena underwent a trans-cervical insemination.  This was followed with a surgical insemination on 5 February.   Two inseminations were done to increase our chances of getting puppies.  Frozen semen doesn't live as long as fresh (fresh semen can live for a week or so waiting for the eggs to be ready, but frozen may only last a matter of hours), and timing is very important to ensure fertilisation, as the eggs also only have a short window of time in which they can all be fertilised.  Here on the right is a picture of the sperm once thawed when it is being checked and prepared ready to be implanted.

6 February - 6 March 2017

After the inseminations Nena came home to be pampered.  Now begins the waiting period. Is she or isn't she?  We have a few weeks to wait before we can find out. In the meantime we make sure Nena has a good diet and appropriate exercise and her incision from the surgical insemination heals well. 

At this time, Nena starts on some supplements to help with her pregnancy. She is given a Folic Acid tablet in her food each day to help reduce the possibility of midline development issues such as cleft palate in the puppies.  Nena also gets fish oil capsules (Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids) to help with good puppy brain development. These need to be high in docosahexanoic acid (DHA) so she is given high strength capsules which contain higher precentages of DHA when compared to normal fish oil capsules, and is given a higher dose overall than she would normally. She also gets a high strength probiotic supplement (Protexin) for immune support and to help create a healthy microbiome for the puppy, and Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbate) also for immune support but also to help with healthy bone and cartilage development in the puppies.  These supplements are included in her food.  At this stage her food intake is kept about the same as normal, though she also gets a few extra eggs each week.

7 March 2017

Today is day 34 (counting the day of ovulation as day 1).  Nena had her ultrasound today. We were excited to see that Nena is indeed pregnant!  You can see in the picture of her ultrasound on the right, two round dark blobs at the top if the screen.  Those are puppies.  The ultrasound is not reliable for telling how many puppies there are, but at least we know she has puppies and we do know there are a few in there.

Up until around this point of gestation there are not too many outward signs that a bitch is pregnant.  There are a few little signs that give us hope, but as they can have similar signs if they are having a false pregnancy, we need to be patient until around the 4 week mark to tell for sure. From this time on we will begin to see more changes and it will become more obvious.  However, as we want to know for sure so we can get ourselves organised and arrange leave from work, we do an ultrasound.  Gestation is approximately 63 days from ovulation give or take a day or so, so Nena is due to have her pups on or around the 5th of April. 

15 March 2017

Today is day 42  and Nena is now starting to get a bit of a tummy (you can also see that she has no real signs of having had a surgical implant.  The incision has healed completely). She is now getting another smaller meal in the morning in addition to her dinner at night. This meal is mostly red meat without the bone (such as chuck steak and heart) and another egg.  Lots of good quality protein for her and the puppies. Nena has a voracious appetite, which is great.  Some bitches may get morning sickness, though luckily she has not shown any signs of this.

25 March 2017

The whelping room is now set up ready for occupation.  This is the room that Nena, the pups and I will be occupying for several weeks.  For the first few weeks, until the pups are old enough to be moved into a puppy pen in the Family Room/Kitchen, I will sleep in the room with Nena and the pups to be sure that they are all safe and comfortable.  This room is warm, cosy, dark and quiet just like a den.  With large breeds pups can sometimes be squashed by their mothers so it is important to be on hand to ensure this does not happen.  The rails on the whelping box also help prevent them being squashed between mum and the sides of the box. The box in front of the whelping box has a heat pad in and is for putting puppies in while changing the bedding, so they are safe while Nena is giving birth to other puppies and for transport to and from the vet if necessary.  On the left you can see lots of towels ready for when Nena is giving birth. As I take a fairly 'hands on' approach to puppy raising I will also take time off work so that I can be home with Nena and the pups from the time she has the puppies until they go to their new homes after 8 weeks of age.

29 March 2017

Nena has one week to go.  She has quite a large tummy on her now.  She is losing the hair on her belly and her nipples are getting bigger.  She is starting to feel a little uncomfortable at times.  If I hold my hand on her belly I can now feel the puppies moving.  They can be quite active at this stage.

30 March 2017

Today Nena had a 'spa day'.  She was washed and blow dried, had her nails trimmed and had the remaining hair on her chest and belly trimmed. She is now all clean and tidy and ready for puppies.

1 April 2017

Nena is now at day 59 from ovulation.  The skeletons of the pups are now sufficiently calcified, so today we visited our vet to take an X-Ray.  Can you count the puppies?  You can see 5 skulls very clearly (it is best to try and count skulls rather than backbones for better accuracy), although there looks like there may possibly be some more which are not so clear.  We are on the home stretch now, so we keep a close eye on Nena.  She is also having her temperature taken twice a day.  What we are looking for is a distinct drop in temperature which will indicate she is likely to go into labour within the next 24 hours or so.

5 April 2017

It is day 63 today so we are keeping a close eye on Nena.  Her temperature has now dropped. This morning Nena and I are camped out in the whelping room so I can keep a close eye on her.  Trips outside are on lead from now on.  While she intermittently rests and nests in the whelping box beside me, I am here working on my computer.  Luckily we had a good nights sleep last night.  We may not get one tonight.

6 April 2017

As expected, we didn't get any sleep.  Nena was restless and up and down all night pacing, panting and nesting in the towels in the whelping box.  She did not go into stage 2 labour (at which point she is having strong contractions and pushing the pups out) until later in the afternoon. The first puppy, a girl, was born at 1.48pm.  Here you can see a picture of Nena following the birth of her first pup. Most of the pups were born between 1/2 and 1 hour apart, with the last pup making an appearance at 7.05 in the evening, after a 3 hour pause. All pups were born head first, with the exception of the first pup who was a breech birth.  Breech births are no uncommon in dogs with an average of 40% being born this way. Nena was actually born breech too. All the pups are healthy and vital and Nena has taken well to being a mother. In total she had 5 pups - 2 males and 3 females.  The pups were actually born girl-boy-girl-boy-girl (interestingly, Grace's A-Litter were born boy-boy-boy-girl-girl-girl!)

7 April 2017

Today Nena had a post-whelp check with the vet.  We wanted to make sure she did not retain any more pups and to double check she had come through the birth well. Nena came through with flying colours and we confirmed there were not more pups.  Nena is settling well and has taken to her new role as a mother.  You can read more about the pups and their journey from birth until the time they go to their new homes on Page 2 of the B-Litter Diary.