On the 1st September 2007 Misty whelped 14 live puppies by C section. The reason for the C section was a twisted uterus both sides. Although she came through the operation, Misty only survived for a few hours after the birth, and slipped away quietly at about 3:30am.
So there we were, in the early hours of the morning, left with a dead, much loved family companion, and valued working bitch. This was Misty’s second litter at 5 years old, her first being two years earlier. After getting to grips with the fact that we had lost Misty, the cold realisation swept over us that we now had 14 puppies to hand rear! We had always helped our bitches when they had a litter to rear, so how hard could it be?
The first thing to consider was the temperature. This is the same with any litter, but without mum to snuggle up to we had to watch they didn't get too cold and try to huddle which may of smothered some of the smaller pups. The next was feeding. Every 1-2 hours. With 14 pups this took two people just over an hour to feed, top and tail. There would be less than an hours break and it all started again! We had to remember which order the pups had been fed in and document how much at each feed. And so it went on, we were camped out in the living room, exhausted but coping. Then it started............the bum sucking!
When pups are with mum, upon waking they instinctively move towards heat and suck whatever is soft and sticking out . With out mum there, the heat was their litter mates with their bums & Tums! Needless to say, they very quickly became covered in whatever was coming out, as well as also ingesting it. This made a few of the bigger pups very ill indeed. So it was then electrolytes every ½ hour to replace the fluid that was being lost. To overcome this we devised a crated system. Each pup had its own bed which consisted of vet bed, paper and a soft toy to snuggle up to. Peace reigned at last. By the end of the first week we had a good little routine going. Feeding every 2 hours, day & night, bath once a day, changing bedding at least twice daily more often if needed. We had a shift pattern, Les and i would do the night until about 6am. The girls would then take over and do 1 feed before going to school. I would do the 8, 10, 11, am feeds, Les would come home for lunch and do the 1pm feed while caught up on some sleep. I would do the 3pm feed, and the girls would do 5 and 7pm feeds. Then Les an i would continue through until next morning.
By the end of three weeks, all pups were doing well, had been docked with no ill effects and we were trying to get them to lap puppy porridge. Do you think they would, no way! When you wean a litter from mum, you can take her away if pups are reluctant to lap. With our bunch we were mum, so they would just make a big fuss and scream their heads off until we gave in. This went on for a few days but eventually they got the idea and started to lap, so by 3 weeks old they were all on solids as well as their milk. The milk we used was called Nutrolac which can be purchased from the Animal Health Company on line. It is a goats milk based complete milk replacer for puppies, high in nutrients and very easy for the puppies to digest. We also use it with normal litters, it never causes tummy upsets and is very easy to mix.
The next few weeks was just like having any other litter, with people visiting and then eventually coming back to pick up their new charges.
Ten weeks after that fateful day, we were left with just the one pup and normality resumed, with the usual hustle and bustle of the shooting season as if nothing had happened, except we were missing one very important family member.
We learnt a great deal from raising this litter, and towards the end it was enjoyable. We would like to say however, do think long and hard before you go down the route of breeding from your bitch. Ask yourself this.........does your need to breed from your bitch outweigh the risk of loosing a good working dog and or family companion, would it not be safer and easier to go back to your breeder or source a puppy from somewhere else?
Food for thought may be!