Preparing Your Bitch for Mating
It is important to feed your brood bitch a balanced diet to prepare her for breeding and whelping. She needs adequate protein and carbohydrates, which should include all the vitamins and minerals needed to supply a balanced diet. You can prepare her meals yourself using fresh meat and whole meal bread with fine minced veggies, or but a high quality dry food such as Eukanuba or Science Diet.
After mating continue feeding her as before until about 2 weeks before whelping, at which time you should increase the amount of food by 25%, and split her food into two feeds daily. This is because there's not much room inside her for a large meal and a belly full of rapidly growing puppies.
When your brood bitch comes into season, worm her with a good quality broad spectrum worming preparation. Also take her to the Vet for a culture and sensitivity test, to guard against any possible vaginal infections.
You should take her to the stud dog by about the 8th or 9th day of bleeding so that the “stud master” can monitor her progress and ensure she is mated on the correct day. Generally they will mate at the 14th day, but they can be ready as early as the 8th or as late as the 24th day. You can get progesterone tests done to get it exactly right if you wish, especially if using frozen semen.
Preparing Your Dog
She should be wormed at 4 weeks after mating and again 2 weeks before giving birth. She should also be vaccinated either prior to mating or at about 2 weeks before having puppies. This will protect the puppies from viruses while they are suckling on her. The anti-bodies will pass from her to the puppies in her milk.
Dog Pregnancy Symptoms: She will stop eating about 12 to 20 hours before giving birth. At this time you should ring your Vet and let him know that she will whelp in the next 24 hours. Ask him if it's OK to call him at any time of the day or night if she has any problems.
Make sure you have plenty of clean newspapers on hand as whelping can be quite messy. She will start panting, pacing and tearing up her bedding (newspapers) a few hours before the contractions start. The first pup should be born within an hour or two of the start of the contractions. If she goes 3 hours and there's no pup, call your Vet.
The Birthing Process
As soon as the first pup is born she will settle down to her job at hand. The pups can be born in their sac or out of it. They can be born head first or tail first, it doesn't matter. Generally they will be born head first and still in their sac. If you have a problem with a pup getting stuck, try and help her by gently pulling the pup as she pushes. Don't try and pull a pup if she's not contracting though. If in doubt call your Vet.
All the puppies should be born in 8 to 15 hours, but they could take as long as 24 hours in some cases. When she's done, take her for a walk to empty. You may have to lift her or put a collar and lead on and force her to leave her puppies so she can empty. Give her a drink of milk with some electrolytes, but don't try and make her eat straight away. She will be very tired after whelping. Her appetite should be back about 12 hours after she whelps.
Clean the whelping box up, removing wet and bloodied paper. Replace it with a piece of carpet that you tack to the whelping box floor. Carpet will keep the puppies warm underneath, and give them a good surface to grip on while suckling. Make sure the whelping area is warm, but not hot, and certainly not cold.
For the next 2 weeks all you need do is feed her. She will begin to eat a lot after about 3 days, so be prepared. By the end of the second week, she'll be eating 4 to 5 times her normal diet. Keep plenty of fresh clean water available for her at all times.
Puppy Care: You should start feeding the puppies some food from about 4 weeks of age. With a big litter you may need to start feeding from as early as 3 weeks. You can feed them the same food as their mother eats, but be sure it is minced fine, as you don't want them choking.
Feed them 2 to 3 times a day to 3 months of age, then twice a day.
Care of Puppies
Worm them with a worming paste at 2 weeks old, then again at 4 weeks. Use tablet wormers from 6 weeks onwards. Change worming formula's to prevent the worms from building up immunity to the preparations. Trim their nails and dew claws on their front feet each time you worm them to prevent them scratching their mother while suckling. If you don't trim their nails, she will probably wean them early.
Give the puppies some meaty bones to chew on and fight over from about 6 to 8 weeks of age. This helps prevent stomach upsets at the critical weaning age.
If you follow this advice, you should have very few problems whelping and rearing a healthy litter of puppies.