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SUCCESS: HARD WORK MEETS OPPORTUNITY
YOUR COLLIE'S PREGNANCY

The dictionary is the only place that "success"
comes before "work" (Unknown)

By Kathy V. Moll,
Deep River Collies

You've poured over pedigrees, visualized virtues, looked at lines and accepted advice. You've taken the plunge and bred your beautiful collie bitch to an equally beautiful dog. Now the waiting and daydreaming begin! If you're wise, though, you'll do your homework in between those daydreams. How do you prepare for the blessed event? How do you get yourself and your collie through pregnancy with the least difficulty and stress?

Before the general information, here's one important piece of advice. For summertime pregnancy (It's August now), do not allow your collie to stay outdoors if the temperature is 90 degrees or more. Even with plenty of shade and water, high temperatures can cause fetal death. Short outings for elimination are fine, but allow her to take her real exercise in the early morning and in the evening.

Now, let's make sure your girl is pregnant. The first three to four weeks after breeding will likely be pretty uneventful. If you're really curious, you can take her in to your vet 28 days post breeding. Palpation is one option at this point. The puppies are approximately the size of grapes, and an experienced individual can feel them slipping through his/her fingers. Ultrasound is an excellent option and gives a rough idea of litter size. It does, however, require some abdominal shaving, undesirable if you wish to show your collie if she isn't pregnant. A blood test by Synbiotics can be preformed at 28 days post ovulation and is another reliable method; it can be done in-office with results in around 15 to 20 minutes.

If you'd rather look for signs yourself, here are a few. Most bitches don't show fullness until four to five weeks of pregnancy. With a large litter, her tuck-up may begin to disappear. Her vulva and nipples will remain somewhat enlarged after 4 weeks while no pregnancy will cause them to go back to normal. Abdominal hair begins to loosen and come out at around 45 to 50 days. Some bitches experience decreased appetite at three or four weeks post breeding. Some become super affectionate. However, all of these signals can occur with a false pregnancy. One usually very reliable sign is a clear, odorless mucus vaginal discharge; it begins four to five weeks into pregnancy and remains until whelping. It's easiest to spot on roughs because it gets caught on the skirts. On smooths more diligence is required to catch it before she cleans herself. Sometimes this discharge is quite obvious and stringy.

No change in diet is necessary for your girl for the first four weeks of pregnancy. Begin a gradual increase in food thereafter. How much you increase depends on whether she's an "easy keeper" and how big the litter might be. Overfeeding can be more harmful than underfeeding, so use good judgement. Antioxidants can be a beneficial supplement. A multiple vitamin is fine. Over supplementation can be a problem, so err on the side of moderation. A raw liver "treat" two to three times a week is an old, but trustworthy plan. Buy a package of beef liver; allow it to thaw slightly. Cut it into one to two inch pieces and wrap individually in foil. Put these in the freezer. Give a piece every two to three days; thawing before feeding isn't necessary.

If you have one of those super picky girls and you're afraid the puppies aren't getting sufficient nutrition, there are a couple of options. First try frozen Bil Jac dog food in place of what you usually feed. It's highly palatable. If that fails, try the following recipe: mix by hand and form into 1 cup balls -- 5 lbs. hamburger, 10 envelopes plain gelatin, 10 egg yolks, 1-12 oz. jar wheat germ, 1 box Total cereal, 1 cup molasses, 1 cup corn oil, and 1/8 t. salt. Feed one ball a.m. and one p.m.

Several days prior to her projected whelping dates, gather your supplies. I prefer to whelp puppies in a child's plastic wadding pool (medium size) layered with newspapers. The advantage is easy setup and cleanup. Have the whelping box set up for the mother and babies when whelping is complete. Plenty of towels and newspapers are musts, as well as plastic trash bags, a baby scale, two heating pads and a heat lamp. Other supplies include alcohol, scissors, hemostats, small syringes with needles, 12 cc and 20 cc feeding syringes, flexible feeding tubes (size depends on puppy size), baby bottle, rectal thermometer, and latex gloves. Also on hand, have liquid Pepto Bismal, Karo syrup, milk replacer, Nutri-Stat nutritional supplement, Pedialyte, Amoxi Drop pediatric antibiotic, a bag of lactated ringers, and a bag of 2.5% dextrose (get the latter three from your veterinarian). Nitrazine paper (not testape) is a good idea as well and can be ordered by any pharmacist. In addition, buy this book: Canine Reproduction, a Breeder's Guide by Phyllis A. Holst, MS, DVM, Alpine Publications. It's highly readable and makes a great reference book to return to again and again.

So now you're ready for the big event. You've done your homework. Next month you'll get your collie through the birthing process and pick up some pointers on giving her babies the best possible start.

Kathy Moll of Deep River Collies has been breeding Collies since 1974. She has owned or bred between 70 and 80 collie conformation champions, approximately 30 to 40 in each variety. She also earned the Collie Club of America Presidential Award for Smooth Collie Breeder of the Year for 1998 and was tied for the same award for Rough Collie Breeder of the Year in 1999.

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