SUCCESS: HARD WORK MEETS OPPORTUNITY --
EARLY PUPPY REARING
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty
of their dreams. -- Eleanor Roosevelt
By Kathy V. Moll
Deep River Collies
Last month we whelped our litter, so now we're ready to raise
those darling hopefuls. First, check each puppy to be sure it
is warm and dry; weigh each one using a baby scale (tracking
weights for the first two weeks is a good idea). Take mom for
a potty break and offer her water mixed with a tablespoon of
light Karo Syrup or mixed with one-third cup Pedialite. If whelping
took more than a couple of hours, offer one of these mixtures
during the process. Have fresh water available at all times.
Feed your bitch a high quality food during lactation, increasing
her meal size according to the size and number of puppies. Her
food and water intake will control her milk production.
Next see to it that mother and babies are comfortably situated
in the whelping box. Remember, unless the puppies are small
and lack subcutaneous fat, a heat lamp won't be needed except
when mom is taking a break from the box. Two heating pads, covered
and set on "low" should be placed in the box. A room
temperature of 75 degrees should be sufficient if the puppies
are vigorous and weigh 10 ounces or more. Otherwise, a higher
temperature may be necessary. If you get carried away with heat,
the mother will be less inclined to stay in the whelping box;
her body heat is the best source of warmth for the puppies.
Sleeping in the same room with the puppies for the first two
weeks allows you to rescue puppies that lose their way to mom
and those she may be about to lie on. Your mortality rate will
be lower if you stay close by in the beginning.
If you have bred two rough factored smooths or a rough factored
smooth to a rough, you may be eager to determine the variety
of each puppy. Here's how you tell. Sables are easiest; roughs
will have dark coat on their heads from under the eyes back,
covering the entire skull. Smooths have the same dark markings
around the eyes, but not on the skull, giving the appearance
that they're wearing little goggles. Tris are a bit more difficult.
Once the puppy is dry, if it's a smooth, it will have vivid
tan points. The little dots over the eyes are distinct, and
the tan on the cheeks will look as though it has been painted
on with a tiny brush. Roughs have muddier, less distinct points.
Blues are judged in the same way as tris but are sometimes more
difficult to distinguish because the tan color may be lighter.
Contrary to what you might think, rough coats feel silky and
flat while smooth coats feel dense and fluffy.
It is very important for the puppies to get first milk (colostrum),
which is available for only 48 hours. Supplementing newborns
is only necessary if they are weak, ineffectual nursers. The
best supplementation is Pedialite via feeding tube. It goes
straight to the puppy's system and requires little digestion.
Often, it will strengthen the puppy enough to allow it to nurse
effectively. Use it along with Ringers Lactate (subcutaneous
injection) to hydrate and strengthen puppies. A liquid vitamin
can be helpful as well or a little blood from beef liver.
The goal is to keep the puppies on mom. If you find that a
puppy is cold, give it only what is mentioned above, never formula.
A lowered body temperature means the digestive tract is not
functioning properly, so formula will kill the puppy. To warm
it, place it next to your skin and "wear it." This
advice is something I read about 20 years ago in a terrific
article by Barbara Schwartz.
Heating pads and lamps only warm the outside of the puppy once
it's chilled. It needs slow warming from the inside out. Ladies,
put the puppy in your bra. That seems the most effective. Your
movement stimulates circulation while your body warms the baby.
Normal puppies twitch frequently and feel warm and firm when
you pick them up.
Put smaller puppies on mom by themselves several times a day;
put their larger littermates in a padded box while the little
ones get mom to themselves. Plaintive crying can simply mean
that the puppy has lost its way to mom and littermates. However,
a distressed, inconsolable crying means the puppy is in pain.
If the puppy seems otherwise normal, give it a little Pepto
Bismal or similar product. Keep it warm and repeat the medicine
every few hours until the crying stops and the puppy is sleeping
Check your bitch's milk with Nitrazine Paper (most drug stores
can order it). It tests the milk ph. Tear off a small strip
and squeeze milk from a couple of nipples onto it. Light to
dark green means the milk is good. If the tape turns dark blue,
the milk is too alkaline and may contain bacteria. Acid milk
is an old wives' tale -- milk is supposed to be slightly acid.
If you suspect bad milk, remove the puppies and start them on
Amoxi Pediatric Drops. Put your girl on an antibiotic and give
the milk time to clear up.
If your puppies need a new mom, then it's usually up to you
unless you have another bitch available that is nursing puppies.
Tube feeding and bottle-feeding both have advantages and disadvantages.
The tube is accurate and time saving. You don't have to worry
about the puppy swallowing air; however, it does nothing to
satisfy the puppies' nursing reflex. Bottle-feeding solves that
problem but is more time consuming. Whichever you choose, get
someone with experience to show you how to feed your puppies.
Either method is safe if done properly.
Dewclaws should be removed between 3 and 5 days. Small hemostats
or dental floss works well. Placed at the base of the claw,
both pop the dewclaw out so that you can flick it off with your
thumbnail. Have styptic on hand. Bleeding from dewclaw removal
is usually minimal and stops immediately if styptic is applied.
It's one less nail to trim and makes the leg look neater. Trim
puppy nails with human fingernail trimmers at least once a week;
long, sharp nails are uncomfortable for nursing mothers.
Early stressing is important to raising a healthy, resilient
collie puppy. Begin the day after birth to handle each puppy
for a minute or two twice a day. Hold the puppy in one hand
while stroking the length of its body with the other. Roll the
puppy on its back and hold for a short time. Rub the toes of
each foot. Rock the puppy back and forth as well as up and down.
This is a good time to inspect the puppy and begin an evaluation
of its head and body conformation. Limit handling the puppies
the first week to these periods and to necessity. During the
second and third weeks, increase the time you spend holding
and socializing each puppy. The "light comes on" in
the brain of each puppy at around three weeks old. Once that
happens, the puppy will enjoy its socialization times.
So far, except for some initial lack of sleep, our puppy rearing
experience has been relatively easy. Next month the real puppy
raising work begins. We'll wean our puppies after which it's
our turn to do the work! Evaluations, training and more socialization
will become our all-consuming tasks.
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.