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Categories: Breeding

Q. My bitch just had 16 pups. My vet advises to cull, (kill), 6 of them. Should I do this?
Mr. Frawley,

I have a wonderful German Shepherd bitch with excellent working lines (both parents from Germany). She is 2 1/2 yrs. old, has OFAed good, has been bred to a Czech/German male and has just whelped a litter. I have to say at this time, I purchased your whelping tape and it definitely came in handy. "Hella" had 17 puppies,16 survived (one had been dead for a while I suspect, and one had to be rescued). We are new to this region of the states, and our "new" vet is recommending I "cull" her litter down to 10 although the pups are all fat and healthy. She believes that no matter how hard I try to tube feed them, they will "tax" the other pups, and they in turn will not get enough milk. Is this true? Do I really have to pick 6 puppies to be destroyed? By the way, Hella is eating a premium dog food, a whole chicken (minus the skin and bones) and a prenatal vitamin every day. I'm not sure if what the vet is telling me is correct, and I'm reluctant to just "pick" 6 pups to go! Since you have always provided good, solid information on subjects I have needed advice on, I thought I'd ask you before I spoke to the vet again, which will be on Monday (I'm still tube feeding goats milk as of now).

If you have the time, I sure would appreciate a reply, as time, as they say "is of the essence."

Thank you for your time

A. Teresa, this is a terrible situation to be in. In over 150 litters, I have never had that many puppies from one female. I can not tell you what to do in this matter but I can tell you a few things to think about to help you make up your own mind.

If you choose to try and save them all, the first thing that is important is to make sure that all of the pups get colostrum. The mother will give this over the first day or two before her normal milk comes in. I tell my kennel people that help whelp litters that colostrum is "liquid gold." Get as much in the pups as possible.

The first thing to try is to get a surrogate mother, even from another breed. See if you can find another bitch (ask the local vets) that will take these 6 puppies. This is not an easy task. Even if you find another female, adding 6 strange pups is very ticklish. Sit with the 2nd bitch for a long long time to make sure she doesn't kill the new pups or abandon them.

The problem with tubing puppies is that if this is their only source of nourishment, they will lose their sucking instinct (at least that is what I have found). To do a good job of tubing requires a "GRAM SCALE" like I show in my video Whelping Puppies, (which you already have.) You need to identify the pups you are working with and chart their weight. I will weigh a pup 3 times a day. It is impossible to notice a 30 gram increase (or worse a 30 gram loss in weight).

Initially I am inclined to buy premixed milk from the vet that is specifically designed for puppies, rather than goats milk. These come in small containers and cost about $2.50 each. I save the mixed formula (goats milk, cottage cheese, vanilla yogurt and boiled eggs that I show how to make in the tape) until the pups are about 19 to 20 days old. I will start supplementing a large litter earlier than a normal litter of 5 or 6 pups. When you supplement, do it 3 to 4 times a day. You will know how much to feed by putting food down and seeing if it’s all eaten quickly or if there is some left after 10 minutes.

It’s difficult to determine how much to tube. With German Shepherds you can watch the weight gain of pups not being tubed - you will not be able to match this gain with tubing - but you can get a feel. I will often start with 10 to 20 CC. If you do it too much the pup will throw up or get diarrhea. If you are tubing a pup and it all of a sudden seems to become ill, (lacks spunk and is lethargic), watch its weight. If it drops 20 grams between feeds then it may have diarrhea. I will give these pups 3 cc. of Keopectate and back off of one feeding to let their stomach settle. In the second week the pups should be able to handle 30 cc per feeding.

A normal sized pup is about 450 grams to 500 grams. We just raised one that had a strong sucking instinct that was under 200 grams. That was the smallest I have ever done.

Probably the most important thing that you can do it to rotate pups on this bitch day and night for the first 20 days, (this will turn into 20 days from hell). If you do decide to tube, make sure that these pups are also rotated through with the others. It’s always better if you can maintain some form of a sucking instinct if at all possible.

Be careful to give the bitch enough to eat without overfeeding and causing her to get loose stools. You can get her sick by trying to be too nice to her. Remember to keep her water bucket absolutely sterile and full of fresh water. Get her plenty of exercise. These first 3 or 4 days, take her temperature every morning. Watch for signs of a fever. It helps to get her out for a quick walk 2 times a day every day. This helps her pass any garbage that is left in her that could start to get infected and cause problems. Many times people feel that they should leave the bitch alone the day after whelping. This is wrong. Get her up and going.

I can tell you how I currently treat very small pups. I will initially tube a pup once or twice. Then we will put it on the mother 10 to 15 times a day and make sure the other pups allow it to suck. If its going to live, it must live on its own. If it dies with this kind of care then there is something wrong that we had no control over. If a small pup lives and is in a large litter, then I will assist it with tubing in the second week (in addition to putting it on mom) because the other pups just muscle it out of the way. I will take this pup and get it on the goats milk formula sooner than I would normally do it to get added weight. I do this at the same time I am leaving it on mom.

This information is designed to help you make up your own mind on what needs to be done. If you start to tube a pup and do it for a couple of days you are usually in for the long haul. Once you have raised puppies from birth to 3 weeks by tubing you will have second thoughts about doing it again.
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