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Categories: Breeding

Q. How can I tell when my bitch is through having puppies?
How can I tell when my bitch is through having puppies?

A. The only 100% sure way to determine if a bitch has had her last pup is to take her to the vet and have an x-ray. I have never done this in over 150 litters.

As a breeder gains experience you will be able to feel your bitches uterus and know if there is a puppy left inside or not, (at least be reasonably certain that there are none left). But another way that I like is to keep a stethoscope on hand. They are not expensive. Some are less than $30.00. Listen to the heart rate of the puppies before the bitch whelps. She must be kept calm and quiet when you are doing this. The puppies heart rate is much faster than the mothers. Place the scope on the belly between the hips of the mother.

As your bitch goes through the whelping process you can monitor the remaining pups by their heart beat. I doubt that you will be able to tell how many are left but if there are live pups you should be able to hear them inside the mother. Its important to keep on top of this and do your monitoring right after the bitch has a puppy. Don't wait for 2 hours and then wonder if there are any left inside and listen then. By that time the remaining pup may be stuck in the birth canal and dead. You would think that the bitch was through when in fact she still has a pup left inside her. It's also important to listen on both sides of the females belly (towards the outside). A bitch has 2 horns to her uterus. Both horns contain pups. If one horn is empty and the other still has pups and the bitch is laying with the empty side up and that s the side you listen to you may not hear heart beats. I just had this happen - when the bitch laid on one side you could not hear anything, when you listened to the other side you could hear heart beats.

By continuing to monitor for heart beats right after the birth of every pup, it is unlikely that you will miss a puppy. Now this does not mean that a large pup will not get stuck in the canal and die, but at least you will know that its in there. I let my shepherds go 2 to 2 1/2 hours before I give them a shot of oxitosin. For a 65 pound shepherd I will give 1 1/2 cc in the back leg muscle up near the tail.

The bottom line is that listening for a heart beat and oxytosin are not the final solution to determining if there are still pups left in you female. But they are tools that may help.

I used to recommend that a female should go to the vet if it had gone 2 hours without having a puppy. Over the years I have given a lot of females ""C-Section ions" after 3 or 4 hours that probably did not need them. I no longer do this. If a bitch is not in distress, if she is calm and quiet I will let her go overnight before I get concerned.

I can remember one female 4 or 5 years ago that I had taken to the vet for x-rays at about 55 days of pregnancy. We shot an x-ray and I was told that there were 3 pups. Well, after the first pup was born I waited 4 hours and took her in for a "C-SECTION." We cut her open and there were NO MORE PUPS. The vet said that what he thought were pups were probably stools. NOT A GOOD THING TO HAPPEN!! That was when I quit rushing in for "C-SECTIONS." Since then I have not had one “C-Section” and I have not had a problem. I have even had a couple of females whose last pup was born before midnight and then not had another pup until after 7 AM - and they were born alive.

Over the years I have become a fan of the saying "MOTHER NATURE KNOWS BEST." Use your common sense. If the bitch looks fine, she is probably OK. If she is restless and stresses, if she is constantly cramping for a long period of time and you can not see or feel anything (wash your hands or wear sterile glove for the exam) then consider a visit to the vet.

If you would like to learn how to whelp a litter I have done an excellent video called Whelping Puppies.
  
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