Nothing in this world is more important than improving the life of one of God’s creatures. Some of you may not realize that is what you are doing, but when you manage females, we avoid issues and have happier, more reproductive moms!
When selecting your female dogs for breeding, it is important to know that reproduction ease and litter size go hand in hand. We did not set out to get more puppies. We selected away from C-Sections, and even litter numbers were the result. The female dog that has one or two puppies has too much nutrition for them and too much room for the pups. Puppies help start labor with stress hormones that trigger her labor. If you are the only baby in the uterine horn, you have little stress and little reason to hurry up birth.
We selected away from C-Sections and soon realized we were also selecting for even litter sizes as those were the moms that had less issues. The goal is to have reproductively healthy dogs or cats. If that means larger litters then that’s fine, but the main focus is on easing mom’s job at birth. The small-litter females went into labor two days later than the average litters, and the babies were larger with small litters, therefore more C-Sections. This is understandable, as two days is a long time when you double your size weekly.
We still had a few C-Sections and the veterinarians were reporting Uterine Inertia as a cause. Dog breeders reported larger litters, tired moms, and moms with a history of being good milkers. With that information, we looked at calcium and the dairy industry on how they managed calcium to prevent milk fever. Calcium demand is low to birth, then elevates quickly during labor and lactation – both at the same time!
If you are low in calcium after giving birth, you get milk fever – Eclampsia. Low on calcium during labor, you have ineffective contractions and tired moms that give up – Uterine Inertia. Having six to eight births in a row is hard work, especially if contractions are ineffective. Adding calcium when labor starts and not before was the solution. When the female starts nesting (early labor) or their temperature drops one degree, give mom the first dose of calcium. The goal is to get three to four doses in mom before the first puppy hits the ground. This helps to efficiently dilate the cervix and get the first puppy on the ground quicker. This way mom does not get so tired with a long delivery and she can mother better because she won’t be so exhausted.
If they have a history of C-Section or calcium-responsive labor, use every few hours until birthing is complete. Give two doses of Breeder’s Edge® Oral Cal Plus or injectable 10 percent Calcium Gluconate, two hours apart, and repeat when birthing is over and nursing.
Easing Dog Labor
Since first-time moms get tired and more worn out than third litter moms, we started using raspberry leaf extract, which was used by the Native Americans to ease labor and delivery. It worked well, and moms delivered easier and were less tired! That gave us an edge on Uterine Inertia and mothering—tired moms don’t mother well! We use raspberry leaf extract and add one tsp per gallon to the water by 45 days gestation. Another option is Breeder’s Edge® Oxy Mate Prenatal™ vitamins, which have raspberry leaf extract in it. Either work well.
Pregnant Dog Diet is Critical
Too much protein in the pregnant dog’s diet can cause C-sections by encouraging baby growth in utero and large birthing weights. Just be reasonable and switch the mom to puppy or kitten food the last two weeks of gestation when she is out of room and needs more calories per bite.
Small-breed moms are often fed puppy or kitten food for life. These foods have higher calories per bite, and small breeds seem to do better on slightly higher protein. We are okay with that and have had few issues, if we have watched how fat the females get. We want them lean at birth but not thin or fat. Fat in the pelvis impedes the birth process, and we are trying to prevent C-Sections.
Vitamins for Pregnant Dogs
When you manage female dogs, you have to look at vitamins. Vitamins can take females with intermittent heat cycles and get them coming into heat when they naturally should be. Plus, dog prenatal vitamins and iron will give your puppies red blood cells to the max. Kittens are born with all the RBCs they will have until six weeks. We want puppies and kittens born with fight to live!
When it comes to canine C-Sections, you can select and manage for few or none of them. When selecting for breed-specific characteristics, choose mothers that have even litter sizes and are easy to handle. Good dog moms have female puppies who are good mothers. You will have fewer C-Sections and that is a challenge worth breeding to!
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Written by: Donald Bramlage, DVM
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.