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Breeding, My First Litter, Puppy and Kitten Care

My First Litter: 5 Things to Know Before Raising a Litter of Puppies

August 11, 2022

5 Things to Know Before Raising a Litter of Puppies

My First Litter

Last updated: July 19, 2017

Helping a female dog through her pregnancy and raising a litter of puppies is an amazing experience you will never forget. But before you make this sort of commitment, there are things you need to know to ensure that your first time raising a litter is a positive and successful experience.

  1. Time Commitment
  2. Be sure you understand the “babies” require a lot more time than you think! You can’t just whelp them out and say here you go. You have to be there for mom constantly the first two days then often during the first two weeks. Momma dog can’t call her mom and ask, “Is this normal?” You have to be the go-to and assure her everything will be okay. After 48 hours, the mom usually has it under control and understands nursing. Your job at this point is to watch for any issues, make sure mom eats and that she has everything she needs to be comfortable raising her litter.

    From two to four weeks the load is lighter and you start weaning. Now it is time for vaccinating, deworming and making sure puppies stay on food when it comes time for weaning. A puppy’s “juvenile delinquent age” is often described as the time period between weaning and 10 weeks of age. You must confine and supervise otherwise, like kids, they tear the home and yard apart!

    If you do not want to commit time, leave raising puppies to the experts who have success. Most one-and-done breeders lose 60 percent of their litters. But don’t worry, if you want to do this, we can help you one step at a time from breeding to the next home. Every age has its challenges, but our breeders lose less than 10 percent and some even have a five percent loss through all stages.

  3. Space Requirements
  4. Whelping boxes and weaning areas take up space depending on the size of breed.

    Once the litter is here, we need an area for mom and an area to wean the puppies. A kennel with a run is the best option.

    Once the puppies are on the move, if you don’t keep them confined to a certain area, they will terrorize your plants and anything else they can get a hold of! Eight Great Dane puppies will tear the house down at six weeks of age before they are old enough to go to a new home at eight weeks.

  5. What Supplies Will I Need?
  6. Pregnant moms and new puppies need special care and safe supplies. Here is a list of some items that are must-haves when raising a litter:

    • Whelping Box available in extra-small, small, medium, large and extra-large breed sizes.
    • Safeguard Dewormer give to mom after day 50 of pregnancy to prevent worms and giardia. It is also safe to give to puppies at six weeks and prior to selling.
    • Nemex give to puppies at two and four weeks to prevent roundworms and hookworms.
    • Vitamins– for mom during pregnancy, while nursing and between cycles.
    • Breeder’s Edge Oral Cal Plus – helps with contractions during whelping.
    • Bulb Syringe – removes fluids from airway at birth.
    • Saline – flushes nasal passages if the puppy is struggling with nursing. It’s a sign they can’t breathe!
    • Kelly Forceps– use to clamp umbilical cord if needed and declaw at three days old.
    • Doc Roy’s GI Synbiotics Gel– give to puppies on day two and three and/or for a full week if having an issue with puppy loss. It can also help during weaning.
    • Chlorhexidine– a disinfectant that is safe around nursing puppies. It can be used for cleaning the area and for umbilical cords after birth.
    • Cocci Guard– a good preventative for coccidia.
    • VaccinesParvovirus and 5-way vaccine by the time puppies are six weeks old. You want to prevent anything you can from the start.
    • Long-Lasting Penicillin – prevention when there is an injury or after birthing before they get an infection.
    • Milk Replacer and Nursing Bottle – good idea to have on hand just in case mom needs help.

    It is also helpful to have a scale, disposable gloves and a thermometer.

  7. What Breed Is Best?
  8. Often we are asked, “Which dog breed is best to raise?” The answer is always the breed you love! You will be successful and you will be able to watch them close for changes in behavior that alert you when they don’t feel well, come into heat or start into labor. In saying that, I don’t suggest starting with breeds that you need to artificially inseminate (AI) or that require a C-Section to get babies, such as bulldogs. Once you are well versed in what it takes to breed, whelp and raise puppies, then we will talk bulldogs if that is your “must-have” breed.

    Many people lose a large percentage of the litter when they are not aware of the puppy’s issues and when they are in trouble. We do not want you to have that experience. Always- always get the breed you love! Then it is not work to spend time with them.

  9. What to Consider When Selecting Dogs for Breeding?
  10. Genetics plays a big role when it comes to selecting the best dogs for breeding. Dogs we raise are above average and the males are near perfect before we keep them for breeding. It’s best to talk with several breeders and find out what is the best type, conformation or structure and hair coat for your favorite breed.

    You can find information on breed standards on breed clubs’ websites, but nothing can replace a breeder showing you what they are looking for in replacement females and males. Once you find a breeder you trust, then you can ask for help and they will be sure you get quality you need. Remember, you’re buying their success and genetics so be prepared for criticism of the puppy you “have to have”.

Now that you know what it takes to raise a litter, it’s time to educate yourself on how and when to breed your female. Our goal is to coach you through this experience without puppies being lost. If you have issues or just don’t understand what is happening, call us at 800.786.4751. We have heard it before or seen it ourselves. We are here for you!

-Dr. B
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

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.

This is the first article in our My First Litter Series. The next few articles in the series talk about breeding and heat cycles, dog pregnancy stages and whelping. Be sure to check out all the articles in the My First Litter Series.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.