So, about three weeks ago I noticed Ruby, our yellow lab, looked a little rounder than normal. She is a very lean dog so when she was suddenly round, it caused me to raise a brow. My husband took her to the vet who reported, he was sixty percent sure she was in fact pregnant but he could tell us for sure next month.
He also said a lot of dogs have false pregnancies with their first heat so I thought ok we will know one way or another next month. Non-the-less I kept poking her belly trying to feel pups and about a week after the vet visit I was successful. Knowing she was in fact expecting I planned to build a welling box and get her settled in. Based on what I had read I had maybe two weeks to be ready. Meanwhile in the back of my mind I keep thinking it will be any day.
I never trust my instincts. Anyway, last Saturday February 15th, I woke up at 215am for work as per usual and Ruby pranced around when i turned on the light as usual but something was different. She had not eaten her dinner. I had read that dogs will not eat within twenty-four hours of giving birth, you would think this would be a significant clue however, sometimes she just doesn’t eat so I didn’t think much of it. I fed her a milk bone and as I got into the car I thought, Mike is going to call me saying she in labor. Shrugged the thought off and headed out.
I had been at work for a little over an hour when Mike called me. “We have three puppies so far.” Is what he said. So I hopped back into my car and raced home. I am writing this for multiple reasons. One being its a cute story that ends happily with nine puppies, but I know how this could have gone and honestly I had been expecting the worst so I thought I would share some information that would have been helpful to me about a week ago.
First, it’s tough to tell when your dog is in heat but research is your friend. If you don’t get your female fixed pay attention. We had no idea for the first half of Ruby’s heat because she was so good at cleaning up after herself. Talk to your vet and remain vigilant. We were EXTREMELY lucky that things turned out well for us. and Ruby took to being a mother. She is still a puppy herself after all.
Second, lots of things can go wrong with young mothers. They can neglect their young, they can kill their babies, sometimes they just don’t know what to do and the babies die because the mothers don’t clean them off and get them breathing. Honestly I was expecting to lose puppies, but Ruby took to motherhood very well. I did have to warm the pups and set them up for their first drink which is very important. There were four at this point and as it turned out five to go. In situations like this you should have thread, scissors, and a suction bulb like you use for babies noses. If your dog does not clean the babies you need to break the amniotic sac clean out their mouths and cut the cord and then rub them off with towels till they cry out and then put them right on the teat. You also need to keep the puppies warm. Their number one reason for fussing is because they are cold. If they are on a teat and still crying they may need to eliminate urine or a bowel.
I was lucky that Ruby reacted as a mother dog should and I was lucky to have had a grandmother who taught me a lot about dogs and let me help as a collie birthed a litter once (I was like ten). So, when Ruby had trouble with baby number eight I knew what to do. The amniotic sac had broken before he was born so when she pushed his head popped out and when she stopped his head slipped back in. Poor Ruby panicked momentarily when she couldn’t find him. When she pushed the second time I slipped my fingers behind his jaw and waited for the third push and gently guided him out, then it was a lot like that scene in 101 Dalmatians when the guys has the puppy in the blanket and he in rubbing it trying to get it breath. Of course, this pup did not squeal like the rest he just eventually gave a heavy sigh which was good enough for Ruby and I.
Once all nine were out and it was a reasonable hour, I gave my gram, Mimi, a call. She told me I needed to call the vet and see if we could get an x-ray, the biggest danger at this point was that there could be a pup stuck in her still. I had no idea this could even be an issue, I am so happy I thought to call her!
Two x-rays later we were in the clear. I went home and over the next few hours noticed Ruby was not cleaning the pups properly. She was licking them to help them go to the bathroom (Puppies can’t eliminate without help) So I called Mimi once again and received instructions to show Ruby how to clean the pups with mineral or baby oil and cotton balls. After I showed her a few she began doing that too. I still have to help a little but honestly I don’t blame her for not wanting to lick puppy poop.
Next I visited Mimi with photos of the puppies she had helped me with and asked about milk. Ruby’s milk had not come in and I wasn’t sure how it worked with dogs. I had read online that dogs start to leak milk before the pups are even born so I was really worried two days later. Turns out they get their milk a lot like people, about three days after the birth. Her milk came in fine and all is well now. 🙂