Friday, November 13, 2009


The whelping of puppies is normally a time of excitement and anticipation for a breeder. You’ve done the best breeding possible between two healthy well bred dogs and are looking forward to seeing the results of the combination of these pedigrees. Most German Shepherd mothers are good whelpers, but there are those few who are not. You just never know what to expect when delivery time comes. No matter how well prepared you are, some things you are just not prepared for at all.

When I first started breeding dogs back in the late 70’s all my bitches produced normal healthy litters and had no problems delivering their babies. I always bred selectively and bred on a small scale, normally one and rarely two litters a year.

In the early 80’s I was very fortunate to have been able to purchase the best bitch I ever owned. She would become BIM Ch Arbar’s Xanadu ROM. (See picture at the top of this article). She finished in five shows and garnered two majors from the puppy classes. She was the first place winner of the 12 – 18 class at one of the National specialty shows. So you could imagine how excited I was to be able to breed this beautiful bitch. I bred her to GV Ch Cobert’s Trollstigen ROM for her first breeding.

Xanadu was a terrible eater when she was pregnant. Under normal circumstances she ate well. When she was pregnant she turned her nose up to everything that I offered her. The only thing that she liked to eat at those times was dog biscuits. So she would be offered handfuls of dog biscuits and pre-natal vitamins just to get some kind of nourishment in her. She looked like a bag of bones. She was still her normal excitable happy self only she looked like she was starved.

So when the much anticipated happy day for her whelping came, I was right there with her helping bring her babies into the world just like all my other bitches. She seemed to be doing fine. She delivered each puppy and accepted each one and all was well in that whelping box………so I thought! Anyway, after Xanadu delivered five puppies, she seemed liked she was all done. No more contractions. No more restless standing and turning around. Nope she was a happy contented mother lying with her puppies as they nursed away. All seemed to be well. I left the room to make her a small meal. When I came back into the room with the bowl in my hands, I just about dropped it on the floor. There was Xanadu looking like a very proud momma and it was as if she was saying to me: “Look at what I did. I delivered another puppy by myself and I didn’t even need your help.” Well yes, indeed, she did deliver another puppy. Only thing was that the puppy was in two pieces. The front part of him/her was lying next to Xanadu’s front legs and the other half of the puppy was laying by her other front leg. “Du” (as we called her) was licking and loving the dismembered puppy. I was horrified. It was so awful. She must have had a hard time delivering the puppy and probably pulled too hard on the pup and cut it in half. I quickly took what remained of the little guy and discarded him and called my vet.

We took her into the vet’s office and he examined her. He said that she had uterine inertia which I never heard of. She literally stopped contracting and it was like her uterus became non-functioning. This would become the “normal” way that she would whelp her first couple of litters. She would produce a few puppies and then stop contracting even though there were more puppies inside the birth canal. She was given oxytocin which would make her contract again and the rest of her puppies were born.

For some reason Xanadu would whelp in the middle of a huge snow storm. One time we were rushing her to the vet’s office in the middle of the night driving in treacherous weather and I was in the back of the van delivering another puppy! Now looking back, I wonder why my vet never suggested that we do a c-section on her.

From her first litter, she produced two champions (one which was a Select # 3 and International Champion) and naturally like all breeders do, I wondered about the puppies that she lost. What would they have been like had they lived? The second litter was a repeat breeding and she produced another champion and a Best Opposite Maturity winner who was one her way to her championship when I went through some personal things and stopped showing.

So just what is uterine inertia (dystocia) anyway? It is an abnormal relaxation of the uterus or sluggishness of uterine contractions during labor. Sometimes a bitch may have a difficult birth because of problems with the shape and size of the pelvic canal.

After prolonged labor, the mother may have low blood sugar or low blood calcium. In this case, your veterinarian will give calcium and dextrose injections which may help strengthen uterine contractions. If easy passage is not possible, or the bitch doesn’t respond to medical treatment, your veterinarian will deliver the puppies by Cesarean section.

Xanadu would go on to make her ROM, but whelping her litters was always a concern for me. Her last couple of litters went alright without any major problems except for a runt who I had to give “mouth to mouth” to help the little girl breathe. She always remained small but lived a long healthy life in her pet home.

Whelping litters can present problems. It’s always wise to alert your veterinarian when you have a bitch that is close to delivering her new litter. Like I said in the beginning of this article, most German Shepherds are easy whelpers, but it’s when you least expect it that something can go wrong. No one likes loosing puppies especially when it’s out of your top bitch. I’m left to conclude because Xanadu was such a poor eater while she carried her puppies, that she just didn’t have enough strength to deliver them all by herself.

My rating: Have a vet on call when your bitch will be whelping: (4), feeding a top quality food and supplements: (4)

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