The amount of effort that goes in to picking a female that will be producing the next generation is mind boggling. I will write about that one day in detail. But for today, I want to talk about taking care of mama before, during and after pregnancy. The health of the mama is vital to the health of the babies. Her body will give everything she has to the pups. Keeping her fit and happy is my number one concern. Above all, my girls are my best buddies and their well being is my top priority. I consider them athletes so I treat them as such. Long before pregnancy I build them up with the best food and supplements. Food is the foundation. That doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive. To me, each bitch is different. Finding the right food is critical. They are individuals and what works best for one may not be what the other one needs. So I look at them individually and choose accordingly. As puppies, I start them on Purina. Purina has always produced a great puppy chow. From there, I watch their bowel movements, appetite, energy level, coat texture and weight. Purina One Lamb and Rice is my go to once they outgrow puppy formula. Purina Pro Plan Lamb and Oatmeal and Science Diet are also my favorites. There are so many good brands out there to choose from. None of mine are big fans of chicken and rice. They prefer lamb and rice, lamb and oatmeal, bison or salmon, anything but chicken. I never buy off brand or cheap food. No Pedigree, no Beneful, no Rachel Ray, no Alpo, not even the Purina dog chow in the green bag. Although, years ago, Purina in the green bag was a great food. I don't know what they changed but it's just not what it used to be. I switch up flavors when I think they have grown tired of the same ole same ole everyday.
NuVet Labs makes a great daily vitamin for every age. Adequate exercise is super important as well as mental stimulation in the form of learning tricks or puzzles or anything that makes them think. I like fetch with tennis balls and also agility jumps. I try to coordinate her annual vet check up right before breeding. Her vaccines will cross over and give the pups a little bit of a head start of protection.
Once breeding has occurred I increase her caloric intake by adding some canned food. One half can to her dry food at each feeding. When her due date is about 2-3 weeks away, I pull her away from the group. I don't want her rough housing with her friends. Exercise is nice and easy walks. No jumping but digging in the sand box is always allowed. I keep plenty of chew bones available. I keep a very close eye on her. I am with her during delivery and I don't let her eat the placentas. I cut the cord and put the placenta in a trash bag. There's no advantage to letting her eat it. I have found it gives her diarrhea and that's just unnecessary. I make her a big meal for afterward. Typically, I will add oatmeal, pumpkin and veggies to her dry food. Maybe add some beef broth to season it up good. For the first 3 weeks of nursing I add a calcium supplement. Ask your vet for dosage. I add a little ground flax seed as well. Brown rice is always a go-to as well. I will feed her as much as I can get her to eat. I watch her bowel movements to the point of obsession. I keep an eye on her milk production and boobies as well. If something looks amiss, a trip to the vet is in order. I also watch her energy level. She needs a little sunshine everyday but still away from her friends. No rough housing. I follow her lead as to when she's ready to start weaning. The first sign is she stops laying down to nurse. I trim the pups nails at 3-4 weeks because they get so sharp and it's painful to nurse. I deworm her and the pups at 2,4,6 and 8 weeks. Around 4 weeks old I introduce the pups to a puppy chow mush made with milk supplement. Mama typically really likes this too. By 5 weeks, I switch to water to make the mush. By 6 weeks, the pups aren't nursing much at all. But I continue to follow mama's lead. She can nurse as much or as little as she wants. I weigh the pups every week to make sure they continue to gain weight. Once mama has mostly weaned the pups, I will let her outside to play with one friend at a time. Sometimes she just likes to sit in the sun for a bit. The pups start to go to their new homes after 8 weeks. Mama will go with the pups for their final vet check up at 8 weeks and if there are any issues we need to address we get it taken care of.
I will continue to keep her caloric intake pretty high over the next several weeks and slowly build her exercise routine back to prepregnancy.
Mama will bounce back fairly quickly when she's had everything she needs before during and after pregnancy. Bringing new life into the world is awe inspiring and I am always humbled and blessed to be a part of such a wondrous moment.