Thank You For Not Dying

Four Day Old Puppies

Jane Messineo Lindquist, Puppy Culture

15 Aug 2015 | 10 minute read

We’re past first 72 hours (also known as the “Thank You For Not Dying” stage) and we’re beginning to enjoy the puppies more, rather than hovering over them watchfully.

A friend of mine commented that she has no memory of any of her litters before 3 days old and I have to agree - there’s something about the first 72 hours that generates manic feelings of instinctive protectiveness rather than actual bonding. Now they’re more like “real” puppies instead of half-baked embryos that we have to protect, and we can start relating to them as individuals. We’ve even given some of them names. It happens that this change in our emotion toward the puppies corresponds with the time that the bitch’s real milk (as opposed to colostrum, which is lower in calories) normally comes in. 

Bikini Bob

This is why he's called Bikini Bob

I guess there must be some physical changes in the puppies that signal us to take a deep breath as the most immediate danger has passed. Pippi’s milk came in beautifully and everyone’s gaining nicely. We’ve got good weight gain on everyone, including the littlest ones. I chose to supplement the three tiny ones with some goat milk during the second day, just to give them a little jump start.  

Now that Pippi’s milk is in, there’s more than enough to go around so I’m no longer supplementing (for now, at least).

I really like using a napkin holder for the puppies when I weigh them. Nice traction and cushion for the puppies and easy to get a reading. Best to put a little towel in the bottom if you plan to use it for napkins ever again.

Our tiny red girl is now Mina, because it sounds like a small pretty name

We're calling him Catfish

We're calling this opinionated young lady Sassy

Okay I need to come clean here and tell you that when I was weighing the puppies on the first day, I was having difficulty matching up the puppies with the IDs on the whelping chart, and I eventually figured out that one of our all white girls is actually a boy. Pippi's show name is GCH Madcap Jump The Broom ROM and all the puppies will have "Jump" in their show names. So this little guy's registered name will be "Madcap Jump to Conclusions." He actually doesn't have a call name, yet. People wanted me to call him "Pat" but that's not fair as he's a perfectly masculine little guy that we just messed up IDing because the next puppy came so quickly that we did not have a chance to take a good look.

Madcap Jump to Conclusions

Regarding tiny puppy names, they almost never stick and puppy families generally have their own ideas about names. We tell everyone they can call their puppy whatever they like, but we choose the show names. I've got no problem if you want to call your dog Beau, or Misty, or Shadow, or any of the other ubiquitous pet names out there, because it's your dog and it pleases you and that's all good. But I'm not walking into the ring with a dog named "Madcap We Luv U Pup-Pup." I'm just sayin'.

A number of people have objected to calling our black puppy "Catfish" on the grounds that catfish are ugly nasty fish. Rubbish, I say. When I kept aquariums, catfish were my favorite fish (tied with the clown loach) because they're so funny, adorable, and playful. Look at these guys. If you don't think they're cute, you're beyond counsel and I leave you to your own devices.

This is also the time when our bitches start with the heavy panting, and also some restless behavior. I’ve never had children but I’m told that the first time your milk comes in it’s uncomfortable (that’s medical-speak for PAINFUL) and just producing that milk has to be an effort, so it’s not particularly surprising that the bitches begin to pant and want more support to stay in the box.

My life, for the next 10 days.
Sleep is overrated, anyway.

A Bull Terrier in her element. She has chewed her way through this mattress and has threaded herself through the hole. This makes perfect sense to them.

In addition, Bull Terriers are generally not interested in doing anything that resembles a “job” so the responsibility of caring for the probably puppies weighs heavily on them. I’m guessing some of the restlessness is just boredom with being in the whelping box and wanting to get back to what they do best, which is wrecking stuff.

In any event, this means that, if you're a Bull Terrier breeder, you'll need to man the whelping box 24/7 and probably actually be touching their brood bitch for the first two weeks. And it also means you won't be getting any REM sleep for a while, which truly does make you hallucinate.

All that having been said, at the end of the day Pippi is shaping up to be a gem of a brood bitch. She's produced beautiful puppies and tons of milk and she's taking really good care of them. She's learning to be careful where she steps, she adores the puppies, and she adores her humans, too. She just needs a little extra coaching, which is the least we can do for her, given what she's done for us :o). 

We do everything we can to make our dams more comfortable and want to stay in the box more.

On days 3-4 we clip nails, as the tiny pin pricks have to be uncomfortable for the dam. Those little feet are half the size of my fingertip, so clipping neonate nails is not for the faint of heart. We use infant nail clippers to make the job a little easier.

We use infant nail clippers

This is how tiny they are

The finished job

Pippi is eating prodigious amounts of food. Pippi is eating prodigious amounts of food. We feed raw, so she’s getting approximately 4 pounds a day of meat/bone/tripe plus two complete batches of Mother’s pudding (recipe below) - that means 2 packages of vanilla pudding, 8 cups of goat milk, 10 egg yolks (I add extra yolk) and a cup of sugar each day. That’s easily 6 times her normal intake but that’s about right - producing milk is a calorie and calcium-intense proposition. 

We make two batches of pudding a day

Her liquid intake is equally impressive - from the time she started whelping to through the first day of the puppies‘ lives, she drank almost two gallons of goat milk and at least two quarts of water. Most of that was offered to her in the whelping box as at that point (the first two days) she was not voluntarily leaving her puppies. 

Interestingly if you offer a bitch a calcium rich food in the late stages of her pregnancy, she will probably turn her nose up at it. But as soon as she begins whelping, she will lap up as much goat milk or other calcium rich food you can give her. The reason for this is (spinning it down to a lay terms-nutshell) when the body gets more calcium than it can use, it “gets used to” excreting the excess. So if a bitch gets any more calcium than she needs during pregnancy, a whole system kicks in to get rid of it. But after whelping, she has a HUGE draw on her calcium stores. The problem is, if her body is in “excrete” mode, that’s a process that’s slow to reverse, and that will make the bitch unable to assimilate the massive amount of calcium she needs (as her body is dumping it as fast as she takes it in), which can complicate delivery, make milk production difficult, and even threaten her life if calcium levels get too low and she goes into eclampsia (or “milk fever”). This is, by the way, why calcium supplementation is not recommended for pregnant bitches. Paradoxically, supplementing calcium during pregnancy will actually make things much worse.

Lots of egg yolks for Pippi means a lot of egg white omelets for us!

Speaking of food, I’m going to backtrack a bit to whelping preparedness. Please do have something nice to eat (and drink) on hand when your bitch goes into labor. You’re going to be sitting there for many hours, and there’s no reason to suffer more than you have to. In an ideal world you should also have a few meals set by for the first week. It’s bad enough to be curled up in a whelping box with a fussy maiden bitch - don’t make it worse by eating sad food. 

Pudding Recipe for Nursing Mothers

Here’s our step-by-step video recipe for mother’s pudding, showing you how to make it from scratch. It’s super easy and doesn’t require many ingredients at all. Anyone can do it! 

It's a great source of calcium, fat, and protein for lactating bitches, plus quick energy from the sugar. Bitches love it and will (in our experience) gladly lap it up even when they’re being finicky about their regular food. Our 55-65ish pound bitches will consume two batches per day when lactating. 

The recipe card used in the video is also available as a free resource.

This article was originally updated on in 2015

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About the Author

Jane Messineo Lindquist (Killion) is the director of "Puppy Culture the Powerful First Twelve Weeks That Can Shape Your Puppies' Future" as well as the author of "When Pigs Fly: Training Success With Impossible Dogs" and founder of Madcap University.

Jane has had Bull Terriers since 1982 and she and her husband, Mark Lindquist, breed Bull Terriers under the Madcap kennel name.

Her interests include dog shows, dog agility, gardening, and any cocktail that involves an infused simple syrup.

Visit Jane's Websites

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