Breeder's Notebook

Newborn I.C.U.


Once upon a time, a breeder bred a bitch, waited two months, helped a bit at the whelping, and then watched while Mom took care of the puppies. The breeder may have helped revive a newborn that was off to a shaky start or might have bottle fed a litter if something happened to Mom, but other than that, the breeder let nature take its course.

Some breeders still have that attitude. If a puppy is too weak to survive without heroics, they contend, perhaps it was never destined to live to adulthood and reproduce (which might result in more weak puppies). There’s some logic to that but some illogic, too. 

Myra Savant-Harris, R.N., a labor, delivery, and neonatal care nurse as well as dog breeder, points out that her experiences with both human and canine newborns has led her to realize that many newborn problems are not genetic but merely bad luck. “If his placenta didn’t have the most advantageous position, he could be smaller than the other puppies,” she says. “If his placenta tore away from his body a couple of minutes before birth, he could have been without oxygen for too long, so he’d need vigorous resuscitation. If his lungs were filled with excessive fluid, he’d need extra help clearing them. If he gets chilled, his mother may reject him because he doesn’t feel or act like a normal newborn.” Saving such puppies in no way perpetuates genetic weakness, and in fact, letting them fend for themselves may be allowing the best in the litter to be lost.

Want to read the full story? Pick up the May 2008 issue of DOG WORLD today, or subscribe to receive the best dog articles, dog news, and dog information every month!


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