I figured I knew all about dogs and whelping. I thought that the dam would always take care of the puppies if you could get them nursing. I even mentored others into believing this because I truly believed it.
Well, there are textbook dams that are perfect whelpers and have perfect puppies with no trouble at all. Then there are the other 80% that need human intervention. BUT still I didn't know some breeds can be very difficult. Not only does every batch of puppies differ, but ALL breeds differ in the work level and hands-on help from the human.
Take the Mastiffs...the Mastiff is truly the perfect dog for many, they rely on their humans to take care of them and in exchange, they keep us under their protection. A Mastiff doesn't like change, and a Mastiff is one dog that would not take to re-homing well.
My Mastiff is so stressed when my daughter goes to camp each year. She KNOWS a member of her family is missing.
The Mastiff is hard to get pregnant; natural breedings do not have a lot of success, nor do artificial inseminations. So it is common to do a fresh surgical implant. These are costly, but successful.
Some Mastiff dams just do not want to go into labor, and for that reason I plan a Caesarian section, based on their temperature drop, or I will use progesterone levels. The progesterone will drop about 24 hours prior to whelping. PLUS you must make sure the dam is under watch constantly during her due time. This combined with the fact that Mastiffs have a long birth canal means breeders loose puppies at birth, more often than acceptable. Mastiffs can have nine puppies in one horn, and it can torsion. There are many reasons to do a planned C-section with a Mastiff. Whereas with other breeds, they are often done unnecessarily.
The uterus will do fine contracting for a few births and then it wears out and trouble comes.
With small litters, there may not be enough hormonal stimulation to finish whelping.
In large litters, the dam may do great delivering the first four or five pups but then never has any more contractions, or has contractions and nothing happens, as her uterus can become very stretched and on the verge of rupturing.
We teach that with a lot of breeds C-sections are not natural and "bad." But, with some breeds that have a history of problems, we must do what we feel is the best especially for the dam.
Caesarian sections are becoming more popular to avoid problems during whelping. Make sure your vet puts an intravenous catheter in and uses propofol. Propofol is metabolized primarily in the lungs so it has a very short half-life in the dog. It causes minimal depression in the puppies.
Make sure you have a mentor for your breed, and do some research.
Just like in some animals of the wild, there are breeds nearing extinction because some species of animals make terrible parents. The same can be true with specific breeds.
Courtesy of MistyTrails Havanese
Although this section is based on a whelping of an English Mastiff, it also contains good general whelping information on large-breed dogs. You can find more whelping information in the links above. The links below tell the story of Sassy, an English Mastiff. Sassy has a wonderful temperament. She loves humans and adores children. An all-around mild mannered, wonderful Mastiff, Sassy, however, is not the best mother toward her puppies. She is not rejecting them; she will nurse them when a human places them on her to feed, however she will not clean the pups or pay any attention to them. It is as if they are not her puppies. This litter is getting mom’s milk with major human interaction, manually giving each and every pup what they need. In return, the pups will be super socialized and will make remarkable pets, however the work involved is astounding. It takes one dedicated breeder to keep this situation healthy. Thankfully this litter has just that. Read the links below to get the full story. The pages within include a wealth of information that everyone can appreciate and benefit from.