So, now mom has delivered her litter of energetic, squirming, squealing (when they are awake) puppies. She just can’t be left on her own to fend against the possible dangers associated with childbirth – sorry, puppybirth. You, the owner, must intervene – in an auxiliary sense. But don’t go overboard with your affection and sympathy. No fondling/handling of the new arrivals. Don’t love her and her pups to death.

As usual, my advice, first of all, is to observe if she is in any discomfort. Let us look at a few problems that could arise:

i) No milk let-down

It occurs, from time to time, that the milk does not flow as it should, immediately after the birth of the pups. This means that the newborn puppies would be deprived of food. This first ‘milk’, the colostrum, is of maximum importance to the puppy for its immediate and future health. Not only is the colostrum of a special consistency needed by the newborn puppy, but it also contains the elements which will protect (via indirect immunity) the young pup against possible canine diseases. Furthermore, the puppy needs the colostrum as soon as possible (within hours) of its birth. As the puppy grows older (by the hour) there is a decrease in the ability of the alimentary tract to absorb the specific nutrients and immunity-containing chemical substances contained in the colostrum. This means that if the newborn puppy does not get that ‘first milk’ quickly, then it will be much more vulnerable to ailments later in its life.

You can ascertain whether the milk is flowing by gently pulling at the nipple (with clean fingers, of course). Don’t worry too much if the milk is not white. Colostrum has a higher concentration of proteins and is thicker and more yellowish in colour.

For me, the best test as to whether the milk is flowing is to place the puppy on to the nipple. If the puppy is showing a swallowing reflex and seems contented, then you can be reasonably sure that the milk is flowing. If it is not, then your veterinarian must intervene and possibly administer an injection to stimulate the milk flow. Obviously, this should be done within hours ‘post partum’ (after birth).

ii) Fever develops

Every home that has a companion animal must have a thermometer. (This is my perpetual song). During that week after the bitch has given birth to her offspring, it is always advisable to measure her temperature (place the bulb of the thermometer in the rectum – and not under her tongue or in her armpit). For me, anything 103