I might have mentioned before that, unlike a human foetus, which is usually only one by itself in the womb surrounded by its own thin covering membrane (the amniotic sac), the each of the several puppies in a bitch’s womb is surrounded by its own enveloping bag.
When each pup is born, its surrounding sac is ruptured and the puppy is set free to breathe on its own. If this does not occur, then the massaging motion of the mother’s tongue licking at the pup clears away the membrane around the puppy, especially around his nostrils. If this, for whatever reason, does not occur, and the pup-enclosing sac remains, then you will have to intervene, so that the pup can begin breathing on its own. Intervention (only if the mother dog has not torn open the surrounding membrane) means that you must tear open the sac and remove it. Author/researchers differ on whether you must feed this membrane to the mother. My own opinion is that she should be given the membrane to eat, because it contains hormones which are needed for her milk let-down. Anyway, that is what I was taught long years ago.
Now don’t just rip off the membrane. You should make the first tear in the area of the puppy’s mouth and then enlarge the tear by working your way backwards over the pup’s body. You may find that there is some fluid (which was in the amniotic sac) still remaining around the puppy’s nostrils. You don’t want the pup to aspirate the liquid when the first breath is taken by the pup. This means that you have to wipe the liquid away from the mouth and nostrils. If some of the liquid is already in the passageway of the nostrils or mouth, you have to suck this fluid out. You may use a syringe with a small conus at the end, or use a rubber bulb syringe, or some absorptive tissue (toilet paper) which you roll into a point and place it in the nostrils/mouth. This tearing off of the membrane and sucking up of the fluid should take place within 30 seconds of birth of the pup.
Some textbooks describe an alternative method that can be used to clear away the threatening fluid in the nostrils. They advise that the puppy be held in your hands in such a way that the head is supported while affording you the opportunity of swinging the pup downwards, stopping abruptly when its nose is pointing to the floor. The centrifugal force created expels the fluid from the nostrils. I am just a little fearful of this method, because owners are usually a bit flustered during the birth process, and the puppy is slippery. It could be fatal, if the pup slips from your grasp and falls to the floor with the force of the swing.
Once the pup is freed from the membrane and from the fluid in its nostrils, it should be presented to the mother to lick, sniff, cuddle and massage. If she doesn’t seem interested in the pup, you must take a soft cloth and do the cleansing and massaging. Then place the puppy onto the nipple, which you would have gently squeezed to ensure a droplet of milk oozes on to the surface. The pup should begin the suckling reflex immediately, if the mother doesn’t reject her offspring.
Sometimes, after a difficult delivery, a puppy may be too weak or too flaccid to breathe on its own. Squeeze the chest gently from side to side and then from front to back. If the puppy still will not breathe, place your mouth over his mouth and nostrils and breathe gently until you see his chest expand. Do not exhale too forcefully as this can rupture his lungs. Then remove your mouth to allow the puppy to exhale. Repeat this several times until the puppy is breathing and crying. Place him/her on the bitch’s nipple. Once the pup starts suckling on his own, we can hope for steady improvement.
We’ll continue with this theme next week.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.