This section is from the book "Toy Dogs And Their Ancestors", by Neville Lytton. Also available from Amazon: Toy Dogs And Their Ancestors: Including The History And Management Of Toy Spaniels, Pekingese, Japanese, And Pomeranians.
A bitch will be due to whelp sixty-three days after mating. See that she gets regular exercise without over exertion and has ordinary food. Feed twice a day, once at noon and once about seven p.m., with as much bread and meat as will just cover the bottom of an ordinary dinner plate. Should it be her first litter, I strongly recommend the use of Pulsatilla Nigricans, (order of James Epps) in the "Mother Tincture.", Give two to four drops in a teaspoonful of water daily night and morning for three weeks before whelping, or when labour has begun give five to seven drops every hour until delivered. It is an exasperating fact that most litters are born at night, so that each litter probably means a sleepless night for the owner.
Have a wooden box prepared with hay, A rough box may be made like the one illustrated. The door at the side is to enable you to reach and help the bitch should she require assistance. The bit of board in front is to prevent the puppies falling out when they begin to crawl.1
1 For the details contained in this chapter I am indebted to the most experienced and successful of Toy Spaniel breeders, Miss Annie Todd.
Let her have the box to sleep in about a week before she is due, so that she may get to like it and look upon it as her own property. When she is about to whelp she will begin to be very restless, and will scratch up her bed and often scatter the hay all over the room in a most annoying way. This may go on for many hours before the pups are born. There is generally an interval of half an hour, or sometimes three or four hours, between the births of puppies. Between whiles the bitch must then be allowed to sleep quietly. So long as she does this, you need not alarm yourself if the whelping goes rather slowly, but if she is very restless, in great pain, and often sick, send for a veterinary surgeon, though I cannot promise much good from it, there being very few who understand Toy dogs.2
A little help is all that is generally necessary during whelping, though very strong measures are sometimes inevitable in the case of dead puppies, and then the bitch should be put under chloroform. When a bitch which has been in labour is just about to have a puppy, you can tell by the change from whining and barking to a sort of deep grunt or gasp. When this begins the puppy will soon make its appearance. Sometimes there is a sudden complete silence after a great deal of scratching and noise, and this also means a puppy is close at hand. As soon as a puppy is born, be sure the afterbirth comes, too. This is usually attached to the puppy by a cord, but sometimes the cord breaks and it gets left behind and sets up blood poisoning. In cases where you suspect it of being retained, syringe with warm sterilized (i. e., boiled) water and a few drops of Condy's Fluid. But remember that if you are not attending when the afterbirth comes away the bitch will dispose of it and so cause you needless alarm. The habit is quite a natural one and will do her no harm. After previously tying a piece of thread round it on the side next the body, sever the string five minutes after birth about two inches from the body with a pair of disinfected scissors, should the mother not have bitten it off herself.
With short-faced bitches, it is much safer to do it yourself, as they often bite it off too short, with fatal results, and have also been known to bite off the legs of their puppies by mistake. Twist the cord firmly between your fingers before cutting it. I find that the best plan is to remove each puppy, as it is born, into an open basket by the fire. Have a hot-water bottle in this basket, with a small blanket over it. The best shape for a bottle is that of a whiskey or wine bottle, but tin is better than glass. Place each puppy on the blanket next to the hot-water bottle, and cover it up completely, but lightly, with another small blanket. It will not suffocate, as you may at first imagine. Of course the water in the bottle should not be boiling. In this way, by the time the whelping is over, the pups will be warm and dry and ready to go to their mother, whereas, if left to her, she will very likely leave them cold and wet or trample on them. It is quite useless talking of Nature being the best guide in these matters, as these Toy dogs are so highly domesticated that they have lost a great part of their natural instincts. And now let me warn breeders that if Toy puppies are not kept warm, but are ever allowed to get chilled, they will infallibly die.
They must be kept in a warm, dry place, and during the first two weeks they can hardly be kept too warm. Dogs in a wild state would probably breed in holes in the ground, where there is very little air, and the domesticated ones are certainly less hardy than the wild ones. No attempt whatever must be made to "harden" puppies at this stage, or their lives will be sacrificed. A puppy that is born apparently dead may often be saved by being taken up instantly by the hind legs and shaken, head downwards; this must be smartly and decidedly done. The mouth should be opened with the finger, and the puppy shaken as you would shake a big watch to set it ticking, not as you would shake out a duster. This will often dislodge a lump of something like mucus from its throat, and it will gasp and begin to squeak and revive from that moment. Do not breathe into the puppy's mouth, as you only give it carbonic acid gas. If you feel you must blow air into it, use a bellows. Should a puppy appear weak it must be helped to suck by holding it while it takes nourishment.