Pomeranians are amongst the smallest of the toy breeds and, the average number of puppies produced in a litter is usually 2 to 3. The recommended weight of a female, as stated in the KC Breed Standard, is 4.5lbs - 5.5lbs (fit weight). I prefer to breed from females which are towards the top of the breed standard weight, or even slightly more. There are a number of reasons for this, which shall be addressed later.
Recently, one of my girls, Dymondogs Cascade Playalong (orange) , was mated with Playalong Pirate. Cassie had a litter of 4 puppies 16 months ago and it was a very easy whelping. All four puppies survived and flourished. Pirate has sired two litters : a litter of 4 from Celeste, which included two Championship Show prize-winning females, Summer and Skye. When mated to Firely, he produced Playalong Skating on Ice at Pomirosa and my lovely boy, Playalong Black Bandana (also successful at Championship Show level).
Cassie : 2.5yrs, very sound, fit and active, weight 6lbs, roomy around the rib-cage and pelvic area, not too short in back, no breathing problems, correct scissor bite, excellent dark pigmentation on nose, eye-rims, foot-pads and nails, and bright clear orange coat.
Very well-bred black male out of two black parents: Playalong Puck and Auberge Magie Noire Playalong. Pirate is a sound, compact dog weighing 4.5 lbs. On paper and typewise, both Poms should complement one another.
Some of the advantages of owning both a good quality dog and bitch, is that they are on familiar territory, they are not strangers to one another, and there is no long distance travelling involved, all of which can affect some females and render them unco-operative. It is also helps to be able to try them together a number of times following the first stage of the season, in order to ensure that a mating has taken place at the optimum time. Cassie and Pirate were mated three times with a day in between each mating. Normally, I let them mate twice (sometimes only once) , but in this case , I thought that the second mating was better than the first and decided to go ahead with a third mating, which was probably when she was at the peak of her ovulation period. There was a tie each time, but females can conceive without having tied with the male.
It is not always practical to keep both males and females. The vet can blood-test females in order to detect when ovulation is about to take place, but the testing might need to be carried out a number of times, which can be stressful for some Poms. There are a number of 'testing' kits on the market e.g. the MateTel and, perhaps more reliable, Ovulation Pads. More information about the latter can be found on: http://www.ovulationpads.info/
I like my stud dogs to be bold and keen, and well-bodied up. A dog who lacks substance could produce puppies which tend to be frail, which is something I prefer to avoid. A dog can be small and within the standard weight for a male, without being delicate. When planning a litter, I try to aim for litters of three , by taking many factors into account. No-one can predict the number of puppies likely to be born, but litters of one or two are more likely to lead to whelping problems, especially when the mother is a borderline size for breeding from. I would consider any female of 4.5 lbs or less, borderline and would definitely not breed from a female of less than 4.5lbs., because , on average, I could expect one or two puppies which might be too large for the mother to deliver naturally, and a Caesarian section carries additional risks to both mother and offspring. Keeping records of each litter, provides an overview of the type of females likely to whelp without complications (although the unexpected can never be ruled out), and who have the constitution to rear a litter of 3 or 4 puppies without being drained of their own recourses. Should a 50/50 (or greater) chance of a Caesarian become the norm, then common sense dictates that this would not bode well for the future of the breed. Will expand on this theme in a separate article.
Cassie will be scanned 4 weeks after her second mating, as , knowing exactly how many puppies are present, will have a bearing on how much I feed her, etc., throughout her pregnancy. If she is having one or two puppies it will be essential to have their progress monitored as , should they become too large, at the first sign of a problem during whelping, she would be off to the vet for a possible Caesarian. Last time she had 4 puppies which were born very easily, but she showed none of the usual signs of being in labour, and the first puppy had been born and cleaned up before I knew anything about it.
The Outcome of Cassie and Pirate's Mating
Cassie's initial scan, at 4 weeks, revealed that there were 4 puppies present. Mrs. Barbara Wiseman, a very experienced scanner, was able to tell me that Cassie's first mating had been successful and, from the what she could read from the images on screen, whelping would most likely take place on the 60th day after Cassie's first mating, which would be 11th January 2010.
As the weeks progressed, Cassie remained as lively as ever, and I adjusted her diet , cutting down on bulk and increasing her meat intake (chicken). A few drops of cod-liver oil were added to her first daily meal. From week 6 , her daily intake was divided into three meals , to prevent her from feeling uncomfortably 'full' as she puppies were by now taking up an increasing amount of room. However, she didn't become huge , her puppies were carried more underneath , than out to the sides , so from a distance, she didn't look pregnant.
From the 7th week (not before) 2.5ml of liquid Raspberry Leaf was added to her mid-day meal. This is claimed to increase the amount of fluid during birth and to help the placentas come away cleanly. Cassie's first whelping was the easiest and cleanest that I have seen, and I followed the same procedures this time. It cannot be proved that the Raspberry Leaf helped, but I think that it made a positive contribution.
Cassie final scan was booked for the beginning of week 9. It takes only 5 minutes to travel to the venue so there is no long journey involved, hence, little stress for her. The scan revealed only three puppies, so either the fourth had been re-absorbed, or it was being hidden by the other three. Should she have three pups and there might be concern that a fourth could be present, but no progress, then Cassie could have been taken for another scan to ensure that nothing untoward was happening.
Cassie in her final week of pregnancy
Celeste on left, Cassie standing on right
Whelping Day Arrives
Monday 11th January: Cassie was behaving normally and keen to eat her meals. The only difference was that her colostrum was present ...vital for the puppies during their first two days, before the milk proper comes in, usually on day 3. The colostrum prepares the puppies' digestive systems ready for their mother's milk, and also contains antibodies to protect them until their immune systems develop.
At around 12 (midnight) I was preparing to spend the night on the sofa when Cassie started to wander around looking for a place to settle. I had prepared her whelping box in the puppy pen in the lounge. She showed no signs of being in labour. I put her in the pen, but she didn't want to stay in there. She decided that she wanted to be on the sofa. Put two towels on one end and she settled down near my feet. Without the usual warning signs, the first puppy (the black boy) was delivered unaided at 2.15am. Cassie cleaned him and severed the cord herself and ate the placenta. The second puppy (orange boy) followed shortly and I just observed, standing by to help should it have been necessary.
35 minutes later, the first girl was born. When Cassie had almost chewed through the umbilical cord, I snipped it with a sterile scissors, and placed a small clip on the end nearest Cassie, to prevent the cord from going back inside, then gently removed the placenta. At that stage, I didn't know whether it was the last puppy or not, therefore, it was very important to ensure that the complete afterbirth had been expelled, as there might not have been a fourth puppy to help it on its way. However, 15 minutes later the little black girl arrived, and I repeated the afterbirth procedure. Cassie ate all the placentas as they came away cleanly, were not large, and they are rich in ingredients which are good for the new mother.
Once all the puppies had been born, I gave Cassie a bowl of warm lactol with some liquid calcium added to it. The calcium will be added to her morning drink until well after the puppies are weaned.
The puppies were weighed in the order in which they were born:
Black boy 4 3/4 ozs, orange boy 4 3/8, orange girl 3 5/8, black girl 3 3/8
The puppies will be weighed every morning, as a lack of weight gain, and certainly a loss, is a fair indication that either the puppy is not getting sufficient milk, or that something might be wrong. It is common for puppies to lose a tiny amount of weight during the first day or two, but after that , there should be a steady increase.
Cassie's food will be pre-soaked and mashed up, because I find that my nursing mothers do not relish lumpy food. This is probably because , between weeks 3 and 4 , they regurgitate food to start weaning the puppies naturally.
Below is a video of Cassie taken during the ontervals btween the birth of each puppy
Mother and puppies lying on their cosy Vet-bed.
The drape which is kept over the front of the box, has been removed in order to take the photo. New mothers like their privacy, and a cave-like environment. There are also drapes around the puppy pen , for privacy and to eliminate draughts. I do have a heatlamp to hang above the bed, should it be necessary, but the puppies are getting enough warmth from the room and from their mother at the moment.
Pups at 4 days
Heat-lamp set up (150W non light-emitting bulb).
The bulbs are available in various strengths, but I find this one perfectly adequate. It will be left on constantly for as long as it is needed.
Day 3 ... heatlamp has been set up as, should Cassie want to lie outside of the bed for short spells, the puppies will have a constant , gentle source of warmth. The 'hood' helps to concentrate the heat where it is needed. There is a flap in the lid of the box (under the fabric cover) which can be opened when the pups are in there on their own, so that they get a little more heat. The drapes around the pen are for privacy and to prevent draughts.