Body condition of the dam prior to and at parturition.
During pregnancy, the growth cycle of the hair will be altered so that the whole coat will be in a growth phase throughout. As a consequence, the dam will usually lose a large amount of hair after parturition. It is important while the bitch is pregnant and lactating to keep the coat free lice, ticks, and fleas. However you must be extremely cautious of applying insecticidal sprays or baths, as the dam may ingest it while licking or it may be absorbed through the skin. This would cause a problem as the poisonous composition of the application could harm the puppies in the uterus or while feeding. Therefore to keep the coat in prime condition the dam should be brushed or combed daily. Just before parturition any excess hair should be cut away from the vulva and nipples.
The dam should be kept at a suitable weight during pregnancy and after parturition. She should be observed for any signs of weight loss or gain.
It is also important to observe the general health of the dam, by conducting regular health checks.
* The eyes should be free of discharge;
* Ears clear of blockages and wax;
* The coat and skin free from bald spots abrasions or lumps;
* The paws free of inflammation and infection;
* Check teeth for signs of decay or gum inflammation;
* Faeces should be checked for consistency, colour and foreign bodies.
It is also advisable to carry out additional healthy checks of a pregnant bitch, such as:
* The frequency and colour of urine. More frequent squatting may indicate a impending urinary tract infection;
* The drinking habit of the dam; excessive drinking may be a sign of disease or disorder;
* Abnormal behaviour may be a sign of the onset of some illness;
* The vulva should be checked for signs of excessive licking or discharge;
* The mammary glands should be checked for signs of milk, tumours and infection.
Nutritional status of the dam prior to and at parturition.
It is vitally important that correct feeding during pregnancy takes place, to ensure a healthy dam and litter. The majority of growth of the foetus does not take place until the last third of the pregnancy. Therefore food intake should be increased gradually, so not to make the dam obese. It is recommended to increase the food intake by 10% per week, starting from the sixth week of pregnancy; which would lead to an increase of 50% on the normal intake. Due to a rapidly increasing abdomen, the capability of the bitch to take on a lot of food at one time will be decreased; therefore the daily allowance should be divided in to several small meals.
It is also vital that a plentiful, and fresh, supply of water is available at all times to the dam, as fluid is important to milk production.
Vitamins and minerals should be unnecessary, provided that the dam has a varied and balanced diet. Over-supplementation of things like vitamin D and calcium can lead to bone disorders in the puppies and even the mother.
Health status of the dam prior to and at parturition.
It is still important to maintain the fitness of the dam during pregnancy and after parturition, by taking her for daily walks. However, excessively long walks and hot days should be avoided. The best time for exercise would be early morning and evening. As the pregnancy progresses the pace will become slow, and the distance of the walk should be decided by the dam.
It is important to avoid sudden chilling (i.e. jumping in cold water) and in particular overheating, as hyperthermia may bring about deformities of the puppies in the uterus.
It is safe to worm the bitch during pregnancy, but the correct dose must be advised by the veterinary surgeon. Worming preparations will go a long way to prevent Toxocara Canis larvae in the dam. These larvae can migrate to the uterus, and infect the puppies, or be passed on through lactation.
It is imperative to preserve the mental health of the dam. She should be allowed to carry out her primitive urge to dig a cave-like structure; but care should be taken not to let her dig too deep in case she becomes out of reach or trapped.
Occasionally the dam may suffer a condition called Eclampsia, which causes strong convulsions. One factor which may contribute to this disorder is lack of calcium, that is to say, a dam with a healthy, balanced diet may contract this disorder. Symptoms include anxiousness, restlessness, high temperature and rejection of young. Without treatment the dam would eventually fall in to a coma and die.
Management and hygiene of the nursing dam.
Newly whelped bitches will sometimes sacrifice house training to be with her puppies. It may be difficult to encourage her to go outside for the first three days or so. The whelping area should be kept as clean as possible during this period, without disturbing the puppies too much.
When she has finished whelping, it is advisable that the dam has an easily digestible meal; although milk should be avoided as is can bring on diarrhoea. It is also advised that she is fed and watered in her bed as she is very unlikely to leave the litter to do so herself. Large litters should be checked on at least once a night to make sure all is well and to feed the dam.
The dam will lick her puppies to encourage them to pass urine and faeces, and she will consume the faeces until the puppies are about 20 days old. She may be reluctant to do this; it may be that she has mouth ulcers or that her tongue is sore from cleaning up whelping fluids. If this is the case the veterinary surgeon can supply treatment.
As mentioned previously; food intake should be gradually increased and exercise encouraged, but the dams’ need to be with her puppies should always be respected. There should be minimal contact be other humans, and other animals should be kept away, so not to distress the dam. Grooming should be regular to keep her coat free of parasites, in good condition, and also minimise the risk of the puppies getting infected with parasites too.
It is important to keep the whelping area clean and hygienic at all times. The daily removal of soiled newspaper and bedding will reduce the risk of disease and the build up of ammonia, which may cause breathing problems, not to mention a foul smell. The correct cleaning products should be used, so not to poison mother or young, and to remove any bacteria that may build up in and around the whelping area.
Intake of colostrum by the newborn.
It is vitally important that the newborn puppies are fed as soon as possible after the birth so that they get the benefit of the colostrum (the first milk).
Although colostrum may be present in the teats for several days after the birth, the puppies can only take full advantage of it for as little as 12-36 hours after they’re born. The colostrum contains antibodies from diseases which the mother has encountered in her life time, and the proteins which carry these antibodies are very large in structure. As the infants’ stomach develops the capacity to ingest these proteins lessens as the hours pass.
It is vital that the puppies receive this early protection as their immune system (although present) is very immature and can not fight any diseases which can bring on disorders such as fading puppy complex.
Accommodation and facilities provided for the dam.
The whelping room provided for the dam should be able to be both heated and cooled in the summer. It should be secluded and quiet, draught free (so not to cause chills), and not damp.
Cardboard is an ideal material to use as they are disposable and can be removed when soiled, so there is no lingering infection. Wooden boxes are extremely absorbent and difficult the keep clean and hygienic. A removable hood should be made for the box to recreate the cave-like structure the dam was trying to make herself.
The lining of the box should consist of clean newspaper and polyester bedding, which can be changes daily. A heat mat obtained from the vet would be ideal; although only placed in one corner of the box. The whelping box must be kept dry and the room warm. Moist conditions would encourage bacteria to spread, and the cold may result in death of the young.
The significance of good husbandry practices in disease prevention.
It is undoubtedly true that when it comes to disease, prevention is far better than cure. Prevention of disease would stop undue suffering of the animal; and unnecessary expense to the owner.
It is vital to always think in advance and to take precautions, i.e. vaccinations, health checks, preventing obesity, and controlling heat.
Good husbandry is a vital part of disease prevention, because it greatly minimises the risk of spreading disease. Bad hygiene increases the number of pathogens, which are the causal factors of disease. Keeping animals vaccinated prevents many serious illnesses which could be fatal to the animal from occurring. Frequent worming of animals not only protects the animal, but also protects humans too. One type of worm, Toxocariasis, can be transmitted to humans.
Good practice is the most basic way to prevent the spread of disease. Just by following a few simple rules can lower the risk of infection:
1. Never allow animals to lick faces, especially children;
2. Not feeding pets from household crockery;
3. Washing animals bedding frequently ;
4. Treating their environment regularly for fleas;
5. Washing hands after contact with animals (especially sick animals).
Human diseases such as sore throats, Tuberculosis, fleas, salmonella, campylobacter and ringworm can all be passed on to dogs; so it is in everybody’s best interest to maintain a high level of hygiene.
Obesity is a surprisingly common problem in bitches, in fact, is much more common than diseases associated with nutritional deficiencies. Obesity is linked with a number of serious health problems, such as;
* Heart disease;
* Breathing difficulties;
* Liver disease;
Therefore prevention or management is extremely important. It can be caused through over-feeding or under exercising, and is seen most commonly in older bitches and bitches which have been spayed. Therefore careful regulation of calorie intake must be observed and careful husbandry can help to avoid obesity from occurring. The simplest approach to this is to weigh the bitch regularly thus to monitor any changes in weight.
The most comprehensive modernisation of laws on domestic and captive animals for a century was introduced recently by Ben Bradshaw, the Animal Health and Welfare Minister. The new law will introduce a new duty of care on pet owners to look after their pets properly, in accordance with good practice, and will, for the first time, define what constitutes cruelty. It will consolidate and modernise over 20 pieces of animal welfare legislation relating to farmed and non-farmed animals. The Bill will:-
* Strengthen and amend offences relating to animal fighting, for which provision is currently made in the Protection of Animals Act 1911;
* Modernise and re-define the offence of cruelty, which is already a substantive offence under the 1911 Act;
* Impose a duty of care to ensure the welfare of animals on owners of animals and those responsible for them based upon existing good practice. A similar provision already exists to protect farmed animals;
* Extend powers to make regulations in respect of both farmed and non-farmed animals. This will enable action to be taken as welfare needs arise. It will also facilitate compliance with EU and international obligations on animal welfare;
* Improve the way that activities are regulated, where there is a need to ensure animal welfare standards are met.
* This will involve bringing together many common provisions on licensing that exist in separate pieces of legislation, with a focus on improving the quality of inspections. Licensing will be required for both new and currently regulated activities but will be required only where necessary to ensure animal welfare standards;
* Impose a ban on mutilations – such as the tail docking of dogs – subject to limited exceptions only where there are welfare or good management reasons for the mutilation;
* Increase the effectiveness of animal welfare law enforcement. This will include the provision of additional powers for inspectors from central and local government and the police where it has become apparent that this is necessary. It should make it more difficult to circumvent a disqualification order made by the court;
* Increase the range of sentences available to the courts when dealing with the various offences in the Bill.
Therefore this proves that more than ever before animal welfare and good husbandry are considered to be extremely important. It is an essential task to undertake when the decision is made look after an animal, and in the long run will promote a healthy, happy animal, minimal expense to the owner, and no breaches of the above legislation.