It has been a very busy winter for us. We dog sat for a fellow breeder and as a result had many more pups and dogs that we are used to having. We are very grateful and happy that our dog numbers have once again returned to the levels that we are used to having. This allows us give individual attention to our animals and they are so happy to have us back to themselves. Their wagging tails and happy little faces remind us once again of why we love this breed.
I noted in a recent post that I do not supplement calcium during a dam’s pregnancy. I have never supplemented specifically for calcium during pregnancy. I feed a high performance food all of the time, with the exception of nursing, when I switch to puppy food.
When my dogs show signs of labor I normally give them a raw egg and add 2 crushed Tums for calcium. Within a few hours of birth being complete I give this again and continue giving it on a daily basis for about 5-10 days after birth. This length of time is determined by the dam’s unique needs. Some dams need this a few times per week for the duration of nursing, some don’t need it at all after the first 10 days.
However, I have heard that many people supplement specifically for calcium everyday for 2 or more weeks leading up to birth or switch to puppy food during pregnancy for the extra calcium. When I heard this I wondered if I was neglecting my dog’s nutritional needs, specifically calcium. So I experimented with giving them Tums during pregnancy. The result was vomiting. Perhaps this was due to them eating too quickly, but I wonder if it was their bodies rejecting the extra calcium.
I have always been under the impression that a lack of calcium immediately after birth would lead to Eclampsia in the dam, but that you should not supplement calcium during pregnancy itself. Thus why I have practiced the above. However the questions I have received have caused me to go back and reevaluate my feeding regime.
I found the following statement in an old email from a fellow breeder, however I cannot remember who that person was to properly credit them. “Yes, the amount of calcium in puppy food is too high for preg bitches, there have been a number of studies showing that extra calcium either through puppy food or supplementation during preg can cause uterine inertia, resulting in c-section.”
This statement has caused me to dig further into the reasons behind what I do. Our family has been feeding Shih tzus this way for 20 years and in that time we have had 2 C-sections, which for this breed is pretty good. I found a number of sites on this, but below are a few that I found to be particularly interesting.
This site http://www.lowchensaustralia.com/breeding/nutrition.htm seems to indicate that supplementing calcium during pregnancy can contribute to uterine inertia and thus C-sections
Here http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/breedingpregnancyguide.htm it states that calcium supplementation and puppy food should be discontinued 10-14 days before the expected whelp and then resumed after the whelp takes place. It mentions this in regard to the uterus.
Now my own personal experience has been one of having pre-term labor. Meaning that I begin having contractions long before my babies are due. I have had three different Ob’s for three different pregnancies. Each time I started having contractions, the first thing they did was to draw blood to check my calcium levels and to prescribe fairly high levels of calcium to help “relax” my uterine muscles. It was always discontinued several weeks before the expected delivery as according to the Ob’s “high blood calcium levels can impair the body’s ability to have normal, useful contractions.”
Now I realize that human and canine pregnancies progress and behave differently, but I am finding more and more that there are similar biological processes in place for both species. Very little funding and research goes into canine reproduction, but millions go into human reproduction. So looking at human reproduction and seeing if its findings apply to canine reproductions is a reasonable thing to do. Thus I am willing to make the leap that high calcium levels in a dam would cause the same issues that are seen in human reproduction.
This site http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp?cfile=htm/bc/80304.htm states that oral supplementation of calcium during pregnancy can actually cause eclampsia (also know as Puerperal Hypocalcemia, Postpartum Hypocalcemia, Puerperal Tetany, and Periparturient Hypocalcemia)
More links on the connection between calcium intake during pregnancy and eclampsia:
The sites above and my own observations have reaffirmed in my mind that I am doing the right thing for my dogs and their ongoing good health. If any other breeders have had different experiences or have knowledge of further research on the matter I would love to hear about it.
Looks likely that today is puppy day for Breeze. For the last couple of days she has been "off" and I really thought that we were going to see puppies last night, but after a few hours of anxious behavior she settled down and slept well. (something that this dog midwife was very grateful for) However about midday, labor has set in and she is now busily digging in a pile of towels, pacing, and panting. Looks like it is going to be a long labor, so will probably be tomorrow before I update. This is the first litter for Breeze here at Orchid Stars. She has previously whelped at Grandma's Shih tzus. I am hoping for spotted pups, seems like we have had lots of solid pups lately and I am eager to see something different.
With winter coming, pups coming, and nursing mamas nearly everyone is on "feeding up" protocol. This involves a whole counter full of individual bowls as I hand mix each bowl to fit the unique nutritional needs of each dog.
All of our dogs have standard dry dog food available 24 hours a day. This meets their nutritional needs most of the time. However, our nursing moms and pregnant moms need more nutrition than they can take in with just dog food. So they get a mix of raw eggs, cottage cheese, ground meat, infant formula, and vitamins. Nursing moms also get additional calcium supplements. (We never give calcium to pregnant moms as it is a sure fire way to induce eclampsia)
Summers involve lots of extra running around, walks, camping, and general play. Which results in trim dogs come fall. Because of the long cold winters we experience, I always try to get a bit of extra weight on my dogs to help guard against the cold of winter months. All of our animals have access to a dog door and despite cold and snow they love to be outdoors. So even our studs and "resting" females are getting special food these days.
It is so fun to take each dog his/her special food dish. Their whole bodies wag and wiggle with anticipation. Their little eyes are just filled with happiness and they bounce around waiting their turn. Fun, but busy times at Orchid Stars.