The “I thank You God for most this amazing day” Litter

            After eleven years of breeding Cardigan Welsh Corgis, I must say that our recent litter surpasses them all in testing our knowledge of breeding, our faith in veterinarians and our dedication to our Cardigans.  I would like to tell the story of this litter, as I think it helps strengthen the seriousness of the considerations you must make before deciding to breed a litter of any breed.

            On Friday, October 13, 2006, Gwen (Pawcific Sent From Heaven) went into labor after a hard last week of pregnancy of only picking at her food.  We had done a preliminary ultrasound at 34 days and our guess was that she had 6-7 puppies.  She was absolutely huge, looked like a basketball, and was to the point that she could not even lay down.  When she went into labor it was hard to tell, as she was already breathing so hard because her puppies were squashing her lungs.  Right before bedtime, we had set her all up in the whelping room and she had fallen asleep acting like we had misjudged the labor signs.  Just for caution, Mom and I decided to alternate getting up every couple of hours to check on her and watch for any progression of labor.  At 4 a.m., it was my turn to wake up and guess what?  I found a dead puppy.  Gwen still was not looking like she was in active labor and the puppy had obviously been born dead with a very deteriorated looking placenta.  We were very concerned that we were going to have no live puppies and/or a mother who was not going to live through her labor and delivery. 

            Gwen had not made any progress by 5:30 a.m. so we called the emergency vet as we felt she needed a c-section.  There was obviously another puppy on the way but it was clearly stuck.  At this time I should let you know that our current allopathic vet recently stopped doing their own emergencies, so this was our first experience at the emergency vet for a c-section.  We called the emergency vet to let them know we were on our way so they would be ready for us.  As we were loading Gwen we received a call back from the emergency vet asking us to wait until 8 a.m. when the shifts changed so that the morning vet could do the surgery.  That made us pretty mad and that call set the tone for the whole emergency vet experience.

            We got to the office about 6 a.m.  The first thing the vet tech asked is what size the father is, assuming that she is expecting large puppies from being bred to a large dog.  The vet techs spent a good 20 minutes fretting around before the vet even came in to see Gwen.  We appeared to be the only clients in the clinic at that time.  The vet also had to ask the tech whether the dog would bite her before coming in the exam room.  Gwen was so uncomfortable that she could not even walk, let alone be bothered to be grumpy.  We finally got the vet in to see Gwen and she wanted to do a complete exam and blood work before starting the c-section.  We said fine and handed over the credit card, where fees were already starting to accumulate.  We were pushed out into the lobby to patiently wait. 

            Sitting in the lobby was like torture especially when we could hear everything that was being said behind the thin walls.  In about 15 minutes they came out with the results of the exam and blood work.  They told us that Gwen did need a c-section.  Hmmmm… isn’t that the reason we were there in the first place?  Also the blood work showed that her red blood count was quite low and that she was anemic.  The vet asked us, “Do we really want to do this?”  Hmmmm… “if we don’t, won’t we have a dead litter and a dead bitch?” we blatantly thought.  Another 30 minutes or so went by before we heard them getting ready to open her up.  This drove Mom crazy as when our regular Vet does a c-section they open them up and have puppies out within a short time of arriving at the office.  

            After the c-section was done they brought us a basket of puppies, 9 in total.  The puppies looked healthy so we were happy about that.  They still needed to close Gwen up, so back they go and it seems like forever before they told us the surgery was over.  The vet also told us that she did not want to pull on the placentas because she did not want Gwen to bleed too much, and so she left two attached.  She gave Gwen an oxytocin shot to help get those two placentas out.  (Later we discovered through our vet that there is a technique to pull out the placentas where there is no bleeding and furthermore that the uterus cannot contract normally when it has been cut open).

            The vet would not let us go into see Gwen nor let us put the puppies on her to nurse.  Instead they wanted us to start bottle feeding them as Gwen had no milk.  As long time breeders, we knew that it is highly important to get puppies on their mother ASAP as this is what brings a mother’s milk down and helps with her recovery.  Gwen also had to either sit or stand before she could be released and the vets insisted on this one.  Normally we take bitches home right after a c-section to get pups started.  Finally, after trying to get the puppies feeding off a bottle for hours on end with not much success, they let Gwen go home.  At that time it was almost 2 p.m. in the afternoon on Saturday and the puppies had been born for nearly six hours.

            After we got home, Gwen was still quite sleepy from surgery.  She was very depressed after having put all of her energy into the puppies during pregnancy. We got the puppies started nursing; there was a little milk so we had hope.  It is quite normal for a bitch not to eat for a couple of days after whelping, but she had nine puppies and needed nourishment fast.  This was our main issue as we knew she had no more to give to her puppies and we needed her to have the energy to make milk.  We tried everything to get her to eat and drink but we resorted to force feeding her.  Mom and I were extremely tired but we knew if we were to make any progress, we needed to keep to a strict schedule of tube feeding puppies and forcing Gwen to eat and drink.  We were hoping everything would turn around quickly. 

            By Monday morning there was little to no progress on both Gwen and the pups.  One puppy in particular seemed to never feel warm and kept going off by itself, we knew something must be wrong.  Mom made a phone call to our holistic vet to see if she could get a plan started to get Gwen out of her rut and eating on her own.  Our vet said that Gwen was highly manic depressive, felt hopeless, and was close to giving up the will to live.  Not something you want to hear, especially after three days of no more than two hours of sleep at a time.  A plan was made for Gwen which consisted of homeopathics, supplements and good mental thoughts toward Gwen’s recovery. 

            By Tuesday afternoon Gwen had perked up after having a couple of doses of “the plan” prescribed by our holistic vet.  Mom was still worried as she was scheduled to be gone for a week and Gwen had then started moving around more and layed on two puppies.  We lost two puppies, one that was not doing well from the beginning and a second one from being squashed.  Mom also saved a squashed puppy by using a technique our dog physical therapist uses on the dogs she treats. 

            On Wednesday, I am left to tube feed puppies and to continue working on Gwen’s recovery. Tube feeding the puppies was scary at first, as I had not done it before.  Later that day, things started to look better, Gwen was eating little bites on her own and the puppies had full tummies.  I kept an hourly schedule of feeding Gwen and a 3-hour schedule of tube feeding puppies.  By Friday, things were looking better and I started backing off the tube feeding and worked on getting Gwen to eat bigger amounts and go longer between feedings. 

            On Saturday, a week from whelping, the puppies were gaining weight without being tube fed and Gwen was doing better about eating on her own.  I decided that we were finally on the road to recovery.  At this point we had spent over $2,500 on vet bills, had not gotten much sleep in over a week and were beginning to question our reasons for raising dogs. 

Now that four weeks has gone by, Gwen is back to her normal weight, eating enough for an army and the puppies are all fat and healthy.  This experience has shown us how much can go wrong and how close we came to losing Gwen and her puppies. 

Please, if you are considering becoming a breeder or want to breed your bitch just once for the puppy experience, take your decision very seriously.

Emily Fish

Pawcific Cardigans, since 1995