Weaning a Litter the Raw Fed Way -by Jane
The rearing of any litter of pups is a great commitment, both of time, skill, integrity and a huge dose of love and definitely not forgetting, humour!
The following is an insight into the way I rear my babies, from conception to the stage where they go off to their forever homes at around 8 – 10 weeks.
Conception: As this article is mainly to do with the rearing of my pups, I shall make this fairly short and to the point.
Firstly, never think of breeding a litter from a bitch who is in any way unhealthy or does not conform to the required breed temperament or type. She should be fit and bursting with energy, her shape should be lean. Over fat bitches often fail to conceive or can have problems at parturition.
So I have my bitch, she is healthy, fit and lean. I have taken her to my choice of stud dog (plenty of room here for another article – but I will leave that for another day) and we have had a good natural mating which I may ask to repeat in 48 hours.
For the first ten days or so after mating I usually have no inkling of whether she has taken or not – but my bitches usually have “morning sickness” at around this stage, a great indication to me that they are in fact, pregnant. Or they may get a bit self involved and slow down a bit.
After five weeks or so I will be able to see a difference in her body shape and the first indications of her milk bar thickening. At this time I increase her food slightly and also start to feed her more often but smaller meals. By the time she is ready to whelp I am feeding roughly ½ again her usual amount.
I feed a “prey diet” which just means the whole animal, obviously not in one meal, but over a period of say a week. The diet would work out as 80% meat, 10% bone and 10% offal (liver, kidneys, etc) I do not feed or recommend the feeding of the weight bearing bones of large animals, these can and frequently do slab fracture teeth, a type of injury that is often not noticed until great pain is involved.
I feed chicken, beef, pork, lamb, rabbit, fish, in fact any good fresh meat. Either whole meat of minced.
A bitch is in whelp for 63 days or thereabouts, a couple of days either side is natural and providing all is well should not be anything to worry about.
Again, I am not going into the actual whelping process here, so I am going to assume a normal vaginal birth of a litter of 4 pups. As I let my bitches eat any or all of the after births ( they contain a natural oxytocin which helps the womb to contract back to normal after the birth) I do not offer food for a few hours after whelping, however I do offer a small bowl of milk with a couple of free range eggs whisked in. My girls really like this J
So, as my puppies grow, I handle each one every day, talking to them and getting them used to my voice and smell and touch. Even at this early age I will run my fingers down each leg, stroke cheeks, feel tails etc. All in a loving gentle way that they soon come to relish.
As the first weeks pass, my bitch will have her food increased until by the time the pups are three weeks old and taking the maximum toll from their dam, she is feeding pretty much ad lib. Of course being a raw feeder this is slightly more time consuming than just leaving a large bowl of kibble to be grazed. So, at this time I will probably be feeding my bitch small meals up to six times a day.
With raw fed litters, I find they grow a bit more slowly, but are much calmer pups. They will also be more satisfied with mums milk for probably a week or so longer than their kibble fed peers. I offer scraped or minced beef, mashed with pre-boiled water at around 4 + weeks. It goes much like this: put plate of food down, arrange puppies around said bowl, heads go down, food is swiftly consumed, I love this, I remember trying to teach 3 week puppies how to lap – I now know this is a messy unnecessary business.
At this age I will give one meal the first day, then for a few days I give two meals, alternating between chicken or beef (I find these meats are easily digested by the puppies and give great nourishment) and their offals. I work on the premise with Border pups, that the first week they feed they get a teaspoon full each per meal, the next week it gets upped to a desert spoon each. By the time they are 5 weeks they are starting to eat small amounts of whole meat with tiny amounts of crushed bone. By 6 weeks I will offer something like a chicken wing, this gives them a chance to really get to work on their food in a meaningful manner although they will not eat the whole thing at this stage.
My worming regime will have started at two weeks, and I continue to worm every two weeks up to eight weeks. From then I worm monthly to six months. After this time I only worm if I see evidence of my dogs having a worm burden. I do not like to over medicate in any way, wanting my dogs to build strong natural immune systems.
As my pups are raw fed, another plus is that the “output” is remarkably less than when fed kibble, oh goody less picking up!!
By seven weeks They will be eating well including some bone, varied meats and offal.
Once they are eight weeks I have them vet checked and they have their first inoculation. I also have their microchip implanted at this time.
Now they are ready to go to their forever homes and this change in their lives should only result in minimum stress to them if I have succeeded in rearing them properly, giving them the tools they need to make the change with a happy and confidant manner.
The pups by now will be eating many raw meats, some with bone in, some offal, various minces and fish. They should be having small but firm motions.
The pups should be gleaming in their coats, their eyes bright and they should be bouncing with health. It is a great way to feed dogs, natural, easy, the dogs love it and it is also relatively cost effective in comparison to some of the more expensive kibbles.
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