Because new-born puppies can't regulate their body temperatures (can't pant to cool off; can't shiver to warm up), they're instinctively drawn to their mother's body warmth. To supplement her warmth, we keep a heat lamp above the whelping box so the pups can stay warm wherever they roam in the box (near mom or not). The long-held-breeding addage "a cold puppy is a dead puppy" is unfortunately too true; puppies need to stay warm to stay alive.
In our case, remember: we have a 100-pound dam and 1-pound neonates -- smothering is very possible if the pups, in their search for warmth, get too close and Elsie rolls the wrong way. Yes, our 24/7 puppy watch helps ensure the pups won't be smothered under their mom, but the railings on the whelping box sides go a long way toward preventing smotherings, too. Especially when the pups snuggle in along Elsie's back and outer side.
Take a look:
|Puppies wedged behind Elsie's back, but protected from being rolled back on by the pvc pipe rail above them.|
|One black pup behind Elsie's lower back, again, protected by the pvc pipe railing should she roll back to rest on her side.|
|Master Blue nuzzling from behind, but with room underneath the pipe to wiggle out safely if Elsie rolls fully onto her side.|
Without the railings, the puppies could easily be trapped between the walls, floor, and Elsie's back without any room for escape.
The rails, though they don't prevent all smothering possibilities (for instance, if Elsie lies down on top of a pup in the center of the box), they do eliminate the risk of trappings that can occur along the whelping box walls.
|In this case, I moved the pup. :)|
Why PVC pipe? The first whelping box DH designed used 2x4s bolted into the walls, like narrow shelves, for rails. They worked wonderfully when the puppies were small. But when the pups were able to get up on their feet, and then started teething, the 2x4s became teething rails. Ack! To boot, the wood was difficult to keep clean.
So, DH designed a new whelping box (used with Kenya's litter last year for the first time). He switched to PVC piping for rails: easy to wipe off; more comfortable for Elsie to rest her head on; more difficult for the pups to consider chewing (later on), lighter and easier to use during assembly, yet every bit as effective as a whelping box anti-smothering rail.
We're always thinking; always adapting; always learning, trying to do the best we can by these puppies and their moms. So we change things up as we learn better ways.
Our thinking is this: Though we can't give pups life, we can do our best to protect and foster the health of the precious lives entrusted to us.
Call us crazy. But it's all we know to do. And we'll continue to it this way until we find one better. :)
In any case, so far, so good. All is well.
'til next time,