After one of our dams whelps a litter, we keep someone sitting next to the whelping box (where she's settled in with her pups) 24 hours per day for at least a week (sometimes 10 days or two weeks, depending on the size of the litter and the pups' development).
Simply put, to make sure none of the pups smothers beneath the weight of the dam.
We learned about this hazard the hard way with Elsie's first litter (nine pups). She was an inexperienced, busy mom who was constantly standing up, lying down, rolling, or shifting her weight. One of the times she tried to lie down, she rested atop one of the pups in such a way that, though the pup's face was visible, her weight on his body prevented him from getting his breath (or squealing). I was just a few feet away on the sofa for a quick nap, having been up 72 hours straight and didn't hear a thing. The pup suffocated.
Never again (if we have anything to do with it).
Admittedly, some larger breeders don't bother with a 24/7 watch; they chalk smothering deaths up to routine loss or survival of the fittest (I'm not criticizing, I'm just saying this is the way it is). Some statistics out there say that with any given Lab litter, we should expect a 20%-30% loss rate (meaning that out of a 10-pup litter we should expect to lose at least two, if not three).
We, however, aren't willing to accept that. If the pups are healthy, there's no reason to let them die by accidental smothering on the dam's part. We do all we can to ensure they don't.
Already, with this litter, I've pulled Master Red (our big bruiser) out from behind Kenya where he could get squished beneath her were she to roll all the way back on her side. Countless times.
And, in this video, you'll see her plunk right down on top of Master Blue or Master Green (cannot recall which as i write this). At least in this case, he had the air to squeal, and I swooped in to rescue.
Just so you know, this isn't the "perfect" example, but it gives you an idea. This clip was taken yesterday morning when they were 2-3 days old:
So that's why I'm up at nights. I do the shift from about 11:00 p.m. when DH goes to bed, overnight and through the next day until about 5:00 p.m. when DH gets home from work. Then I sleep from 5:30 p.m.-ish to 11:00 p.m.-ish while DH does puppy duty. And then I start all over again. We tag team. :o)
We'll do this for the first week. But I have to admit, it's much easier with only three heads to count (instead of seven, eight, or nine which it's always been in the past).
Yes, we're tired, but we wouldn't have it any other way. And everyone is thriving. The Plumpty Dumpties are getting rounder and cuter every day!
'til next time,