Laura Reeves, Susan Patterson, and Gayle Watkins begin the Breeder to Breeder series with one of the toughest topics in breeding: stillborn puppies.
Gayle begins the discussion by reviewing a study that was published in 2019, analyzing data from 2,500 whelpings. The biggest takeaway from the study is that stillborn puppies are common in dogs, and breeders should be prepared for this. Among the dogs studied (in this case, larger breed dogs), litters with 5-8 puppies had the lowest rate of stillborn puppies. Litters with fewer than 5 actually had the highest rate, with large litters also having high instances of stillborn puppies.
The three birthing methods that have statistically the same stillborn rates are: natural whelpings with no dystocia, planned c-sections, and natural whelpings that might have uterine problems but that are resolved with calcium alone. Birthing methods that are problematic with regards to stillborn rates are: emergency c-sections (especially when oxytocin is used) as well as using mechanical manipulation to get the puppies out.
Susan gives a rundown of how to give your dogs oral calcium supplements, which can help alleviate some whelping-related issues and decrease the chance of stillborn puppies. She then follows up with situations in which using oxytocin can be useful during the whelping process.
Gayle continues her summary of the study, describing how the time in between puppies being born is correlated with the rate of stillborn puppies - the conventional wisdom of 2 hours between puppies may be too long! If you find yourself at 45 minutes between puppies, it may be in your interest to give your dog calcium. Susan also recommends regularly feeding your bitch (Susan does this through a syringe) while they are in active labor to help them maintain their energy.
Continue listening for tips on tools and techniques you can use to help ease your bitch through the process of labor!