Modern Natural Rearing:
The Brood Bitch

Image: "Lexy" Am/Can Ch. Markwright's Promiscuous
ROMX, owned, raised & shown by the author & family
This page is maintained by Donna Stekli, last updated 06/13/2003

This section will cover briefly what a Brood Bitch should be, what shape she should be in, her diet and her well-being.

The Brood Bitch is of utmost importance and demands the best of everything as she is the heart of a successful kennel. I am assuming that a bitch chosen to be a Brood Bitch is a very good example of her breed and that she comes from good stock. There is absolutely no point in breeding an average bitch from a mixed up pedigree of questionable background, not in today's world. I will agree that many of the keeshonds from the past came from such bitches, but we have come a long way from that in breeding programs and there is really no reason to have a mediocre bitch from a poor quality pedigree produce puppies. She should be spayed and kept as the pet she is suppose to be.

The Brood Bitch should be OFA'd well before any breeding plans are launched. It is important to know that an OFA x-ray should be taken between heat cycles and not close to the beginning or end of them. For some reason, the calcium changes in an intact bitch may alter her hip xrays if they are taken close to her heat cycles. I have Brucellosis tests and stifle checks done on the breeding pair. Other tests may be done, such as thyroid, and any fad tests that are currently in the limelight. The test choices are up to whoever is involved with the breeding and what is important to them.

Be sure she is current on her vaccinations before she comes in heat. Never give a bitch in season, in whelp, false pregnancy or one going through a loss of litter a vaccination of any kind. This can cause immune responses that may threaten her life because it is during these times when a bitch's immune system is extremely sensitive and geared up. I give my vaccinations separately for all dogs: DHLP, Parvo and Rabies. The three are spaced at least 2 weeks apart. I do not give Lyme or Corona. I do not use heartworm medication. I do have the blood tested 2-3 times a year, so that if there is any evidence of heartworm, it would still be in the microphalli stage and easier to treat. This way, my bitch is not full of poison, which heartworm medication is, and this is one less questionable ingredient towards healthier puppies. Be sure the bitch is worm and pest free.

After my first litter, I stopped having vaginal cultures done on the bitch before breeding. I have not had unusual discharges or the like with my girls. It is natural for some bacteria to be in the vagina. With the exception of one breeding, all my girls have been bred naturally and all have conceived from their breedings to carry puppies to term. I have had no miscarriages or reabsorption. It is my belief that if a bitch cannot be or will not be bred naturally, considering the mating pair has met at the proper times during ovulation, perhaps nature is taking it's course.

Be careful about flea & tick control on a bitch that is planned to be bred, is in whelp or is nursing puppies. Do not put any chemical products on her! Don't let her come in contact with an area that has been sprayed with a chemical! I use natural products if I have a summer litter. That includes a spray composed of pennyroyal & eucalyptus oils which can be added to your favorite coat spray. In addition, a mix of dried herbs of southernwood, wormwood, cayenne pepper, rosemary: grind those into a fine powder, add an equal amount of diatomaceous earth (see below) and then add a few drops of pennyroyal & eucalyptus oils. Mix and put in a shaker, such as an old baby powder container, to apply to the dog to combat pests. This mixture smells wonderful! If the pest problem is major, wash the bitch often in a regular shampoo. Any shampoo will kill fleas. Let her sit in lather for about 5 minutes and rinse. In areas where she will frequent, such as carpeting or the yard, get some diatomacious earth. It is the result of ground up one celled algae that has become fossilized. It is so fine, it clings to the wax on the outside of the insects and makes them dry out and they die. It can be sprinkled in all areas. It is not a chemical and is safe. Garlic, parsley and brewer's yeast can be added to the diet to help combat pests from the inside.

A Brood Bitch should get ample exercise always, even up to the time of whelping. I let my girls run as much as they want. We have 40 degree inclines and slopes which build good strong muscles. It is most important that a Brood Bitch have very good muscle tone so she can get through whelping without having problems and without getting tired. She is given time to run free in a 1/4 acre fenced area. She can lay in the sun, dig a hole, chew on grass and sticks and just relax being a dog. Don't shelter her from your other dogs until later in her pregnancy. She still needs to feel a part of her dog family. When she starts to get too big, be careful mixing her with other dogs who may play rough. We have an older neutered male, who can still sprint and play from time to time and he is a good "mixer dog" for a bitch in the final stage of pregnancy.

Give her on raspberry tea leaf powder before breeding. Use one teaspoon a day starting when she comes in heat and continuing until the pups are weaned. It contains vitamins A, B, C, E, Calcium, Phosphorus and Iron. Raspberry powder tones the uterine and pelvic muscles and helps prevent miscarriages. It aids in easing labor to enable the bitch's muscles to be strong thus making deliveries of pups fast and easy. It also encourages the milk to flow.

Get her on an ethoxyquin-free dry food. Ethoxyquin has been linked to problems in dogs and is still the subject of much controversy. The FDA has reopened the file on this preservative. Some dog foods which have this ingredient have bags marked "Not For Breeding Animals". The long-term affects are not known. Genetic effects long term are not known. Why bother with this when there are many good quality foods out there preserved with Vitamins C and E. The ones with questionable ingredients aren't fit for a healthy Brood Bitch and her puppies. I feed Natural Life Condition & Eagle Puppy formulas mixed together in equal parts. Nature's Recipe and Innova have some good foods as well. Go for a protein level around 25-28%, 15-18% fat. I have observed that Lamb as the only protein source, does not provide enough usable protein to hold Keeshond coats, although I don't know why. I also use some raw foods for all my kees, including the Brood Bitch: raw beef (roasts cut up into cubes), raw hamburger (85% - 15% fat), raw ground turkey or chicken; the meat is mixed in with the dry food and I also add some veggies (carrots, peas, green beans). Not every meal is the same. I do feed raw chicken wings 2-3x per week.

Be sure the water the Brood Bitch drinks is as pure as possible. We are fortunate to have a spring-fed well and we are at a higher elevation than most anything in our area. Our water is WONDERFUL and we have no run offs from farmers fields to be concerned with. If the water supply is not good, it will affect the Brood Bitch as Keeshonds drink lots of water and it composes much of what they intake. It may be that bottled water should be purchased.

Cook for the Brood Bitch. I use a couple of the recipes from [Pitcairn book]. Specifically "Hearty Canine Combo", "Choice Chow" along with my cupcake recipe. I mix up a dog stew that is added to the dry dog food. These 3 main diets are alternated. For some of the recipes click here! As the bitch approaches her whelping time, her meals are divided because of her limited stomach capacity. I give her all she will eat at a meal, which is limited to 20 minutes. After that the food is taken away until the next meal. I don't believe in free feeding.

I don't take a bitch that has been bred to dog shows. From the time she is bred, she stays home. The exposure to diseases isn't necessary if you are serious about a healthy bitch and her litter.

The last half of pregnancy is the time when the bone building goes on, so be sure extra calcium is added in natural sources. I give cottage cheese, yogurt, powdered milk and white cheeses in the amount of about 2-3 tablespoon equivalents once a day with the evening meal. This is continued until well after weaning. I continue the yogurt after that time, tapering it to 3 times a week. High quality bone meal can be added mixed with raw meat, as it is a complete and safe form of calcium.

I give 3,000 mgs of Vitamin C, along with 200 IU Vitamin E and 30 mg Zinc daily from heat time until weaning. These are continued after that every other day throughout the year. Every other day, I give 1.5 teaspoons of bone meal and a 1/4 teaspoon of epsom salt (for magnesium). This is given during the last half of pregnancy.

About a week before the due date, bathe your bitch using regular shampoo. Clip down her belly area and be sure her teats are washed well. Be sure you rinse her well, so no soap residue is left. Clip around her vulva, and if she has lots of pants, take some of that off as well; it will only get stained and in the way during whelping and when the pups are around 8weeks of age, it will all be shed. Introduce her to the area where she will be whelping. We have a spare bedroom that is used. We encourage her to sleep and eat in the room.

During whelping, our girls usually pick chairs or loveseats. We have a couple of old chairs in a spare room we keep around just for this purpose. The bitch can push and use the leverage of the arm of the chair. They seem to be much more comfortable and content. Although it may be a bit messy, you can take the chair outside afterwards and clean it. Let the bitch eat as many placentas as she wants. They contain many nutrients. Let newborns nurse on the bitch between deliveries. This helps the uterus contract. Remove the nursing puppies to a warm box when the next puppy starts coming. Between puppies, a tablespoon of honey with formula [see recipe for Puppy Formula] is offered to the bitch and usually taken. This keeps her from tiring. After the whelping, we transfer the family to the whelping box. We keep the room semi-dark to simulate a den. Keep the noise level down around the "nest" for the first 2 weeks.

The best thing you can do for your bitch is not to be nervous yourself! She needs a relaxed, calm environment. If you are nervous or too overbearing, your bitch will not be comfortable!

If you have accounted for all placentas, there is no need for a "pit shot" after whelping. Offer the bitch her regular diet of food after she has settled down. I feed three times a day. Be sure she is getting natural sources of calcium (as stated above). She should have a constant supply of fresh water at all times. Take her temperature every day for the first few days to be sure it is normal. A bitch who has just whelped will have a slightly elevated temperature, but it should not be outside the normal range. Be sure she is having bowel movements, even though they may be messy for a few days following whelping. One of the signs of eclampsia (lack of adequate calcium) is the binding of the muscles, which can include the bowel muscles. A sign of eclampsia is for the bitch to not have a bowel movement.

Do not keep her room too hot! Although the [generic] whelping books say, keep the room at 80 degees F, that is too hot for a keeshond bitch & her pups. As long as the puppies are nursing and sleeping, the kees bitch should not be kept too hot! If she is, the pups will cry, she will pant incessantly and be very uncomfortable. This is not good. I have not used incandescent lights or any kind of direct heat source. I have kept a space heater in the room, but have not used a heating pad in the whelping box. An overheated puppy is as bad as a cold puppy. You can cause brain damage either way. If the puppies are eating & sleeping without a lot of noise, then all is well.

For the nursing mother, I continue with the raw meat diets, alternating sources. Raw liver is excellent to stimulate milk production, but I don't give in large quantities because it is very rich. The mother will need to eat about 3-4x her normal meals during weeks 2-4 as this is the highest demand time on her milk supply. Once the puppies start to be weaned, the amount to feed mom should decrease gradually. The quality of the food should not as she needs the nutrition to build her back up.

Other points to consider: Keep your bitch in good shape, even when she's not having a litter. The goal should be for an overall healthy dog (mind & body) and not just to have special treatment because she's going to produce puppies. A year round good diet, including herbs & vitamins, ample exercise, good attitude will make her the best she can be even into her veteran days.

Listed below, in random order, are foods that are good and a few notes about them. When switching to a more natural diet, be sure to use balanced portions and not just a lot of one thing. We add balanced, good food portions to a quality balanced dry food. When using meats, stick to one or two kinds as too much variety in protein sources in one meal makes them more complex to digest. The rule of thumb should be MODERATION and BALANCE.

Reference to herbs for the Brood Bitch

alfalfa sproutshelps in weight gain, stimulates appetite, good for muscle/joint pains, contains calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, magnesium, enzymes, choline, sodium, silicon, Vits A B, D, K & P
applesjuice or fruit: contains pectin which is a natural toxin remover, (fruit) adds fiber to diet, great for diabetic dogs because it slows down the absorption of sugars
bananasrich in potassium & magnesium, both needed for bone building & calcium balance. Use only fully ripe.
beef liver(raw) folic acid, sulphur, iron, many vitamins & minerals
brown riceiron, amino acids, linoleic acid, Vit B & E. It strengthens internal organs, calms the nervous system & relieves depression
carrots(grated raw) potassium, Vit C & Vit A, also fun food for puppies!
cornmealcontains more lysine than any other grain (not degerminated)
eggsa complete food, can be fed scrambled or raw [soak in hot water for five minutes] but boiled is not recommended as they become hard to digest
garlic(fresh raw) besides it use as a pest fighter, worm inhibitor, garlic is a natural antibiotic and antifungal, digestive helper and good for the nervous system
goat's milkobtained from a goat farm is best, but if you can't get raw goats milk, perhaps there is a natural food supermarket near you that may have the less desirable pasteurized goat's milk. Add in moderation
kalerich in Vit C, more digestible for dogs than spinach & should be used instead of
molasseshelps in milk production, high in iron
oatshelp produce milk, good source of iron, calcium, copper, magnesium, zinc, silica and Vitamin B. They act as a calmer for nerves, depression and insomnia. Helps to regulate thyroid & blood sugar
oil of Evening Primrosegreat source of linolenic acid which is great for coat and skin
parsleystrengthens digestion, source of Vit C, iron, manganese, calcium, phosphorus. Increases milk production and helps uterine muscles
raisinsUnsulfered. High in potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron and calcium. Also contain Vit A & B-complex.
red cloverflower tops; helps with skin disorders such as eczema
sweet potatoesvery high in Vit A
yogurtvery good for digestion and addition of natural bacteria cultures. Yogurt can be given to newborn puppies if the bitches milk is too rich or added to formula if puppies are hand -raised. Goat yogurt is best.

My herbal Brood Bitch formula is a mixture of:
Red raspberry leaf, alfalfa, red clover, rosemary, chamomile, feverfew, rosehips, southernwood, nettles, comfrey root, slippery elm bark, calamus root, marshmallow root, borage, elder flowers, dill seed, fennel seed, sea vegetables, golden seal, echinacea, brewers yeast flakes.

For recipes click here!


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This page is maintained by Donna Stekli. Last updated 06/13/2003.
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