Whelping a small litter

We have had some questions as to what Dr. John Watts did that was different to a caesarian; I will explain here.

As with AI of frozen semen, smaller litters are not unexpected.  In response to a small litter it is uncommon for the levels of hormones to be at the required levels to bring upon labour.  The solution is to do a caesarian to maximise the chance of survival of the puppies to be born and to minimise the stress on the mother.

This can be expensive.  A caesar for Elli last year was quoted at Uni Melb. Vet Hospital at $3500 AUD at 4am; the end result was taking her to Essendon Airport 24hr Vet for the same operation at $1600 AUD.

Dr Watts suggested that we may consider inducing the labour if the puppy was not born by the due date (60 days from AI, or 1st of June).

There were two drugs to consider.

We decided to go with Aglepristone.  Dr. Watts expected that Freyja would go into labour within 30-36 hours of the first injection.

  • At Day 60 (6.15pm) Freyja was given a quick ultrasound, her cervix was undilated, temperature 38.6 C .
    • She was given her first shot of Aglepristone (half dose).
    • We were told to expect vomiting in maybe 10 minutes and diarrhea; her temperature should quickly drop half 0.5 C;
    • She vomited twice, the first time an hour after being home
  • At Day 61 (11.15am) Clare took Freyja in for another ultrasound to check the puppy’s pulse. It was strong and Freyja was slightly dilated, temperature was 38.4 C.
    • She had blood taken for a progesterone test.
    • She was given another half dose and we were booked in for 6.45 that night.
    • No vomiting.
  • At Day 61 (6.45pm) things were busy with a caesar being performed on a Bulldog for four puppies.  While she was being prepared Freyja got checked again. Slightly more dilation, puppy is still looking good, temperature 38.2 C; progesterone results were in at 1.7.
    • She had another half dose.
    • Dr. Watts expected her to give birth that night.
    • I stocked up on Red Bull…
  • At Day 62 (8.14am) Michelle complained of Freyja peeing on the Futon on Dogs Online
    • ignoring the smell was not like urine.
    • at 8.30am Michelle spoke to the Vet about bringing Freyja in for a potential caesar; then jumped straight into another call with Ange of Alpinarc (Freyja’s Breeder)
    • at 8.44am, Freyja was hiding in one of the crates and slid out a monster of a pup with no apparent effort.

So the end results were a successful labour and birth and no C-section.


  • Freyja suffered little apparent discomfort compared to a caesarean.
  • Puppy was healthy, good colour and was checked every 12 odd hours by Dr. Watts.
  • The total cost was less than ONE TENTH the cost of a caesar!!!


  • the waiting and having to visit the vet during business hours; but we had Clare to help out.


Our recommendation from this experience is if you are in Victoria, it would be advantageous for any breeder fearing complications to see Wyndham Vet Clinic for an assessment and advice.

Their ultrasound is of the same quality you would see in a Hospital and at a very reasonable price ($88 AUD for first visit) and the only place I have seen to offer video footage of the ultrasound.  Dr Watts used the ultrasound to check progress, and we did not get charged that rate for 5 minutes on the table.  He used it to avoid making assumptions and get an accurate heart rate.  He is the state’s only small animal reproduction specialist, years of experience with his specialty and shows a geeky love of technology that is well demonstrated in the best equipment I have seen in a Vet Clinic.

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