After the delivery, mother and puppies are best left on their own, while you get some rest. When you return to the whelping box you should find a contented scene, with the mother busily attending to her babies. By now, the puppies should be sucking strongly and their coats should have dried out and will look like shining velvet. Approach carefully, so as not to disturb the mother. She needs to practise the art of not stepping on her puppies, so give her the chance to leave the box calmly and sedately, if she wishes to do so. This will give you a good opportunity to inspect her for any discharge and make sure that she can stand easily. You may have to clean her, although she will probably have done a good job of this herself. She should also be offered food and a drink at this stage.
The bitch will want to return to her puppies as quickly as possible. Help her to position them, and then you may begin your inspection. We do not weigh our puppies, although many people do. We do not see the point, because even if they do not weigh the ideal weight, there is little you can do about it. It is far better to let nature take its course. In the first few days all the puppies will feed well, whatever their size. It is only later that a smaller one may need help to hang on to the fullest teat, so that it is not pushed aside by larger puppies.
The first few days should be ones of watchfulness, though you should also handle the puppies, so they get used to the touch of the human hand. You will need to move them to change their bedding, and if they know your touch right from the start, they will accept it as part of their life. Never take a puppy away from the whelping box; whatever you do must be done under the mother’s nose, just as it was during the delivery. After all, they are her babies and she wants them. You are just the helper. Puppies are very quick to tell mother, and you, if there is anything wrong. An ill or unhappy puppy will not be contented. Sometimes the mother will tell you the puppy is “rejected” by pushing it away. You may not be able to see any problem, but in our experience the bitch knows what she is doing. It is a difficult situation, but any rejected puppy should be seen by your vet to try to establish what is wrong.
Given that they are all healthy you should check that all the puppies can feed easily. Place your little finger on to the roof of the mouth to ensure there is no cleft palate. Feel the rear legs to check for the dew-claws. These may or may not be present. If they are, they may be large, small, double or minute. Dew-claws on an Akita puppy can be located in the usual place, just above the rear foot on the inside of the leg, or sometimes right at the bottom almost on the last toe. They are sometimes so small that you can miss them on a quick inspection. The best way to check is to gently rub your fingernail from the toe up the inside of the leg to the hock joint. Repeat this process each day for the first five days, in case a claw has grown during that time. We always ask the vet to remove dew-claws at five days, and not before. It is not until five days that the blood gains clotting properties, and so then the operation can be done without causing bleeding and minimising the risk of infection. Keep an eye on the umbilical cord to ensure it dries up properly and that there are no signs of swelling or rupture. The whelping box should be kept warm, at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit for the first few days.
Amy Morin writes exclusively about the Akita breed of dog. If you are thinking of getting an Akita or need help in training and caring for your Akita, you will find lots of useful information on her site, http://akitacare.com.