How can a whelping box be an “environmental factor” in puppies developing CHD (Canine Hip Dysplasia)?
I was recently having a conversation with a fellow NR breeder, discussing CHD not being genetic and it got me to thinking about many of the environmental factors involved that are being found to contribute to CHD as well as how much we as human beings have meddled with nature and the canine species.
Whelping Box an environmental factor in CHD?
I think most of us already know the importance of having good traction or footing in the whelping box for new puppies. Take a look at newborn puppies nursing in a whelping box, notice that they are scrambling for traction or putting their weight on their knees and hips. Both over-flexing the legs as well as putting weight directly on their knees and hips puts undue stress on the hip joint and it only makes sense that it could result in luxating the joints.
Research shows that slick flooring actually increases the incidence of join laxity while rough uneven and more natural footing lowers the incidence – this is one reason that it is thought that spring and summer litters have lower incidence of HD is of course, because pups get out on earth footing sooner and longer.
I have noticed over the last several years that quite a few breeders are using kiddie pools initially when the litter is young. The footing tends to be very slippery unless you line it with carpet. Often I see that it is just lined w/paper or sheets both of which slip on the pool flooring.
I have always liked to use bath mats with rubber backing or sherpa pads with some kind of backing that allow it not to slip around.
A study done in 1966 indicates that there is mechanical damage to joints and surrounding soft tissue when newborn puppies crawl around too much, something they may not be physically equipped for yet at that stage. This mechanical damage may contribute to joint laxity, and thus ultimately to HD.
The consequence of this finding would be to offer smaller whelping boxes for the first week or so, that would basically allow the very young pups only to move as much as they need to at that stage: eat and sleep. This made me think of how wild canines are raised in dug out dens just big enough for the dam and newborns.
Unless we create a “den” in a barn or under a porch, as well as the size of our bitches I feel we should give them enough room to give them the ability to get in and out safely w/o landing on the pups. Especially if the bitch is a larger breed and she is a maiden bitch.
However, when you watch videos of wild canines, you will notice how the den is shaped somewhat like a bowl. Its surface is compact dirt. When the pups are nursing they have great traction under their feet. They do not use knees and bellies to crawl as much as pups in a flat whelping box are forced to do. The concave shape informs blind and deaf newborns where “up” and “down” is, and they all pile at the bottom of the den, forming a thermally efficient little gathering!
I recently found a Whelping Nest online that I thought was a pretty cool idea (though I thought it would be better just a little deeper) if you don’t want to make your own. I am thinking this could be just as easily covered with a sherpa pad or bath mat and used for the first week or two at least.
(I am in no way affiliated with this company selling or producing this product, I just found it online while researching).
I’m still using my Dura Whelp, whelping box but I have been experimenting with making a somewhat concave, nest or indentation in the middle of the box, towards the rear. What I do is: roll up bath towels long wise and then bend or curve them into a circle and place them on the carpeted floor of my whelping box. Then, I cover them with a sherpa pad, bath mat or two, depending on how deep or shallow I want to make it. The pups appear to do well in the make shift nest- like den but my bitches are not convinced that it should stay neat and tidy when they want the puppies to nurse or they will attempt to crawl inside with the puppies so I need to work on making it a little bit bigger or much smaller it would seem. 🙂 Who knows, maybe I will try one of the whelping nests I talk about above with a future litter.
What is remarkable about the differences between a natural den and a man-made whelping box is that it just may explain why all puppies are born with normal hips but then develop dysplasia afterwards, and why wild canines do not suffer from hip dysplasia. Could it be the damage happens sometime after birth and in a man-made environment?
Bottom Line –
We humans have taken puppies out of the natural environment they were designed for, we have fed them the wrong diet, and forced them to live an unnatural life style. Puppies and dogs are creatures that naturally live primarily outside and have free choice exercise and plenty of room to play. Puppies were designed to eat a primarily a raw meat,bone and organ diet based on animal proteins and fats with no carbohydrates. As puppies grow in a natural way, you will see them play and interact with their litter mates and family members of all ages getting all the exercise and physical training they need. Puppies and dogs are social creatures and they will interact with their family, other dogs, humans, and other animals not of their species. Puppies and dogs will run and play until their tongues hang out and they are exhausted, lie down, rest, eat, drink, and get up and move – run or play some more. Most of the time they rest, guard and sleep ( 16 hours a day or more ). Again, we take puppies out of the environment they need with other dogs and litter mates at 8 weeks of age and in many cases, feed them a processed, grain and vegetable based diet they are not able to digest or assimilate, while forcing them to live like prison inmates in a small yard, pen, kennel or human house. The exercise that most puppies and dogs get is not the type that the puppies and dogs need, it is not of sufficient quantity, and it is not of the correct type or quality. However, when born and reared in the proper environment, as naturally as possible, fed an appropriate and species correct diet; very few dogs will develop CHD.
HD was created in many breeds of dog because the dogs were bred and selected based on appearance and not on healthy, natural function. The dogs often did not need to use their legs in the way a dog is supposed to in a natural environment thus dogs with HD were allowed to reproduce because of appearance before they became lame at older ages. Conventional rearing breeders are selecting for dogs that can tolerate a processed grain and vegetable based diet, poor exercise options, living in close contact with humans, and a poor habitat for dogs. Is it any wonder that so many dogs are suffering dis-eases and maladies which they should not have ever been afflicted with?? Human stupidity and meddling have created the problems for dogs and their health. More human, synthetically based medicine, foods, and the manipulation of dog genetics are only continuing to make the problems worse .
If you want strong healthy dogs, give them what they need and not what we might think would be best for humans. As true natural rearing breeders, let’s honor the dog for what it is, let’s be here for them and honor them by offering what best suits THEIR needs.