Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Five Days Old: Watching, Waiting, and Worrying

Here are some clips of a few of the neonates doing what neonates do: sleeping, singing in their sleep, grunting when they eat, and twitching (twitching is a good thing -- it means their neurological systems are developing).

Here's Mr Red, sound asleep on his back, singing and twitching away:

And here are a few of the pups nursing and grunting and ALMOST wagging their tails (not quite yet though):

Mr. Red isn't the only one who likes to sleep on his back. Miss Pink regularly sleeps that way (and yes, she has her moments of singing, too):

Mr. Black, our runt, likes to sleep with his head resting on Elsie. Nowhere else seems to do. In this picture, he's sharing his space with Mr. Red:

I wanted to start this post with some fun, more upbeat images just to assure you that most of the pups are doing just fine.

It has, however, been a really long 18 hours. DH and I are both exhausted.

But, we need to be watching the pups, and here's why:

1. First, there was (and still is) the issue of Elsie sitting on the pups. That's getting better, but she's still done it today again.

2. Second, Mr Black and Mr. Red just aren't putting on weight the way they should. In fact, a few of the pups lost weigh over the past few days, but they've all rebounded except Black and Red (no weight gains at all in 36-48 hours). We think they're just not as strong as the rest and keep getting shoved off of Elsie's teats by the stronger pups. So we're making sure they can eat alone on a full teat with each feeding, and that seems to help. But they both are crying a lot. They almost seem colicky.

3. Mr. White developed diarrhea overnight and has lost 1.5 oz in weight in 12 hours. After several rounds of explosive yuk, things have finally settled down a bit. We removed him from the others right away (in case he's sick), washed all the bedding again (I clean the whelping box 2x daily, and replace the bedding each time), and we're keeping him in the warming box. When he eats, he eats alone on Elsie, too, so as not to transfer germs to the other pups. And we wash Elsie's teats before we let her back in the whelping box with the others. And we wash our hands before we handle any of the other pups after handling him. We're really trying to avoid cross-contamination. But we don't even know for sure that's he sick.

Mr. White does not yet appear dehydrated (his pee is still straw colored and he is still peeing, and his skin rebounds well with the "pinch" test). I was able to get a little pedialyte in him today (though not much). If things don't improve by tomorrow morning, we may have to do subcutaneous fluids (an injection of fluids under his skin) -- something the vet will have to do since we don't have the supplies here to do it ourselves.

In any case, it's looking more like we're going to have to start tube feeding Red and Black (since they aren't gaining eating alone on full teats), and we may have to do the same for White.

It's just so heartbreaking and frustrating to know these pups aren't doing well and not be able to help them (or feel like I can't, even if we are). I did talk to the vet today, and he agreed we needed to start supplementing. And he's concerned about the pup with diarrhea (we may just lose him), but has no real explanation. It can't be toxic milk (a condition in some lactating dams) or all the pups would be in trouble. And it can't be that Elsie doesn't have enough milk, since others in the litter are growing abundantly. And it can't be something like parvo, or again, all the pups would be involved. We just can't figure it out.

I've had so many worst-case scenarios running through my head since the wee hours of this morning (I had a really crummy morning), but for now, everyone is acting fine (including Mr. White, who is very strong suckling still, and who strongly protests when we remove him from Elsie).

I just don't know what to think. On one hand, there's a real chance we could lose three of the pups. On the other, they're all fighting and seem solid (in muscle tone) and are crying vigorously. Their coats look good; their gums and tongues are nice and pink, and they're wiggling and squiggling as they should. (NO ONE is lethargic or unresponsive). They just aren't growing as they should be.

I'm so afraid it might be this awful failure to thrive thing (fading puppy syndrome, which happens but no one can explain). If it is, we'll lose them (again, just the three boys -- the two girls and the other four boys are just fine).

On the other hand, we have to do all we can to help them (some breeders would disagree with me and just let the weaker ones die). I read a that 28% of all puppies die in the first week of life; it's just the reality of survival of the fittest. But I can't just harden myself to that statistic and let the three fade away.

I'll be honest here: though I'm grateful (exceedingly grateful) for the health of our six thriving pups, I'm a basket case about the other three. I cried all night during my puppy shift -- and that can't help Elsie (she needs to be calm and confident for her milk to stay sound). I even posted here this morning at 3:30 a.m., but then pulled the post because I didn't want to drag you all down.

Here's the bottom line: we have six healthy, thriving, wiggling, rotund five-day-olds, all making great gains in weight, coordination, and growth (and I have to keep remembering that). We have two that appear healthy but that have lost weight and have gained nothing in at least 36 hours. We have one pup with diarrhea, which can kill a pup in 24 hours if he gets dehydrated. But he's still nursing strongly and crying vigorously when he's mad. And he seems okay, like he's holding his own.

Yet, the vet was clear; we may lose all three, but he's not willing to give up on them yet, and neither are we. We'll do all we can (as will he).

So as you think to please root for our little guys. And pray for us (or think good thoughts for us, or whatever your belief system includes). I'm really, really tired. And so is Don.

And like I mentioned in a recent post, I have no emotional margin. This is just tough.

I'll keep you updated. And will post again during my puppy-watch-shift (I take 1 a.m. to 7 p.m.). Now I'm off to bed (I sleep from 7-ish to just before 1 a.m., while DH is watching the pups.).

Thanks, as always for your encouragement. And if you have any suggestions, I'm all ears.

'Til next time,


Christine said...

Mellan and I send good thoughts to the three pups!

Greg said...


Thanks for keeping us all up to date.....even though I'm sure it's hard for you to write these tough words. We are hoping the next 24 hours bring you and the three pups great fortune. We are thinking about you, Elsie, and the pups and have enjoyed your wonderful details over the past week.


J said...

Joan - I'm a frequent reader and sometimes commenter who's been breathlessly reading about the new litter. Hang in there! You are in the thought of so many people, I'm sure. My family (3 lab mixes and 2 humans) are all rooting for you and the pups. Heartfelt prayers are coming your way for strength to deal with whatever happens.

Jamie said...

Hang in there Joan! You are doing all you can. The pups are in God's hands! Mark and I and the three girls are sending you our love and positive energy!


mjc said...

cute pups, hope things turn out for the best!

Cheryl said...

Good thoughts, prayers, and a little fairy dust sent your way. I know how worrying over a "baby" can just make you sick. I'm guilty of that myself. Hang in there!