The sweet little squiggle squirts had a stressful day today, but all is well.
Leaving Momma Elsie behind (to spare her the stress of hearing her pups yip), I loaded the litter into the warming box and drove them over to the vet's office to have them examined (all look fabulous) and to have their dew claws removed.
Dew claws are the extra digits dogs have on the inner side of their front legs (some have them on the rear legs, too, though we've never had a pup born with rear dew claws). No, they are not thumbs (they are not opposable; they're more like a toe that never touches the ground high on the inside of the leg).
Not all breeds need to have them removed, and plenty of dogs do just fine keeping them.
We choose to have the dew claws removed in our pups because Labs are an active breed often used in fields and brush and outdoor settings where dew claws can catch and tear, or even break at the joint (like a broken toe). When this happens in an older dog, treatment is significantly more involved and requires general anesthesia (always a risk).
The dew claws of a neonate, however, are attached to a joint that's only loosely held together (bones, joints, and connective tissue aren't nearly solidified yet). We usually have the procedure done when the pups are three days old, but we had to wait an extra day this time for the two who were born a day after the rest
I won't mislead you. The procedure is painful for the pups, but it is not invasive nor is it risky. It's more like cutting a very thick toenail with surgical scissors than the surgical joint removal it becomes when the dogs are older and injure them.
We consider neonatal dew-claw removal a smaller, necessary, low-risk "ow-ee" that prevents a much bigger, more complicated "ow-ee" later on.
Just so you know, Ridge (who came to us as a three-year-old and is now nine years old) has his dew claws in tact, and they've been a challenge for him (and us) over the years. Though we haven't seen one break at the joint, we have seen bloody tears where the claw caught on brush or a branch or some such thing while he was running. And that has been far more uncomfortable for him than a two-minute procedure he could have had done as a neonate. We've elected not to have his removed as an adult because of the risk involved in general anesthesia (necessary for adult dew-claw removal).
Before you jump all over us for putting the pups through this, please know that we do this because we're convinced it's the best approach for active Labs (after much research) and to spare them issues and potential complications later on. In some ways we feel it would be irresponsible not to do this for a dog who's going to spend time running in the woods or fields or streams where it's likely dew claws can be torn.
So, they were traumatized this morning. But they were completely over it almost by the time we got home (maybe an hour after they were done). They each have one small stitch at each removal site which will dissolve on its own.
All of the pups are squiggling and doing their salamander crawls uninhibited, and they're nursing and sleeping as if nothing ever happened.
In the next post, I'll put up pics from today since their "surgery" this morning. And you'll see they're all doing fine. :)
And so it goes.
It's almost bedtime for me here; I sleep from 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. (about 5 hours) so I can do the 11:30 p.m. through the night, through the morning and afternoon, through to 5:30 p.m. shift of puppy-watch duty (about 19 hours). DH puts in his full day at work, then comes home and does puppy duty while I sleep. We'll do this until the pups are about 10 days old, just to make sure they don't get squished.
So I'm off to bed soon, but I wanted to let you know how things went. :)
There you have it! Please know that all is well.
Until next time,