Well, it’s been a long couple of days; sorry for not updating yesterday.
Daisy Poppy came home from the vet with antibiotics and calcium and good instructions on how to keep her going. We got moving right away, but unfortunately with how sick she felt her milk supply went in the bucket for a couple of days. So we’ve been bottle-feeding around the clock, all nine puppies, while we tried to get her built back up with food and fluids.
Yesterday her mastitis abscessed and ruptured, and since then has continued to bubble and rupture, so she now has one zombie mammary with horrid deep holes in it that looks awful – but we’re actually very thankful she did it. Once the infection was draining OUT instead of IN, she started to feel much better and got interested in the world and her puppies again. I’ve had one other mastitis that ruptured, in a Dane bitch years ago, and the vet told me to expect it this time as well since she got so sick so fast, so I knew it was coming and actually cheered a little when it happened. The puppies neither notice nor care, and continue to nurse even on the zombie nipple, which is also a good thing. The more we can keep the milk draining out and the blood moving around, the better.
It’s the wee smalls of Sat/Sun night right now and I am hearing calm, quiet, sleepy puppies for the first time in a few days, so I have hope that her milk is back up and I can start to back off on the bottles. Fortunately all the babies have taken to bottle-feeding with great glee. You should see them when a human steps in the box now – if I thought they were enthusiastic when I tubed them, bottling has upped to the point that it’s now like a Bad Seed movie involving puppies. They all start shrieking and heave themselves toward you with as much speed as they have in their little hamster bodies and swarm your feet and climb up your pants legs and try to suck on your legs and drag you down with them into their milky pit. I have been combining homemade formula (the Leerburg recipe, which is a pretty standard one, but I use 8-10 oz of Pedialyte and 12 oz of evaporated milk instead of 3 oz of water and 10 oz of evaporated milk) and sub-q fluids when I was worried puppies were thirsty instead of hungry, and they have thrived on it, but mom milk is always the best and the more of that they can get the better.
Meanwhile, around feeding time the house looks like a scene from a TLC show where somebody brings home a set of multiples – everywhere you look there are bottles and various nipples and tube supplies and a house full of very sleepy humans bouncing and burping tiny creatures. Honour or I will feed, and then if it sounds a little bubbly we hand the puppy off to somebody who will bounce and pat the baby; we then feed another and lay it over our legs and bounce our legs while we feed a third. Everybody ends up covered with full, yawning puppies in various stages of decompression. Once the baby has had a few minutes of bouncing we listen to lungs and tummies carefully, check skin and pee color and the inside of the mouth for hydration, throw in 10 cc of saline under the skin if they need it, then they curl back up against Daisy Poppy for another couple of hours until it all starts again.
Wednesday night into Thursday I did my usual night shift with the babies and Daisy Poppy. At ten AM I was brushing my teeth to get ready to sleep for a few hours when Honour said “Mom, she’s shaking really hard all of a sudden.” I peeked into the box and said, “Get my phone, quick.”
(Fill in one hour of racing around frantically looking for shoes and puppy baskets and heat pads and waiting for calls back from vet and then throwing three humans, nine puppies, mom dog who couldn’t even stand normally and had to be carried, and service dog, in the car that has no gas and running like heck to vet.)
I am way too tired to tell the long story, but the short one is that she evidently started to build up an infection – definitely mastitis, but also perhaps a bit of uterine stuff because she had more discharge today than usual – and so she began to run a high fever. That made her shiver, which used up her calcium too fast, which sent her into early eclampsia – basically a whole-body horrible shiver and weakness that can go into seizures if you’re not able to get calcium into them fast enough.
We did x-rays to rule out a missing placenta or puppy (clear, thank God), got a ton of calcium into her via injection, and then got her on Keflex for the infections. While we waited to see if the calcium would work the vet (who is a breeder herself, and I adore like nothing else) also did puppy checks for hearts and lungs, evaluated the tinies (she said they look amazing for hand-fed babies and said “Isn’t it hell? I can’t even do it anymore; when they need feeding I just farm them out to the techs!”), told me good war stories about her own bitches and cuddled babies in between doing neuters in the back room. She OKed us moving from tube-feeding to bottle-feeding now that puppies are bigger, which was a huge relief. We were back home in mid-afternoon, substantially poorer in the bank account but with a happier but still sick Daisy Poppy.
I got everybody settled and fell into bed (which is only a foot from the whelping box) while Honour took nurse duty. When I woke up again it was obvious that the mastitis had settled in; she’s got one big lump in a back mammary but thankfully no more tremors and she’s able to walk and move normally. Basically from here we let the Keflex do its work, keep up her calcium very carefully, make sure we’re putting puppies on that mammary, hot pack it, and give her as much rest as we can. Puppies are looooooving the bottle and we’ve managed to keep weights going up today – certainly not as much as normal, but in the correct direction.
Hello, it is I, speaking to you by typing laboriously on my phone from the whelping box. Daisy poppy has realized that I can be ordered into the box with her, and so now I am stuck here or she barks at me and then very significantly stands up while puppies yell. When I sit down, she stretches out and the puppies tank like I have not yet seen.
My bottom is completely numb and so far I have watched Fringe, Castle, some sugar challenge thing the kids recorded off Food Network, and am moving on to Alcatraz.
I anticipate scraping the bottom of the DVR menu with some heroic sports movie courtesy of Doug; I think it’s called “Hoosiers: The Rookie Miracle Surfer,” and I’ll probably be wiping my eyes on a corner of puppy blanket before it is over.
The ever-glamorous life of a breeder, I am telling you. Somehow in my unwashed stupor I am the drug that makes her milk let down. Not sure whether to be proud of that or question DP’s sanity. I do know I am pretty darn punchy and have memorized all the Fox ads. That House sure is tense and mean! And look how difficult and personal this case is!
Meanwhile here’s a picture I took when she let me get up to pee.
I tried to get pictures this morning and it was such a colossal failure that even THIS awful picture is better than they were. Forgive me; I am still trying to minimize stress on Daisy Poppy and babies by moving them around a ton, so advantageous angles are few.
We’d tossed around some ideas for litter names, but when that first puppy was born and was so tiny, the kids said, “Oh, he’s like Despereaux!” and suddenly we knew the theme.
So this one is BOOKS. Again, for registered names, I am fine with very vague interpretations of that theme; if you want to use titles, phrases about books, something about bookstores, the more creative you are the better!
But for litter names we try to stick with a tighter list, so this one is “Children’s Book Characters.” From Daisy Poppy’s nose to tail, they are:
Monster (from the Monster at the End of the Book – yes, I know it’s Grover, but Monster fits him a lot better!): Big brindle boy, full white collar.
Milo (from the Phantom Tollbooth): Tri boy with a full collar.
Hugo: Brindle boy with a heart on his head, full collar. Little boy.
Corduroy: Very dark brindle boy with a cool square blaze and a full collar. One of the little boys.
Bianca (for Miss Bianca, of course): Very dark brindle girl. Color touches the corner of one eye; the other side is more white. Super pretty girl who loves to be carried and babied; she’s one of the littles so that’s not a hard request to meet! She has white in a narrow river trickling way up her sides and a tiny dot of white on one hip.
Ramona: The big girl who came ninth. Dark brindle with a tiny narrow blaze.
Harold (from Harold and the Purple Crayon): Black and white (? We think) boy with big puzzle-piece markings and a fairy kiss on his head. He got his name because he was hard to get breathing well, born strong but very wet and drippy, and didn’t pink up for a while. We kept telling him to stop being purple, or saying “Check the purpley dude again to make sure his color is still good,” and so of course he had to be Harold.
George (started out Curious, but now usually called Gorgeous George or Handsome George because he’s really long-bodied and has perfect markings): Tri boy with a huge white blaze that connects with a giant symmetrical collar. He started out a little but has graduated to the “medium” range, which is lovely.
And, last but not least, our tiny guy down there at the end showing you his chest spot – Despereaux. He OWNS that last nipple, and will furiously defend it from all comers, even Monster, who outweighs him by five ounces.
So now you’ve met them all! I am going to try valiantly again tomorrow to get individual pics, but we may have to wait until their eyes open and I can distract them with chickens :).
After I had my first baby, a very experienced mom whom I had not seen since before the birth sat me down and said, “Well, tell me the war story.” I’ve always since thought that was the best metaphor ever for what happens in those hours!
So here’s Daisy Poppy’s Battle of the Somme, before I forget the details.
Daisy Poppy had the easiest and loveliest pregnancy imaginable. I mean, seriously, she barely even acted pregnant. She was medium big and is a tallish girl to begin with so she stayed very active and happy. She could jump up on the couch the day before she whelped. Her weight and condition were fantastic. I was guessing a nice medium-sized litter of five or so and was ready.
Her temp drop occurred on Wednesday, a couple of days before I expected the puppies but what seems to be normal for Cardigans. I knew we were on our way when she got the vacant look in her eyes that every mom, from Chihuahua to elephant, does when she feels those first contractions.
As the evening went on, I puttered around getting kids ready for bed and making sure I had a ton of towels and cotton blankets so I could change the bedding under her frequently. She wasn’t nesting much, so I let her do her thing and just kept an eye on her. She actually ate pretty well, both lunch and supper, and drank well, so I was prepared to have this be a long labor.
About midnight, when everything was quiet, she told me she wanted me in the box with her and would not take no for an answer. When I sat beside her, she would relax; if I got up she stood up restlessly and whined. So I settled in for the long haul.
Around 2 AM, she crawled into my lap, held on to my arm with both of her front legs, and cried softly as she began to push. I bent down and hugged her and talked softly to her, and that’s the way we stayed for the next hour as the puppy slowly moved down. If I so much as shifted my weight, she’d stop pushing. She had to have my arm, I had to be hugging her, and she needed to cry. So I hummed and sang to her and praised her and rubbed her belly with my semi-free hand.
Around this time Percy, our big boy cat, realized something was up and came bounding over the gate to check it out. It seemed both exciting and gory, his two favorite things, so he settled just on the other side of the whelping box wall and purred as loudly as a kettle.
So there we all were, huddled around a little corner, making puppies come.
At around two, she stood up and suddenly screamed like she’d been stepped on, ran in a terrified circle, and then to the other end of the box and tried to jump out. I grabbed at her and saw that (I thought) a bit of a sac had come out. I hauled her back and grabbed a towel and grabbed it and realized it was in fact a tiny little puppy, and he was alive. I started rubbing him to get him going, and saw just how little he was, and had rather a bad moment. By which I mean I suddenly saw not a medium-sized litter of big puppies, which is what she looked like she was carrying, but a big litter of tiny puppies, which (to put it mildly) is a lot harder to successfully raise and a heck of a lot of them don’t make it. I held that little thing in my hands, saw his disproportionately big head, droopy skin, and how thin he was, and began calculating placental insufficiency and IUGR before ten seconds had gone by.
One of the things that tiny puppies do fast is get chilled, and that’s exactly what was happening to him as I was rubbing him. I could feel his nose getting cold even as he was still snorting and gasping. Daisy P was still busying herself with placenta. So I did the only sensible thing and put him in the warmest place I could find – down my bra.
Upon his arrival there he said “Oh, hullo, this is nice!” and regulated his breathing beautifully and soon was warm as toast. Daisy wanted him, so he got to nestle next to her while we waited for the next puppy.
Here’s where we ran into a little bit of an issue, because (as before) she wanted to be in my lap holding on to me so she could weep her sorrows away, and yet there was this little morsel of puppy to think of, who still needed to be stimulated regularly and needed warmth and contact.
It was 2:30, and I called for reinforcements. Whispered urgently to Doug until he woke, and told him to go get the big kids because I couldn’t do this alone.
Down they came, rubbing their eyes, and – thank God – immediately turned into the trained dog nurses they are. We had our first litter of puppies when Honour was three; starting with our first Cardi litter she’s been drying babies and weighing them and efficiently planning their meals right along with me. Meri tends to stress out a little more, but she runs towels up and down the stairs and mans the paperwork as Honour and I rub and weigh and measure and feed.
The second puppy came with a screech from Daisy Poppy at three, as the first little guy (6.3 ounces) snoozed in a warming box while Honour tickled his back and made him squeak every few minutes. The second was nine ounces. He was kind of a high point for a while there, as she popped out skinny little babies every 45 minutes to an hour in the 6-7 ounce range, crying and crying each time.
By 7 AM I had eight puppies, was on the last dry blanket, had stolen kitchen towels to dry puppies, and was begging Daisy P to stop now. She looked awful around the face and eyes, like every puppy had just ripped its way out of her, and was shaking so hard she fell over when she sat up. I was pushing calcium into her as fast as I dared and it wasn’t making much of a difference. She heard me, I really do think – she is the kind of dog who listens to you very closely and tries to follow – and she stretched out and tried to sleep.
I thought we were done, but sure enough a little before eight she told me I needed to hug her again and produced a beautiful 9.7 ounce baby girl. This one was full and plump and lovely, and Daisy finished with her and heaved a huge sigh and put her head down. I grabbed a blanket off my own bed to give her a dry surface, told her that she was DONE, and now we were all going to rest. I closed my eyes and put my head on a pillow a few feet away for a second, only to have the kids suddenly yell that she was pushing again. I’d slept for 45 minutes, and number ten was on its way.
He got the best piece of uterine real estate available, that’s for sure. Yukking it up in Palm Beach way at the end of one horn while the others were in the tenements, he was a FAT 11 ounces and looked like a giant next to the others.
Daisy P, however, had now about had it. I stripped the rest of the blankets off my bed, shoved them under the whelping box, and called Sarah, who is not only the best help in the world but is a vet tech, and told her that I needed the cavalry to ride in. She arrived just as we were trying to get water into a bitch who had no intention of taking it, saw my wild staring eyes and my naked bed, and said, “Hello! Here’s my giant whelping bag, and your bitch is looking a little shocky and you’ve got dehydrated babies. Let’s get Doug to the vet for some fluids for her and you and I are going to fix this.”
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.
Doug ran to the vet while Sarah checked puppies and cords and got some ice cream into Daisy P. When the fluids arrived, we ran 200 ml into Daisy, who absorbed it instantly (indicating how dry she was) and then each puppy got 12 ml (imagine a ping-pong ball of fluid under the skin of the back) and had sucked it up by the time we got to the last baby. They were REALLY needing it. Daisy got another 250 while we got puppies on nipples and made sure we had colostrum going in them, and worried over the tiniest babies. Daisy slowly stopped shaking, late into the evening, and now just looked drawn and exhausted.
At a late suppertime we decided that the puppies were not going to do well if we waited for her milk to come in, so we set up a little assembly line and tube-fed every one. Sarah left for home, casting out largesse and #8 feeding tubes like coins as she said goodbye. And then it was down to us. We could never quite get the tiniest girl on her feet, and she passed away several hours later, which made us all cry buckets and buckets.
Since then I think you know the story – it’s been very hard work but worth it. Daisy Poppy continued to be pale and shaky and very dry for several days, which meant I was working as hard on her as I was on the puppies, but finally today she actually frisked for a minute outside after her walk, and her voluntary fluid intake is getting there. The tiniest puppies are still very tiny, and nobody’s going to double their birthweight by a week, but they’re starting to put some weight on their sticky-outy ribs and hips. The big puppies, especially the Monster at the End of the Book (can you guess his litter name?) had a bit of a bobble for the first few days and lost more than I like (the ideal post-whelping loss is under 10%, and these guys all lost at least an ounce, which is more like 20% and really had me worried for a while) but are now making a name for themselves of the sleek and shiny variety.
There’s not really a “lesson” in this whelping; Daisy Poppy is a great bitch, a wonderful mom, and just had a really crappy labor that took everything out of her and a uterus that decided to not give as many calories to the babies as it should have. It’s also not a unique story, which I guess maybe IS the lesson. Sarah and I didn’t dink around hoping puppies and Daisy would come right by themselves, and we didn’t assume her or the puppies’ condition was normal. We interfered because we could see that it wasn’t, and because they needed it. And so, I hope and pray, this is going to be a story that starts scary and then gets better fast and with a minimum of fuss.
That bag of Ringers and my faithful little #8 tubes are here because we have good relationships with our vets and could ask for them, and had the knowledge to use them without killing puppies or mom, and weren’t afraid to make it happen quickly. I wrote an article on puppy vigor almost three years ago, and as I was delivering these puppies and realized that they were going to be needier than most I am absolutely sincere that I was mentally running through the checklist – warmth, water, calories, oxygen, touch – that I wrote all that time ago. And NONE of that is because I am somehow unique. It’s because somebody impressed upon me a long time ago that puppies are serious business and you take it seriously and you get prepared.
And I also think it’s very important to talk about it. Breeders so often hide the crappy stuff because there’s this stupid attitude that crappy events equal crappy dogs. So my telling this story means “something” about Daisy or her pedigree or whatever. Which is idiotic and awful. It doesn’t mean something about her any more than a c-section means something about a bitch or a stillbirth means something or (heck) that a c-section means something about a human. I am so much a fan of Daisy Poppy right now that I want to make a billboard about her. She is an outstanding mother who never stopped thinking about her babies even when she felt like she’d been hit by a truck. But I really, really want somebody to read this story and say “I am NEVER going to breed a litter,” or “Hmmm, before I breed Hortensia I think I’d better go to that seminar after all,” or “Maybe I’d better ask my vet if she has Ringers she’ll sell me if something goes wrong,” or “I honestly don’t know what the difference between a normal puppy and an at-risk puppy is; maybe I’d better make that a topic of research.” (This article is a great place to start, by the way.)
I am feeling hopeful enough that we’re out of the woods that I am planning on doing individual pictures tomorrow – these are some adorable puppies, let me tell you. And soon show you! Until then, back I go to heat up some formula and wash out tubes.
I deliberately didn’t tube today to see if weights could move on their own. They did, and in the right direction, but only by half an ounce or so and tummies on the four little puppies are not as chubby as they should be. So through the night and tomorrow we’re back to regular supplementing. I’ll try it again on Tuesday.
Puppies are starting to show preferences and acting grumpy when they don’t get what they want, which is a great sign.
Not a lot else to report; Daisy P is still insisting on her syringe drinks but is eating better every meal.
This is by far the most intensively I’ve had to help a mom and litter, and it can be discouraging. I just want them to hit their stride and take off; I am craving those first two-ounce weight gains and puppies motoring around gleefully. And now I will stop writing before I get maudlin! Thankfully they are all growing and holding their own.
With a litter of puppies that has all been tube-fed, and where several are still getting supplemented, is that once they’re strong enough to move around, when you go in the box they all go NUTS.
They do not think you are an innocent bystander, the way most litters do. No, they go “THE OTHER MILK THING! I SMELL HER DELICIOUSNESS! RUN! RUN FOR THE MILK THING!” and before you know it you’ve got a baby in your pants leg and another baby behind you and two babies trying to make a sprint for your elbow.
It makes tubing and weighing quite an adventure.
We are at 72 hours post-birth and I can finally write something humorous, because they are growing! The bigs are up around half an ounce (but they didn’t lose as much to begin with) and the littles are up almost a full ounce over yesterday. So that means everyone is at least a touch over birth weight. Bellies are finally full, noses are being used for something besides endlessly searching for milk, and they’re sleeping in that wonderful round pile of satisfied babies instead of mewling and complaining and only dozing when they have no choice. We’re not completely out of the woods – talk to me when everybody has doubled their weight and I’ll sound a lot more relaxed – but it’s a huge, huge step in the right direction.
Daisy Poppy is eating MUCH better, and still completely refusing to drink. I ran the last 300 ml of sub-q fluids into her yesterday and then said “OK, baby, you want to do this the hard way, I can do this the hard way.” So when the babies got tubed, she got syringe-watered, two teaspoons at a time, into her cheek pouch to make her swallow. Minutes on end to get in six or eight ounces.
Over 24 hours I got better and better at syringing her and she got better at accepting it, and the two of us made it so much a part of the routine that I kept a towel on the edge of the box as a bib for her and could toss a few into her mouth between each weight check or belly rub. And her milk responded, getting more copious and more satisfying to the babies.
Tonight I realized that I had created a monster. I walked her in the yard, watched her pee and was satisfied that she was hydrated, and brought her in. Presented her with a lovely fresh bowl of watered-down homemade formula (which is so familiar and irresistible that every bitch who has ever whelped in this house smells it and comes running to whine at the baby gate) and said “Come on, baby girl, just drink for once!” She stared at me, hopped over the edge into the puppy box, and LOOKED AT THE SYRINGE. I blinked at her and picked up the syringe, and then she watched me fill it. She stared intently at me, reached her head forward, and, still staring at my eyes, licked the end of the syringe.
That nutball drank ten ounces off the end of the syringe, waiting for me to fill it each time and then carefully licking it off the end. Would not even CONSIDER drinking from the bowl.
The scale is finally headed in the right direction! It feels weird being this happy with weights that are STILL what I’d consider worryingly low for a brand-newborn puppy, but everyone is solidly over birthweight and on track to gain around 3/4 to 1 oz today. I am still tubing a couple, but every six hours instead of every two hours.
Daisy Poppy is eating decently (hooray!) and still not drinking (boo!), but I stopped fiddling around and now she’s getting 200 ml of water syringed in her cheek pouch every two to four hours and she can like it or lump it. The last time I did it she actually reached for the syringe when she saw it coming, so she KNOWS she needs it. She just has to know it enough to do it on her own!