Oh my, where do I start?
We are open and honest about our kennel practices, our dogs, our successes and our failures here at SP Kennel. This past week has been one of my most challenging ~ emotionally - in a long while. My goal has always been to try and do the best for each and every dog. To try and "make everything right". The fact is, last week, I could not "make everything right".
I'll start with:
Thank goodness we have five healthy 16 day old puppies. They are active, nursing aggressively and starting to get into trouble. Chica and the pups are living in our house, in an area especially built for them, where we can watch them 24 hours a day. The past week of intense care and surveillance has only been possible by the great family and friends that we have here at SP Kennel. I'm sorry to say that we wore out the whole neighborhood - whether it was racing off to the Vet office, sleeping on the couch for pup checks or medicating the litter consistently. I also need to thank Crystal, a Vet Tech at North Pole Vet Hospital, for teaching me how to tube feed puppies.
When the pups were 6 days old, one puppy became lethargic. I know that nature can be a puzzle to us mere morals. We lost that pup soon after we noticed its signs of sickness.
I don't need to tell you but, the standards of care of newborns here is of the highest calibre. Chica is current on all vaccinations and is as healthy as a dog can be. She is always fed the best dog food and given a constant fresh supply of water. She has not been sick in years, has plenty of milk and has tended to her pups constantly. Our puppy pen is a raised wooden platform that is pressure washed and clean. The whelping box and nursing house is full of fresh cedar chips and the bedding is changed often. We even had human visitors at the kennel during the pups first week, but I allowed no one in the pen or to touch the newborns. There were no "strange" dogs at the kennel and Chica does not wander. I thought the loss of this one pup was a random and sad occurrence.
On the evening of Day 7 another pup became ill. All remaining puppies were nursing and healthy. Was this random again? This illness became a mystery. I warmed the pup and syringe fed him all night. He died just before our visit to North Pole Vet Hospital.
At the time of the appointment, the entire litter had stopped nursing and had sickly diarrhea. A few pups were chilled. After a through Doctor's examination, there still was no definitive cause. The pups were put on antibiotics with the possibility that they had a gastrointestinal bacterial infection.
I took the seven pups home and tube fed them milk replacement every 3 hours. I also gave them sub cutaneous fluids every 3 hours for dehydration. It was obvious that their bellies were sore and a few pups could not keep the nourishment down. Despite my best efforts, two more pups died during the following 36 hours. I turned one of the bodies in to the Hospital to see if any tissue samples could be used to determine the illness. A Laboratory in the Lower 48 received the tissues on Day 10.
Today is Day 15 and the positive thing is we have 5 nursing and feisty puppies. I know them intimately. They have cried in my lap and squealed at the Vet office. They have been poked and prodded and even tube fed. They are an incredible group of survivalists and I hope with all of my heart that we have gotten over the worse of this.
The biggest pup is Rodney - I have no idea where that name came from but I started calling him that in the wee hours of the morning and it stuck. Scooby was named on Day 1 by my nephew Sam. Ginger is the only girl and she was always referred to as the "ginger colored pup". So ginger has become Ginger. Ernest Shakelton was part of one of the most amazing survival stories ever, so Ernie is the third boy. The fifth pup was called #5 for his whole life thus far. He was one of the sickest pups and I am surprised that he has pulled through. I still call him "Five" and my Mom calls him "Cinco" (five in Spanish.) Allen thinks we should call him "High Five." So, this last little guy might have a few names, but he probably deserves them all!
We received the results from the Laboratory yesterday. The puppies had an intestinal syndrome brought on by Clostridium perfringens bacterium. Clostridium is a normally occurring bacteria in a dog's gut. However, when this bacteria reproduces, it generates a toxin. Our puppy tested positive for the alpha toxin. This alpha toxin causes severe inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, hemorrhage and death. This is not a common occurrence in dogs.
There is still some question as to what caused this normally tranquil bacteria to reproduce so rapidly and create killer toxins in our pups? We have been told that Clostridium thrives in rotting vegetation and uncooked or undercooked meats. Chica has been on a strict dry kibble diet with no meat additives. Her last meat or fish snack was pre-pregnancy in April. There was no rotting vegetation in the puppy pen. Although it is hard, I must not speculate as to source of infection. We would need many more diagnostics and research to fully understand why this occurred.
What we know is that the bacteria is under control by antibiotic medication. There should be no more alpha toxins produced and the puppies' guts should heal. We have five healthy puppies, nursing aggressively, squealing and playing.
Chica and the babies at Day 14 take a nap in the "nest"; Rodney cuddles on the quilt with me after a medication dosage.
I'm sure I don't need to tell folks that I am still coming to grips with the occurrences during the last week. It makes me very sad. As I said at the beginning, I have a hard time accepting that I could not "make everything right" for these babies. Thankfully, I have many friends in the veterinary field and their knowledge and comments seem to help me. But, I'm sure, the thing that will help me the most will be watching Rodney, Scooby, Ginger, Ernie and Five grow up to be happy and healthy SP Kennel dogs!