The "C" (for Catastrophe) Litter
By Debbie Miller
It was with great anticipation that I awaited the birth of my third litter. This was truly MY litter. I had bred the bitch, Grace, a puppy from my first litter. My first two litters were whelped without incident, as Hannah had been as easy whelper and a wonderful mother. So when it came time for Grace (Kevilyn's Amazing Grace of Ari) to whelp her litter, I had a false sense of security. This was easy...Right?
Grace whelped her litter on August 9th. She seemed confused about what to do and so it was left up to me to cut the cord, stimulate the puppies, clean them off and then present them to her. Seven healthy puppies were whelped this way. Still, no worries.
On the fourth day after whelping Grace started throwing up. By that evening she started running a high temperature. I transported her and seven puppies to the emergency veterinarian. I was there from 7:00 pm to 3:00 am. After hours of various tests and IV fluids, they concluded she had Metritis. They felt that she had retained a placenta and suggested an emergency hysterectomy. I declined and waited for my vet to open. At 8:00 am I was at their doorstep. After more tests they agreed that she had Metritis but wanted to try and wait until the puppies were at least two weeks old to perform the hysterectomy. She was put on more antibiotics and was sent home. This was becoming a nightmare.
During the next week Grace responded to the antibiotics and she appeared to be getting better. The puppy's eyes had started to open and it was at this point I introduced Esbilic mixed with Gerber baby cereal. I had been advised to start weaning them as quickly as possible. Grace's supply of antibiotics were for three weeks and if she were to start running a fever upon completion of the antibiotics, she would be spayed.
It was during the third week, I awoke in the middle of the night to a puppy screaming. I could tell from the screams it was bad. Grace had apparently bitten a puppy in the eye. I grabbed the puppy and flew to the emergency vet. It was terrible. I arrived at the emergency vet in my pajamas and quite hysterical. I was there until 7:00 am. Grace's tooth had penetrated the eye socket and sinus cavity. However, the vet felt that since the injury consisted mainly of soft tissue damage, the puppy would recover quickly. It was not known at that time if there was any damage to the actual eye as his face was so swollen. During the next week, I kept his wound clean and applied all the medication I had been given. I pulled the puppies from Grace to give her a chance to recover completely and was allowing them to nurse, under my watchful eye and with Grace muzzled, every four hours. The injured puppy could not nurse and so I hand-fed him. After four days he was able to "latch on" again. Maybe this nightmare was ending......
By week four the puppies were completely weaned. The swelling on the injured puppy had started to go down enough that I could begin to see his eye and I could tell he was using it. After being examined by my vet, I was told there was no injury to his eye. The relief was overwhelming and also short-lived.
It was during week five that I arrived home, after running errands, to find Grace lying on the floor. She had wet and defecated all over herself and I could not wake her. Sheer panic set in as I felt her chest to confirm she was still breathing. This just could not be happening! I really do not know how I did it nor do I remember thinking about it but I lifted Grace, all 92 pounds of her, and carried her to the car. I arrived at my vet's office where they immediately took her from me. Grace would remain at my vet's practice for the next two weeks. She had Mastitis and had somehow been exposed to the e-coli bacteria. This was confirmed by growing cultures of the bacteria expressed from her mammary glands. They eventually operated on three of her mammary glands and on the tenth day she started to show improvement.
Did I mention that we were in the process of moving? My husband had been transferred to another city and I had to leave Grace with my vet. She was just not well enough to move yet.
The puppies were almost eight weeks old when Grace was finally able to come home and it was also time for the first puppy to leave. It was bittersweet. I placed the first puppy with a wonderful couple in a neighboring state and agreed to meet them at the South Carolina Welcome Center at the Georgia border.
That morning I packed the puppy up and started out. The puppy started throwing up about 20 minutes into our trip. I met the couple at the Welcome Center and advised them the puppy had been carsick and to keep an eye on the puppy. I contacted the couple the next day and they stated the puppy did seem better. He was active and had been eating. He did have loose stools but nothing to be concerned about. By the third day the puppy had begun throwing up again. The couple took the puppy to the veterinarian and the vet stated that he thought it was a bacterial infection and started the puppy on a regiment of antibiotics. I sent them a check for the vet bill as I felt this was my responsibility. Besides, at this point, their vet bill was minimal compared to what I had already incurred. By the next day, the puppy did not show improvement and in fact, had gotten worse. They took the puppy back and the vet ran some more tests and advised that it was not a bacterial infection but continued treating the puppy with antibiotics. I questioned this and placed a call to their vet. I was told the vet would call me back. In the meantime, the vet had decided to keep the puppy for treatment. This was on a Thursday. The puppy would eventually stay with their vet until Monday. I grew alarmed and asked the couple if I could get the puppy back and take him to my vet. I would bring them another puppy, as the remainder of the litter was fine. I was puzzled as to why the vet would continue to treat the puppy with antibiotics. The couple stated they had grown attached to this particular puppy and would rather keep him. Another of my many mistakes was made when I agreed to this.
Their vet did not return my call on Thursday and so I placed another call to him on Friday to no avail. On Monday the couple contacted me and had advised their vet had finally sent the puppy home stating he was better. Incidentally, their vet was leaving for vacation on Monday. The puppy was on seven different medications!!!!!! I obtained the list of medications and contacted my vet. My vet attempted to contact their vet and was advised the vet was on vacation and did not leave a file on the puppy!!! They had no information on the puppy therefore could not provide us with any information. The couple was concerned, as the puppy did not seem any better. On Tuesday I replaced the sick puppy with another puppy. I was shocked at the condition of the puppy. He was skin and bones and was still throwing up. I called my vet and told them I was about three hours away and was coming straight to them. The puppy had an odor about him that reminded me of the parvo virus. I mentioned this to my vet who immediately responded that it sounded as if the puppy had a twisted intestine.
The puppy never made it . He took his last breath where he had taken his first breath, in my lap. I cannot begin to describe how I felt at that point. My puppy starved to death as a result of a twisted intestine, also known as "puppy bloat", that went undiagnosed for almost two weeks. At any point during the first 10 days, had he been diagnosed properly; this puppy could have been saved.
By Monday morning when their vet returned from vacation, the grief of losing the puppy had been replaced with pure unleashed anger. I will not repeat what transpired in the conversation between their vet and myself. I will only say the vet did not charge for the remainder of services rendered from that first day. I will now recommend that my puppy buyers find a veterinarian who is accredited by AAHA, the American Animal Hospital Association*
The puppies are now almost four months old. They are all in great homes. Grace has completely recovered and is doing well. We still do not know if she is sterile due to the Metritis. I have been told that even if she could get pregnant again, the Metritis could reoccur. I just do not know. An Oxytocin shot would have probably prevented it from happening in the first place. Had Grace not had Metritis, she probably would not have bitten the puppy and would almost assuredly not have contracted Mastitis. Due to her compromised immune system, she just could not fight off the second infection and it nearly killed her. If I had gone with my "gut instinct" and replaced the sick puppy when I first wanted to, he would be alive today. My mistakes were many.
I have since researched "puppy bloat" and it seems to occur during the weaning process. The cause is unknown. I still have questions since this particular litter was weaned very early and the symptoms did not present until the puppy was eight weeks old.
I did keep a puppy from the litter. She has been such a delight and I know the worry and sleepless nights were all worth it. I was given advice by another breeder and friend that comfort can be found in the mistakes we make as they will never be repeated.
This is so true.
* AAHA accredited hospitals can be found at healthypet.com