Archive for September, 2017

9 Days Old – Innovation

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

So Zhora’s currently rather….better endowed underneath than usual. This has meant that she on occasion scrapes her tender underparts on the box as she jumps in and out. Since her poor undercarriage is taking a bit of a beating from nursing and kneading and scratchy puppy claws (even though I am keeping them clipped), I thought it might be a good idea to make it a bit easier for her to get in and out so:

Behold the Edisonian innovation that is an upturned Rubbermaid container with a bathmat on top. It’s actually the warming box for the puppies where I put them when cleaning out the whelping box or doing their early neurological stimulation. But it’s UPSIDE DOWN and has a BATHMAT on top for traction. So I may patent it.

Either way, Zhora can get in and out more easily now, although I did have to actually get her to jump on and off a few times, because her initial reaction was to try and jump OVER it…

8 Days Old

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Weight check:

Ruffles – 542 grams (birth weight 216 grams)

Orson – 577 grams (birth weight 189 grams)

Chex – 542 grams (birth weight 180 grams)

Frito – 482 grams (birth weight 179 grams)

Popcorn – 309 grams (YEAH SHE BROKE THE 300 gram MARK! – birth weight 158 grams)


One Week Old!

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Top-Bottom: Chex, Frito (L), Orson (R), Ruffles, Popcorn

The puppies turned one week old today! Zhora’s still battling a bit of loose poop and the puppies have a bit of it too. I am going to start her on slippery elm, which is safe for lactating mothers and should help both her and the babies.

I was just writing some information on the puppycam chat that I thought might be worth sharing here too (I use this blog for my own records as well as a way to communicate with all y’all!):

Most folks will tell you that baby puppies need it to be very warm. Some recommend keeping the room they’re in at 90 degrees. While I definitely think that until they’re about 24 hours old or so (and might still be damp or being licked constantly by a new mother) they benefit from a lot of warmth, in my experience Vallhund puppies and moms are much more comfortable when it’s cooler.

It’s been unseasonably hot here until last night. The temperature in the whelping box (I have a remote temperature sensor in there so I can keep an eye on things) has been 79-81 for the last week. And the puppies, if you’ve been watching the cam, have been as far apart as they can possibly get, and have almost NEVER been on the heating pad (which is in one corner, you should never heat the whole box as young puppies cannot regulate their body temperatures and must move themselves towards and away from heat to maintain their temperature). In fact, the litter Tish was born in was born in January and even in a Buffalo winter those puppies never used the supplemental heat source (I had a heat lamp for the first day and Nina couldn’t stand being in the box because she was too hot – it’s also not recommended to use a heat lamp because it’s very drying and can predispose puppies to dehydration).

I use a heating pad with an “always on” setting, set to level 3, underneath the bedding in one corner of the box. The puppies are almost never on the pad.

Puppies at a comfortable temperature are usually in a loose pile, touching each other but not jammed together. Over the last week, I could tell they were warmer than they wanted to be because they were very spread out and almost never more than two together in the same spot.

The temperature in the box today is 73-75 degrees and the puppies seem just about perfect, they’re in loose piles, not on the heating pad and not jammed together.

Vallhunds like it cool!

Sisters. Popcorn & Ruffles

Top-Bottom: Chex, Frito (L) & Orson (R), Ruffles, Popcorn

6 Days Old – Outside!

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

Since it’s a lovely warm day (and supposed to cool off significantly tonight), we took the puppies out one by one to let them sniff the whole new world of smells outside (they can’t see or hear yet, but they can smell!). This is always one of my favorite puppy things, because you can see the moment when they realize they’re smelling all kinds of things they’ve never smelled before (not that it’s difficult to have all kinds of new things when you’ve only been out in the world for 6 days!).

I managed to video Ruffles expanding her world, and you can really see, towards the end of the video, her taking in big sniffs of the new smells:

6 Days Old – Sponge Feeding Video

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

So I tried an experiment yesterday, I didn’t supplement Popcorn at all, and not only did she maintain, she even GAINED a little all on her own! I am so happy about that! I did supplement her today (as I will¬† start supplementing everyone, not so much for the nutrition, but for the bonding, learning early on to associate people with good things).

So here’s a video of Popcorn sponge feeding. What you do is this:

  • use a cosmetics sponge which is latex free and made in North America
  • cut the narrow end of the sponge into a size approximating the mother’s nipple
  • cut an x shape into the wide end, big enough to insert an oral syringe
  • rinse the sponge out well with water and then squeeze all the water out (I squeeze it in a paper towel to get as much water out as possible)
  • saturate the sponge with warmed formula (I use home-made Myra’s formula, which is a balanced and calorie dense one)
  • fill an oral syringe with the amount you’re feeding (roughly 1 cc per ounce of puppy weight every 4 hours or so for full feedings, I did less because I was just supplementing)
  • I found that getting a bit of formula on the puppy’s mouth to start makes them interested in it (Popcorn has been doing this a few times a day for several days so she is a pro and knows what’s coming)
  • I don’t hold it in once she’s latched on, I have my hand beside her to support her but she can spit the sponge out any time she wants to (spoiler alert: she doesn’t want to)
  • insert the oral syringe in the wide end of the sponge (opposite the puppy) and gradually depress the plunger to keep the sponge saturated but not dripping
  • watch carefully to make sure that formula doesn’t go up her nose!
  • she has her front end up on a Snuggle Safe – partly so she doesn’t get chilled, and partly to elevate her front end, she is old enough that she is pretty skilled at nursing and not aspirating, but you want to be careful especially if the puppy is weak or compromised. When I first started feeding her like this I held the sponge higher up so she was at more of a 45 degree angle, now she’s fine to have it at whatever angle she prefers – I am just holding the sponge, she is deciding where it sits
  • you will see her pawing at the sponge and my fingers, what she’s doing is kneading (like cats do) – puppies knead their mother’s teats to help the milk let down, and it’s an instinctive response when nursing (plus it’s pretty cute)
  • At the end I gently squeeze the sponge to get the last of the formula into the puppy, she’d just nursed so she wasn’t starving (although she can always eat!), if she’s really hungry, she gets annoyed when I try to take the sponge away and squeaks
  • Vallhund puppies look like otters wearing opera gloves

Five Days Old!

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

The C litter are five days old and everybody is doing great! Zhora is being an incredible mother, just as her mother was. You have to love a dog who is an excellent mother. The puppies had their first nail trim on Sunday because they were scratching her, poor thing, but even then she was still caring for them, but I noticed she wasn’t snuggling as much, and sure enough, she had little scratches. The funny thing is that Zhora has always taken a rather…laid back approach to her own personal care (she is so icky when she’s in season), but she has kept her puppies immaculately clean. She potties them religiously and there’s never even a drop of urine or poop in the box, but her own lochia (normal post-whelping vaginal discharge)…well that’s my job to clean up. But the puppies are always spotless.

Weights today are:

Ruffles – 410 grams (13% gain since yesterday morning!)

Orson – 444 grams (10 % gain)

Chex – 380 grams ( 15 % gain)

Frito – 364 grams (18 % gain)

Popcorn – 226 grams (21.5% gain), and that’s without ANY supplementation so far today!

As you can see, Popcorn is the big winner here! Everybody gained nicely, but I really feel like maybe she’s got ahead of her setback now! She’s feisty and active and LOVES her sponge feedings, she gets a nice little “pit” in her cheeks that shows she has a good latch and is nursing hard, she kneads my fingers with her little front feet, and she gets quite annoyed when it’s over, squeaking and complaining and not wanting to let go, even though her little tummy is obviously full! We will try to video a sponge feeding so you can see what I’m talking about. Since I will start feeding everyone one meal a day this way to help with bonding, they’ll be having this regularly.

Here’s my Deep Thoughts for today (I actually got a chunk of uninterrupted sleep last night for the first time in nearly a week, I’ve been averaging 3.5 hours a night per my Fitbit so a decent sleep is huge and my brain feels somewhat functional again): the more experience I get, the less I try to judge others. Because what’s right for me isn’t right for everyone. Now many breeders simply don’t supplement the teeny tiny puppies, and the truth is that most of them (in this breed anyway) really will pull through even if it takes them a while. There’s NOTHING wrong with that. My own view, what works for me, is that especially in a case like Popcorn’s, where it seemed to me that she had several things working against her (recap below), I felt that any extra care I could give her that might help her make it, was warranted. I brought this puppy into the world, she’s my responsibility until the day she dies, and I need to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know I did all I could for her. Many breeders feel you need to let puppies sink or swim on their own, and that is certainly a valid opinion.

What I Think Happened With Popcorn:

  • she had a poor spot in the uterus so she was small at birth (much of the time when people use the word “runt”, what they are really talking about is a puppy who didn’t get a uterine implantation spot with ideal blood supply, these puppies don’t have anything genetically or congenitally wrong with them, they just tend to be smaller than their littermates who had better spots to gestate in). Is she the smallest Vallhund puppy I know of? No, but she’s close!
  • she was in there for several hours waiting to be born, when we checked her heart rate when we first arrived at the vet clinic, it was over 200, which is normal (I was actually worried she might be dead already, but she wasn’t!), but after unsuccessfully trying to get her out medically and manually, it started dropping and so we decided to go to surgery
  • As it turned out, her neighbor puppy’s placenta hadn’t been expelled (the three boys all came within half an hour, and Zhora was grabbing and eating the placentas so fast I wasn’t sure if we had all of them out, and we didn’t), which was blocking her from being born – she was very high up in one horn so had a long distance to travel to the exit, and she hadn’t even been able to start making her way down, because Zhora was pushing against a stuck placenta roadblock
  • her sac had ruptured, so she had very little lubrication to ease her movement, and she was so high up there’s no way we could have got lubrication up to her
  • Zhora was tiring – she’d been pushing for nearly 6 hours, and in stage 2 (active) labor for nearly 8 hours by the time we went to surgery. This was not because Zhora “couldn’t” whelp her naturally (she free whelped the other 4 just fine), but because there was a mechanical blockage stopping her from getting Popcorn out
  • so in addition to having a very hard time being born, when she finally WAS out, she’d had a dose of anesthetic (very small, Dr Gray, Renee and the other techs did an awesome job), and when you’ve never taken a breath in your life and then get anesthetic, it is that much harder to get going
  • Dr Gray helped us make sure she nursed as soon as she and Zhora were awake enough, so that she got colostrum – which is VITALLY important
  • So all those things conspired to set her back, but she’s a fighter! And because she wasn’t giving up, I wasn’t either so:
  • she was dehydrated, so I gave subcutaneous, warmed, sterile fluids (Lactated Ringers if you’re interested), via a scalp vein catheter (this is a “butterfly” catheter, with a very small needle, and easier to manage with a teeny tiny puppy than a needle directly attached to a syringe)
  • she was expending most of the calories she was taking in by nursing, and she wasn’t gaining any weight at all for the first couple of days, which was making me nervous (it’s normal for them to lose on the first day, but then they should start gaining), so I tube fed her two to three times a day for a few days (tube feeding means the puppy gets the formula directly into her stomach by way of a tiny tube you pass through their mouth – they don’t like it, but it’s extremely effective and very safe if done properly). We’ve now switched to sponge feeding and I am going to try feeding her just one meal today and see how her weight does.
  • we also placed her on the nipples which had the most milk and the easiest milk letdown (these are usually the inguinal teats, closest to the mother’s back legs)
  • I gave her liver water and Nutri Drops
  • we tried to strike a balance between allowing her to be a normal puppy of this age, having to push through her siblings to get to the milk bar, having to defend her spot at the milk bar, nursing naturally as much as she wanted to etc. (all of which are important for her mental and physical development) and making sure she got the most calories into her possible (which is important for her survival!) with supplemental feedings and moving her to the “choice” nipples
  • I won’t say she’s out of the woods, but I think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel (mixed metaphors for the win)
  • I haven’t started Early Neurological Stimulation with her yet, but if she continues to gain, I will likely start it tomorrow

212 GRAMS!

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Little Popcorn broke 200 grams with a BULLET this afternoon!!! WOOHOO!

I won’t say she’s out of the woods but what a huge milestone for her!

Day 4 – Names!

Monday, September 25th, 2017

So in all the worry and stress about Popcorn, we haven’t had a chance to properly introduce you to the Fab Five. They’re more than just Popcorn! We are already starting to see their individual personalities come out.

First the Popcorn report: she gained again, she weighed in at 178 grams last night and this morning she was 186! She is strong enough and feisty enough that I’ve switched to sponge feeding her. It’s more natural and she likes it MUCH better than the tube. I do think she needed the tube for a couple of days to get her over that hump where she was barely holding her own, but now she’s strong and active. I will continue to top her up until I am sure she is gaining enough on her own. And even then, I will feed everyone one meal a day with the sponge – this is an idea I got from a Rottweiler breeder friend, Diane Richardson – she feels it helps with associating people with good things early. It certainly can’t hurt!

So here’s your starting (and only) lineup for the Alkemi C litter (all have snack food whelping box names, after Dr Gray and Renee got that theme started with Popcorn, with one notable exception):

Ruffles – gray (I think) female. First born (she was the one who had one leg dangling down but the other tucked up, so I had to help her get repositioned in order to get both legs down so she could be born). Second largest (216 grams at birth, 362 grams today). She is cuddly and energetic, she snuggles right in when you pick her up and hold her close, but she also motors around the box to be sure and get her steps in every day.

Orson – red (I think) male. Second born. By far the biggest puppy (189 grams at birth, so smaller than Ruffles at birth, but today he’s a whopping 404 grams). He is a big love. Cuddles in when you pick him up, swims around the box like Michael Phelps. He is a big hunk – big head, big legs, big fat puppy tummy. He is just all around a big puppy!

Chex – maybe red male. Third born, the three boys came in very quick succession after the Ruffles Roadblock was cleared. Chex has no white on his front feet, but he has a white chest and white back toes. He weighed 180 grams at birth and today was 330 grams. He’s the middle boy in all respects – middle birth order, middle weight. He’s another cuddler (they all are), and makes little “poofing” noises when he sniffs you.

Frito – also maybe a red male. Fourth born. 179 grams at birth, 308 grams today. His left front toes are white, he has a white chest, and he has white toes on both back feet. Also a snuggler, he is often the one you will see scooting around the edges of the box under the pig rails. He is very relaxed during his ENS exercises. He’s the smallest boy.

Popcorn – you already know her. Teeny tiny red (?) girl. 158 grams at birth, dropped to 150 the next day, back up to 186 grams today. She’s feisty and energetic, which is a big part of what’s helped her through so far!

There is one thing I wanted to mention here. Because of Popcorn. A breeder I Facebook-know who writes a blog (and I can’t find the exact post or I’d link to it) wrote a very good post several years ago about why she doesn’t allow people to choose their puppy. It’s all stuff I agree with, and is all also why I don’t allow people to choose their puppy. The biggest reason for me, is that my obligation is to my puppies, to place them in the best possible home for them that I can. This really isn’t elitist, as much as it may seem that way, it’s that I want that puppy to have the best life it can have, so I don’t place a high energy puppy with loads of working drive in a home that just wants a nice mellow pet. Which brings me to a great point that Joanna (the blogger) raises in her post (that I can’t find): people often choose the puppy who stands out on the day (or days) that they visit. The one with a different tail or different markings, or the one who sits alone, or the one who did that funny thing, or, yes, the one named Popcorn. Regardless of whether or not that puppy is actually the right one for them.

I’ve spent 8-10 weeks with my puppies by the time they leave me. I’ve known them since before they were born, and I knew their mother and often grandmother for their whole lives too. I try my best to have a pretty good sense of each puppy as an individual, not just as the one I could pick out on the webcam, or the one I read about because it had a different story.¬† And I try very hard to match the right puppy to the right home.

Day 3 – Puppycam and Early Neurological Stimulation!

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

The puppycam is online! It will be on periodically. You can see at the left hand side that there’s a remote temperature sensor so I can keep an eye on how warm it is in the box. There is also a heating pad under the bedding in that corner. Puppies who are at a comfortable temperature will be in a loose pile. If they’re crammed together they’re cold, and if they’re really spread out they’re hot. Even with Nina’s first litter, born in January, I found they rarely if ever used the supplemental heating. They’re tough! And as my friend Kim who breeds Border Collies says “that’s what mom’s for”. Cold stress in the first few days can be very harmful, so I like to be cautious, but they seem to only spend a short amount of time on the heating pad even now.

You will see Zhora panting when she’s nursing them. That’s not because she’s hot, it’s because nursing causes the uterus to contract (which helps it return to normal size, stop any bleeding, and expel any remaining ick in there), which causes panting.

Today is day 3, so we started Early Neurological Stimulation for everyone except Popcorn (she’s got enough stress going on that it seems unwise and not beneficial to her just yet). We do this from day 3-16 once daily, in addition to the other regular handling they get.

Popcorn lost a little overnight but gained it back and then some after feeding. She is looking plumper more of the time, still teeny, but better than she was, her belly is rounder. She’s active and feisty, and I really really hope she can get ahead of her rough start soon. You will see us periodically move her to a nipple on Zhora. All the others are big and strong enough to get where they want and I want them to push each other around and compete for nursing spots, this is important for their development, and while I am letting Popcorn have to push back and fend for herself somewhat, it’s also vitally important that she get all the nursing time she can while expending as little effort as possible. So while I try to interfere as little as possible, I definitely am moving her to the choice nipples and moving the other fat puppies away sometimes. I will continue to top her up with tube feedings. I want her to have every chance.

All the rest are big fat beanbags gaining weight fast! Zhora’s milk is excellent. I think three or even four might actually be red (the first born big girl seems to be grey). But we will have to wait and see since puppy coats in Vallhunds can be deceiving. The two biggest are over 300 grams already!

They did great overnight! I actually got some sleep! Zhora has figured out how to arrange them as she wants them, and how to curl herself around them. She is very attentive to them and is being an amazing mother. Today I watched her delicately pull a bit of poop out of a puppy’s bum with her front teeth after licking wasn’t quite getting it out to her satisfaction. We humans don’t know how lucky we are….

Now that the puppycam is up, you will see that they twitch and jump like jumping beans when they’re sleeping. This is called “activated sleep” and it helps their muscles and neurological system develop.

Zhora’s stomach troubles seem to be getting better, touch wood. No vomiting and the diarrhea is improving.

19 grams never seemed so heavy

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

TWO important things happened with little Popcorn today:

  • first, she maintained her weight at weigh in this morning (I tube fed and hydrated her overnight)
  • second, she actually PUT ON 4 GRAMS BY NURSING! This is HUGE, because she’d only been managing to maintain her weight between tube feedings, but today she actually GAINED. Only 4 grams, but it’s in the right direction.

At tonight’s weigh in, she’s 169 grams, 11 grams above her first weight, and 19 grams above the 150 grams she’d been hovering at.

Something is helping, so I won’t be changing anything until I see her gaining on her own. She is a fighter, she’s not floppy, she’s got normal muscle tone, she argues about the tube feeding, she grumbles and squeals when another puppy tries to push her off the teat she’s on, she moves around like the others. She doesn’t act like a sick puppy. As I’ve mentioned before I really think she’s fighting a combination of things: I think she got a lousy spot in the uterus so she’s small, she had to wait to be born and was physiologically stressed, she was born under anesthesia via c section, so didn’t get the normal squishing and stimulation from a vaginal birth AND had the compromise of anesthetic (even though it was very well-managed anesthesia). I am pulling for her, and I’m not giving up unless she does. She looks plumper today.

Here’s what I’m doing:

  • tube feeding with warmed Myra’s formula (homemade puppy formula) every 4 hours or so – this is a “top up” to the nursing she’s doing, and sometimes her tummy is pretty full and she can only hold a cc or 2. But every cc I get in is calories that she doesn’t have to expend any energy acquiring.
  • Nutri Drops every 8 hours, this is an energy boost and amino acid supplement
  • liver water as often as she will take some
  • warmed subcutaneous fluids ONLY if she seems dehydrated. While dehydration can be deadly, I don’t want to be poking holes in her skin if I don’t have to
  • letting the larger puppies get the inguinal teats started, then moving her to one of those teats

Zhora is feeling much better with anti nausea medication on board. She ate beef and rice and chicken and rice mixed with Esbilac and some oatmeal very well today. No vomiting. The diarrhea is still there so another dose of metronidazole tonight. I am giving her low sodium broth to try and increase her fluid intake since the diarrhea has to be taking a toll there. THANK GOODNESS for the mother’s porridge – that helped her milk come back in very quickly after her feeling so lousy yesterday!