Day 43 – The Pudgening Begins

September 1st, 2017

Zhora Day 43

So unlike almost everyone else on the planet, the camera actually SUBTRACTS weight from Zhora. In person she looks quite pregnant and round, her belly is almost touching the floor when she sits, and she is so long and lean I described her to a friend as looking kind of like a snake that swallowed an antelope. But in pictures she manages to look quite svelte still. She weighed 28.2 lbs today (her agility lean weight is 24.5), and the mothering hormones are in full swing since her blood draw for her weekly progesterone check today was the easiest, most laid back blood draw she’s ever had (she is a bit of a beast for blood draws, ask Simone). She is very content these days, happy to go for a walk (we just returned from one, in fact), but also happy to just snooze. She is snoozing a lot.

Her progesterone today was 10.2, still perfectly normal and safe number per the repro vet, so retest in a week unless something changes I don’t like. Fluctuation is normal too she says.

Poor Nina has confirmed pancreatitis (we had an ultrasound with the awesome Dr Linda Homco in Rochester yesterday and she confirmed that Nina’s insides mostly look quite healthy, but her pancreas is unhappy). She had a GI panel sent to Texas A&M last week which came back as consistent with pancreatitis, and she was painful in her upper abdomen so we were quite sure, but best to check there’s not something else brewing (I’d planned to take her to Dr Homco for a screening ultrasound soon anyway, since she turned 10, just to make sure there wasn’t anything I needed to do something about, so this forced my hand).

So she continues on her regimen of low fat food (she loves the Royal Canin one), famotidine (Pepcid) 10 mg twice daily (for indigestion), gabapentin 200mg three times daily (for pain, it’s quite painful, she was squirming when the doc was pressing on it with the ultrasound probe), Galliprant 20 mg once daily (for pain and inflammation) and simethicone as needed for gas (her digestive tract is unhappy). She seems to be feeling better and more herself today, so that’s good. She enjoyed her walk and was demanding treats like usual. We’ve been treating it for two weeks now, and the doc thinks it may have started, then started to heal, then come back, and may have been going on for 4 weeks. Poor Nina! She will get the best care.


August 31st, 2017

Lobo (Alkemi Beowulf del Roble LS UD PT RATM CGC NDD TKA) earned his first agility title today with his Novice Agility title! He and his mom Jan have now earned titles in drafting, obedience, Barn Hunt, herding and agility! What an amazing team! That’s what you call versatility!

Leon’s Getting Larger….

August 30th, 2017

A certain someone pointed out that I hadn’t updated the blog in like THREE DAYS…. 😉

All is status quo. Belly growing. Lunch being given (she gets another small increase in food tomorrow, since tomorrow is day 42 already!). She is HUNGRY. They are starting to hit their serious growth phase now. And they have claws!

Day 38…

August 27th, 2017

…and looking a bit round!

Day 35 – Never A Dull Moment

August 24th, 2017

So about a week ago, Nina was barfy and off her food. Took her to work and did some bloodwork, on examination she was quite tender in her abdomen near her pancreas. Bloodwork showed pancreatitis. She is considerably better today thanks to medication and a low fat diet. But she’s going for an ultrasound next week just to make sure everything looks OK (I was planning a screening ultrasound anyway, since she is 10 years old). X-rays today looked fine, and her spine is in very good shape for a very active 10 year old long-bodied dog (just one area with some mild degenerative changes, but nothing serious). Whaddaya know? Keeping them lean and fit throughout their lives actually helps! In addition to a prescription low fat diet, she’s on gabapentin (for pain), Galliprant (for inflammation and pain), famotidine (for acid reduction) and Cerenia (for nausea, it also has a mild pain management aspect as a positive “side effect”). She’s also getting Gas-X (simethicone) as needed for gas. Better living through chemistry! She is much more comfortable and seems to be feeling quite good.

And then, just to keep the rollercoaster rolling, we are running progesterone on Zhora weekly because she resorbed the last litter (one cause of resorption can be inadequate progesterone, since progesterone is needed to maintain the pregnancy). This week was our first check. Her progesterone on Tuesday was 9.6. You normally want it over 10, and over 20 or even higher is not unusual (although, some dogs, as I have learned this week from friends who weighed in to help me, do just fine with lower levels, so “normal” can vary). As this is the prime risk period for resorption (they cannot resorb as a general rule once the fetuses’ bones have calcified, which happens around day 45, although they can still lose the pregnancy), I was quite worried.

So I emailed the results to Dr Gray, and Kelly (her technician) called me back and said to recheck in a couple of days. They also said that the gold standard for progesterone testing was IDEXX (we used Antech), but I decided to take the recheck sample to their office, as they run progesterone in-house and they are familiar with their machine (plus, that way I’ve paid them for the consult too, so I don’t feel guilty). Well today’s sample was 11 ng/mL on their machine. So she’s fine per Dr Gray (who kindly commented on the results while she was on vacation), recheck in a week. PHEW!

Just for reference: they can supplement plummeting progesterone with an equine product called Regu-Mate. Regu-Mate is a synthetic progesterone that works the same way as natural in the dog’s body, but it doesn’t show up on blood tests, so you can see where the dog’s natural progesterone would have gone. You don’t normally supplement unless the progesterone drops below 5 ng/mL. Supplementing does mean that there’s a 50/50 chance that the bitch won’t go into natural labor and you may need to C-section her (of course, that can happen anyway!).

So, at this point all is well, she is definitely looking round. She is still not eating well in the morning, but is more a Lady Who Brunches just now.

Day 33

August 22nd, 2017

Zhora has gained a pound and a half! Some of that is weight and not puppies because I increased her food before breeding to get a bit more plush on her (she’s not fat, just not agility lean, like from a 4.5/9 to a 5/9 body condition score, Dr Gray said her weight was “perfect”),but some is hopefully grublets! She has a bit of a tummy starting and is losing her waist. She is eating well most days, although sometimes in the morning she is a bit nauseous (a couple of ginger snap biscuits seem to help and she usually eats her breakfast with gusto a bit later). One thing that has been very interesting is that Zhora is usually a Labrador when it comes to food, she eats everything in her bowl in a matter of seconds. The last week or so she is still screaming for breakfast, but then either nibbles and walks away, or eats quite slowly. I have been adding a bit of canned food and that seems to help her get going.

I normally feed one meal of kibble (breakfast) and one meal of raw (dinner), but I decided to take her off raw during the pregnancy just in case. Calcium especially is a concern in later pregnancy, and it can be difficult to keep calcium levels low enough with raw (too much calcium in the diet before whelping can predispose the dog to eclampsia), especially if you feed a commercial raw diet, which I do (I feed Doggone Raw, which is locally manufactured and awesome!). She will go back on the raw after the puppies are born.

We are doing everything we can to keep stress low (there’s no evidence that stress causes resorption, but why risk it?). Zhora is wearing an Adaptil collar (Adaptil is a synthetic copy of a calming pheromone that mother dogs emit while nursing puppies, it can help with many behavior issues but also just generally helps with relaxation and feeling good, and we also have an Adaptil diffuser in the room the dogs are in most). She’s stopped agility (I decided to be really cautious and she hasn’t seemed to mind) but is still playing fetch and going for walks (staying fit is very important for her physical and mental health, and also for increasing the chances of an easy whelping). She is definitely sleeping more than usual.

Thursday is day 35, which is the end of the first phase of gestation (embryogenesis). On Thursday the embryos become fetuses! They start really growing after day 40 or so, and that’s when they gain almost all of the weight and size they will have at birth.  They have eyelids now, and their toes will start to separate over the next few days!

We will increase her food next week (but then only by about 30-40%, you don’t want her to get fat, as that can make whelping harder), because that’s when the puppies really start to grow!

We have not yet decided on the naming theme for the C litter, we don’t want to tempt Murphy by naming our puppies before they are hatched! Stay tuned!

Bert goes home in two weeks, we will miss him! He is part of the family now.

Skip this bit if you don’t want to know gross dog stuff. This time around things have been markedly different, which leads me to wonder a) if she was even really pregnant at all last time or b) if there was only one embryo. This time her vulva didn’t go back to pre-heat size, it stayed larger and softer (this is how you know you’re a crazy dog lady, you talk about your dog’s lady bits on your blog). She slowed down quite a bit quite early. She had the clear stringy vaginal mucous last weekend which is one of the hallmarks of pregnancy in dogs (she didn’t have that last year).

Day 28! Grublets On Board!

August 17th, 2017

Day 28, ultrasound done. Our first time at Alliance Animal Hospital and I was very impressed (plus they’re a full service repro clinic, which is awesome!). Dr Gray was pretty sure she saw five!!! She palpated Zhora first and smiled at me and said “she’s pregnant”, and I nearly burst into tears.

Ultrasound showed all about the same size (which is good), all good heartbeats. Ovaries looked good, both had appropriate corpus lutea (which produce progesterone). She did suggest checking progesterone weekly to be sure it stays up since she resorbed the last litter.

So it’s only the first hurdle, there are more to come, but this was a big one, and she’s over it!

The Waiting

August 12th, 2017

So now we are around day 23 (21 days from breeding tomorrow, but you generally count the day of ovulation as day 0, and she likely ovulated between July 19 and 20). I can’t help but feel anxious, I am scared to make plans or even think too hard about puppies, because the last time was really quite devastating, and we are getting into the (highway to the) “danger zone” in terms of when resorption can occur.

I look back through my notes from last year, and I see that day 35 was a Friday (June 24), and I remember she was looking “filled in” and losing her waist a bit, and I was starting to think about getting the whelping box set up and moving into the guest room with her. The Saturday I remember her lying beside me and feeling that she was getting rounder. And then the next day, that Sunday, I began to suspect that she was resorbing. I started measuring her waist and asking Jim if he thought she was looking smaller. I could see her shrinking. And then June 30, I called Kim and had her confirm what I already knew, that they were gone. I do remember that we only found one likely implantation site, and I do try to keep in mind that we were only about 90% sure that she was pregnant at all, and if she was, it was likely only one or two, and that resorption of one or two puppies is quite common.

But still.

I keep remembering that massive shift from happy anticipation to worry to dread to crushing disappointment.

I tell myself it’s going to be what it is. But Zhora is all that is left of Nina (other than Nina herself, of course), and she has so much that I think this breed needs, or at least things I think are important. And she and Bert are such a good combination, at least on paper.

We are getting into the “danger zone” in terms of timing, and of course I still don’t even know if she’s pregnant at all! We will check next week.

I keep reminding myself that my very experienced and supportive breeder friend Lynn told me that none of her girls ever “seemed” pregnant and she never knew for sure until day 28-30. She also told me she had a litter of 4 from a “one and done” breeding (a normal-sized litter for her breed, and all girls!). And many, many breeders only ever do one on purpose (how many “oops” litters are from a single tie?). Jenni’s awesome stud just sired a litter which seems to have a lot of puppies cooking, also a “one and done”. So we will just have to wait and see.

I am so very lucky to have so many wonderful breeder and dog person friends both online and in real life, who have given me great advice and generous support. This is a very big deal to me, and I am so grateful to have folks in my life who understand that.

I am trying not to fret. Trying hard. The waiting is the hardest part. For now, anyway!


July 30th, 2017

The last time we showed to judge Howard Etzel, we had a no Q weekend. This time Nina earned her MACH, earned QQ #21 (#1 towards MACH2), and had a perfect day today! Her tally for the weekend was two QQ’s (one of which earned her MACH), two Premier Jumpers Q’s, a Time 2 Beat Q and a Master FAST Q. Her best weekend to date.

I was crying so hard when I went to hug the judge I could barely see. This MACH has been a long and amazing and educational journey and there were times I thought that we might not get there, and that would have been fine anyway!

Every single run with Nina is a joy, Q or no Q, and I try very hard to never forget to feel grateful for each and every one, thanking her for the privilege of her effort is part of every run). So very, very proud of this little dog.

At 10 years old she is running faster and smoother than ever, she loves this game more than anything, she is still bouncing with excitement at the start line, and she was a qualifying machine this weekend. This might have been our best qualifying weekend to date!

She is just an amazing dog. And I think HER favorite part of her MACH was that she got another turn to run!

Bert was awesome too! He earned his first NAJ (Novice Agility Jumpers) leg, and is really starting to get the hang of the game! He goes home in September and I will really miss him, I look forward to seeing how he progresses!

Nina Friday FAST (Q):

Nina Friday Premier Jumpers (Q):

Nina Saturday Jumpers (MACH part 1):

Nina Saturday Standard (MACH!!!):

Bert Saturday Standard (NQ, but really coming along nicely!):

Bert Saturday Jumpers (first Jumpers Q!):

Nina Sunday Premier Jumpers (Q):

Nina Sunday Jumpers (part 1 of QQ #21):

Nina Sunday Time 2 Beat (Q, bonus scritches at the start):

Nina Sunday Standard (part 2 of QQ #21!):

It’s Done!

July 23rd, 2017

Zhora’s progesterone was 1.7ng/mL on 7/17 (day 8), 4.5ng/mL on 7/19 (day 10), and 8.1ng/mL on 7/20 (day 11). So she likely ovulated somewhere between Wednesday the 19th and Thursday the 20th.

A dog’s eggs take about 48 hours to “ripen” (they are not able to be fertilized immediately after ovulation). Zhora wanted nothing to do with Bert on Friday (Bert, however, wanted quite a bit to do with Zhora…). As I was course building at an agility trial in Erie, I drove back and forth to try and get this breeding accomplished. Because Zhora was being disinterested to hostile to Bert on Friday, I spent much of Saturday morning at the trial on the phone trying to find a vet or fellow breeder who could manage an artificial insemination for me just in case Zhora wasn’t going to allow a natural breeding.

Saturday night I spent over an hour on the floor trying to help them get the deed done. Bert was willing, Zhora was…not.

And then this (Sunday) morning at 4 am, Zhora woke me up and asked to go in with Bert and got things done like she’d done it many times before! I guess she prefers things on her own terms.

While I’d have been happier with more than one tie, I am very grateful to my breeder friends who assured me that the timing was good and that many, many litters are born from single ties (in fact, many breeders only EVER do one breeding, on purpose). So now we wait. Assuming she ovulated on the 19th or 20th, puppies would be due September 20-21 (dog gestation is 63 days from ovulation, one week in a dog pregnancy is roughly equivalent to one month in a human pregnancy). Fingers and paws and eyes all crossed, because now all we can do is wait.