Thursday, March 29, 2012

Getting to the root of the matter

Since the holidays, at least, June has not been quite herself, though to look at her glossy coat and bright eyes you wouldn’t know it. The difference has been more subtle, most obvious when we have been training or trialing. Last November she earned her first Open A obedience leg with a first place and would have had a second leg that same weekend if I could be trusted to throw a dumbbell over a jump without it bouncing into a severe left hook when it hit the ground. In early January I took her out again, hoping to earn a second and possibly even our third leg. Instead, June was very uncertain in her heeling, anticipated the drop to such an extent she stopped and sat before I even asked her to drop and seemed somewhat reluctant to pick up her dumbbell. 

As June had come in season in early December, one week before her daughter, I put it down to hormones; and as Lark had been bred right before the New Year I thought June might still be processing the additional hormonal changes of Lark’s impending litter. But over the next few months things didn’t improve, and she did not show her usual enthusiasm in either her obedience or agility classes. Then in early March I noticed one of her lower incisors was missing, and started to wonder if maybe June scratched at her muzzle more than was normal and remembered that occasionally, but not always, her breath was not so sweet. I thought maybe it was time to get her in for a dental, even though June’s teeth look pretty good for a dog who will be turning seven this year.

As it turned out, in addition to digging out the root of the broken off incisor, my vet also removed the largest molar on the upper left side of her mouth because she found a slab fracture with exposed pulp. Poor girl! No wonder June had been “off”. 

June seemed better from the moment I brought her home from the vet. Despite some normal lingering effects from anesthesia she bounded up all four of our back stairs into the kitchen and demanded her supper, though I did make her wait another hour as my vet had recommended. Less than a week after her bad tooth was extracted, we competed in our first agility trial since the end of January. She did not disappoint. On Friday she finally picked up the last Excellent A Standard leg we’d been trying for and came through with an Ex B JWW leg as well. On Saturday and Sunday she got her first two Double Qs towards her MACH, and managed to pick up 71 MACH points over the weekend.

I’ve been beating myself up a bit over June’s issue and how long it took me to determine the cause. But I’m going to stop now as it’s interfering with getting June out to run and jump and retrieve as she so wants to do again!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hard lessons from the whelping box

I had so hoped to report that Lark’s first litter was a breeze, reminiscent of her great grandmother’s litters and her mother’s first litter, where I became quite spoiled by a common pattern of 6 or 7 puppies arriving healthy and viable within a two hour period. Instead Lark labored over 3 hours on the evening of March 3rd before she delivered her first puppy and no amount of rubbing or attempts to remove fluid from nose and lungs could revive the puppy. We lost two more in a similar fashion, the 3rd and 6th puppies whelped. There was nothing obviously wrong with any of these pups; to the best of our understanding they simply spent too much time “in transit” and their sacks opened before they were out of the birth canal. However, we are fortunate to have three very robust males which we are temporarily calling Crosby, Stills and Nash. Walking Lark in between deliveries and judicious administration of Oral Cal Plus before the first, second, fourth and sixth puppies appeared to help move things along. In addition, I’m extremely grateful my friend Lin (with vet tech experience) was on hand to assist. Without her help we very likely would have been headed to the emergency vet for assistance.

Lark has turned out to be an incredible mother, much like her mother and grandmother. She is extremely attentive to her pups and they are gaining weight rapidly. Their skin is a healthy pink and they always feel warm and full to the touch, which is exactly how a healthy puppy should feel. Lark is very concerned when we take them away for a few moments to weigh them or perform the early neurological stimulation exercises we started on day three, though she is beginning to relax a bit more as she realizes we return them to her after only a few moments of separation.

About 2.5 days after she gave birth, I noticed Lark’s rearmost teats seemed enlarged and somewhat hardened. Even though this is the first time I have had a bitch develop mastitis (, I was pretty certain that’s what Lark was experiencing so I started applying warm compresses right away. Later that day my vet confirmed the diagnosis. Lark was already on antibiotics as a precaution due to our invasive efforts during whelping so I continued to apply warm compresses and drain the affected glands. Things were pretty well back to normal within three days.

"Larkie's boyz" all hit the 2lb mark or above on day 8. They are the most roly poly bunch of pups we have whelped to date. I'm looking forward to watching how they interact with their environment and seeing their personalities emerge.