Week two started with fear for a fading puppy. Almost all of the puppies had held their birth weight and then started gaining. But, puppies are fragile. One week after birth one puppy refused to nurse and began the constant keening cry that signals the beginning of a fatal fade.
We warmed the puppy and tried to stimulate urination and defecation, all to no avail. In desperation we sent the ever dependable Jenny off into the dark of night to the grocery store in the big city seeking liver for the magic elixer for fading puppies.
The first grocery had no liver so off she went to the next. According to her the people at the meat counter stepped back from her wild-eyed statement, "I need some liver, right now !" She then dashed to the checkout counter and got back where we had a pan simmering. Magic exiler prepared, we gave the prescribed 4 drops to the puppy who stopped crying immediately. An hour later we repeated the dose and she started nursing.
While vastly relieved, we are uneasy because we really would rather depend on science than magic - but in a pinch, magic works. We still aren't sure if it was the magic elixer, or further warming, or the tummy ache passed by itself, or.... But when in doubt - use magic.
As a side note: Even though their ears have not yet opened, it is fascinating to watch the other puppies' response to the one that is crying. They form a puppy pile with the crying one on the bottom. This is, one presumes, to help warm the distressed littermate. Mom's response is to lick the puppy thoroughly.
All the puppies continued to gain wait and strength.
Two days later, again at night, the cycle repeated with another puppy. This time we didn't wait to try the magic elixer and had the same satisfactory results (ok, "magical results.") If you want to believe in magic, this time it happened on a night when we were tired and greatly looking forward to at least some sleep (alternating who is up) and that looking forward to an uneventful night "caused" the problem. (That's the problem with magic. If you believe in good magic you have to accept bad magic.)
Once again, after that puppy recovered, they continued to gain weight steadily.
All seemed well until a routine check of the umbilical scars revealed that one puppy had a protrusion. It seemed like an umbilical hernia, but could not be reduced (made smaller) so off to the vet we went. At least this time was not at night. It was on the day of an 8 inch snowfall but what the heck. As the vet examined the puppy the mass opened revealing a cavity that might go into either the bladder (persistent urachas) or into the abdomen (failure to close the abdomen) or might be the result of a cord infection.
Surgical exploration was also not conclusive so the vet opted to do a partial close and put the puppy on antibiotics as he thought it was a cord infection but the close would treat the other possibilities also.
One question remained though: could the puppy urinate from the urethra ? (it is rare, but possible that a persistent urachas would permit the puppy to urinate through the umbilicus and now that he had closed it there might be problems.)
With the puppy back home we decided to keep the puppy separate and to feed her separately to protect the abdomen and to permit us to monitor her urination. Jenny was holding the puppy as we were spreading a paper towel to see where the urine was coming from. Ever dependable Jenny clearly established that the puppy was urinating correctly. She could determine this from the placement of the huge urine stain on her sweatshirt and pants. As usual, we owe a debt of gratitude to Jenny for her selfless seeking of truth and the way she involves herself totally in the care of the puppies (!).
That brings us up to the 4th day of the 2nd week. The puppies are much better at demanding to be fed when they want to be fed. Now, instead of alternating one group of 7 placid puppies with the other group of 7 placid puppies we occasionally (ok, "frequently") need to place a puppy with the mom when the other group is feeding.
The puppies are showing two new behaviors: some can now bark and/or howl and/or growl. (in not so tiny little voices) and some can walk. It is quite funny to watch them unsteadily trying to pace back and forth in the bassinet (when they are not feeding), clearly practicing.
The puppy with the umbilical problem has responded very well. The swelling is down and the wound is healing without apparent problem. She loves the taste of the antibiotic and does NOT have diarrhea from the antibiotic. What more could one ask ?
As the week ends the puppies are all doing well. Almost all have doubled their birth weights and the others are gaining steadily. Myrna is doing well, eating about 12,000 calories a day:
Keeping up with her nutritional needs and food preferences that change moment to moment and the puppies needs is like running a restaurant, a bed and breakfast, and a day care center at the same time. The food needs to be cooked, the linens need to be changed, the puppies need to be cleaned, rotated into mom's bed, weighted, and checked over. For the person in the whelping room there is not a lot of time left over to write web pages or read. And, for the first 3 weeks this goes on 24 hours a day.