This really makes me change my plans.
Mandy and I had qualified for the 2017 AKC Agility Nationals. I had entered us with the expectation that Mandy might come into season about the time of the Nationals; if so, then we would not run. Now if I breed Mandy than we will definitely not be able to go to the Nationals. (It is not a good idea to expose a pregnant bitch to a large gathering of dogs from around the country. Who knows what viruses will be floating around.) What to do ... what to do.
Now I start to worry. The quote from Gone with the Wind - "I don't know nothing about birthing no babies" - keeps looping through my mind.
Today I set up the whelping box ... just in case. My plan is that as soon as I notice that Mandy is in stage 1 labor, I will take my other dogs to my petsitter, and then Mandy and I will travel to a friend's house that is close to the North Carolina Vet School. Hopefully Mandy will deliver her puppies at my friend's house ... and in case of any difficulty, we will only be 20 minutes from the vet school rather than two hours. But by having a whelping box set up at home, I am ready in case Mandy has other plans.
I have also started taking Mandy's temperature every four hours during the day. The hope is to catch the one degree of temperature drop that indicates that puppies should arrive in the next 24 to 48 hours. Mandy is not a fan of this activity ... as it involves putting a thermometer up her butt!
Normally a Norwich's chest is the largest part of their torso, not their belly. To give you an idea of how big Mandy is, her chest is 18 inches in circumference (5.7 inches in diameter) ... while her belly is 22 inches in circumference (7.0 inches in diameter).
So I got up early and took all my dogs (minus Mandy) to my petsitter. Mandy and I continued on to NC State for her previously schdule x-ray at noon. The x-ray revealed that there was only a one millimeter difference in the size of the head of the first puppy in line to come out and Mandy's pelvic opening. Not much room! At about that time, Mandy started having strong contractions. So the vets started monitoring the puppy's heartbeats. Besides the resident and attending vet, there were also five vet students in the room watching Mandy. When no puppy appeared after about an hour of labor ... and based upon the heartbeats which evidently were becoming worrisome, the attending vet made the call to do a c-section. So they took Mandy off for a c-section. By now it was about 3 p.m.
5 p.m. One of the students came to tell me that everything is fine - three girls and one boy.
Finally I am brought back to see Mandy and her puppies. Here is my first view. And here is a close up. When they turned Mandy over so that the puppies could suckle from her other nipples, you can see how out of it Mandy is because of the anesthesia - she is hardly paying attention to her puppies.
The puppies were given a good chance to suckle and get some colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk that contains lots of maternal antiboties. The puppies can only absorb these antiboties (which are large molecules) during the first 24 hours or so of life. After that the puppys' stomach break them down before they can be absorbed. These antiboties will have to protect each puppy until they can get their puppy shots. Then the puppies were tube fed so that they would have full bellies for the long ride home.
The ride home was uneventful, with only a few whimpers from the puppies. I quickly got Mandy and the puppies settled in the whelping box. (The red glow is from my heating lamp.) Mandy did not want to go out to pee ... she only wanted to get in the whelping box with the puppies. Mandy was very hungry ... she ate two full meals. (My primary job for the next couple of days will be to bring her food and water.)
So now let me introduce the puppies.
Heaviest at 183 grams is (naturally) the boy. I am told that he was in one of the uterine horns all by himself ... so he did not have to compete for nutrients. The three girls were all in the other horn.
Next in weight at 162 grams is the girl with the stripe on her collar. Then at 139 grams is the girl with the brown collar. And finally, at 123 grams is the girl with no collar. (I had to take it off as she had her arm caught in it.)
Tomorrow I will change the collars put on by the vet school for colored yarn ... which will give them their "color" names.
Mandy finally went outside to pee this morning. I grabbed my camera to take a photo of the puppies in a pile underneath the heating lamp ... but Mandy was back before I could get a good shot.
The worry for today is that Mandy's temperature is elevated. It still is within normal range for a dog, but it is higher than her normal. Mandy was annoyed with me as I kept taking her temperature every couple of hours. Mandy is doing a lot of panting. It evidently takes a lot of oxygen to make milk.
What I like to see is everyone eating ... including Mandy, who is getting some cottage cheese to help keep her calcium level up. Here are two girls nursing.
I changed everyone's collar for yarn this evening. "Stripe girl" is now "Green". "Brown girl" is now "Pink". And "No collar girl" is now "White". The boy - being the only boy - does not need any collar. Both his color and his appendage set him apart from the girls.
The puppies continue to have fat bellies and to gain weight. I celebrate every few grams of weight gain. The puppies are so small when they are newborns.
Newborn puppies can not regulate their body temperature until they are two to three weeks old. For spring litters, it is not hard to heat a room ... just open a window (but make sure that it does not cause a draft over the puppies). Even though the temperature was in the 80s today, the puppies were tucked up underneath Mom to stay warm.
What it is all about - eating and sleeping.
Today I brought my other dogs home from our petsitter. I do not think it was five seconds before Guido (Mandy's six month old puppy from her last litter) had nosed open the fence I had put across my bedroom doorway and was in the welping box with the puppies. Mandy did not seem to mind; she was so excited to see everyone back. As I was not sure what Guido would do, I kept a close eye on him ... but he only seemed to be curious about the strange beings and their sounds. My other dogs remembered from the last litter to stay away from the whelping box. I did notice later that when Mandy was nursing the puppies, that she growled at any dog who got close.
Today Green passed the 200 gram mark. And White lapped her sister Pink, and now weighs more than her. Actually I am worried about Pink ... I always have something about which to worry ... I am not seeing appreciable weight gain for Pink. Today I have been pushing Pink onto a nipple every time I checked the whelping box.
I am seriously worried about Pink. I have done a lot of staring into the whelping box. Pink seems to be expending a lot of effort on breathing. And she is not "twitching" like the other puppies. (A healthy puppy twitches. One theory about twitching is that it helps the nerves grow.)
My vet examined Pink. She noted that Pink still has a suckle reflex. Upon listening to Pink's chest with her stethoscope, my vet said that Pink's breathing was abnormal - which I could see by the way that Pink was using her stomach muscles to breath. My vet did not hear any fluid - which means that Pink probably does not have asperation pneumonia. But this probably means that Pink has puppy lung development disease ... which is almost always fatal. (Puppy lung development disease is just a name for this condition, which is just now being studied by researchers.) My vet gave Pink some subcutaneous fluids (injected by a very tiny needle) along with some amoxicillin. She sent us home with the antibiotic, and said to continue to tube feed Pink. But my vet did not hold out much hope. This is what I expected. I regarded going to the vet as a "Hail Mary" play.
I got everyone safely home, and tube fed Pink. Later I saw Pink nursing, but not for long. Mostly when I saw the puppies nursing, I saw Pink off to the side.
In other news, the girl Green has taken over from the Boy as the heaviest puppy.
This evening the puppies weigh as follows: Boy (295 grams), Green (302 grams), Pink (173 grams), and White (258 grams). Note that Green is the first to break the 300 gram mark. This is actually the best weight ever for Pink, whose weight has been in the 160s for several days. I am continuing to tube feed Pink. Today Pink seems less active. I have not seen Pink nurse, although Mommy continues to pay attention to Pink.
In other news, great-aunt Bianca is 16 years old today. (Actually Bianca is a first-cousin once removed to Mandy. But because of Bianca's age, she gets the honorific "great-aunt".) Sadly Bianca is in failing health.
I wrapped Pink's body in a paper towel, then put the bundle in a ziplock bag in my refrigerator. This morning I package the body with some ice packs (to preserve the body), then took the package to FedEx. Pink's body is now on its way to Michigan State University to participate in their puppy abnormal lung development study.
The other puppies are all fine. Notice how the ears are now sticking out from the head. When the puppies were born, the ears were flat against the head.
I have been wishing that I could get a picture of the chest of the puppies, but no one is sleeping on their back (yet). I finally got this picture of the white spot on the chest of the Boy. Green also has a white spot, as did Pink. Only White does not. As the puppies grow, the white spot will slowly disappear until it is just a little sliver of white on the chest.
Mandy continues to dig up the pad in the whelping box. I then straighten the pad, as I do not want the puppies on the slick bottom of the whelping box where it will be difficult for them to crawl. Mandy then digs the pad up again. We repeat this multiple times during the day and night. My best guess is that Mandy thinks the whelping box is too hot.
Puppies can not regulate their body weight until they are two to three weeks old ... and a chilled puppy can quickly die. Another reason to keep the whelping box warm is to inhibit the canine herpesvirus - a virus that often has a 100% mortality rate in young litters. So I keep the room warm and the heating lamp on much of the time in one corner of the whelping box. The downside is the Mandy and I - since the welping box is in my bedroom - are too warm.
At this evening's weighing, the Boy broke the 400 gram mark. And I noticed that he has one eye partially open. White has slightly opened both eyes - but just slits like she is checking the world out.
Mandy sometimes has to lay down in order to get her tongue underneath a puppy in order to stimulate it to pee or poop.
Guido - Mandy's six month old puppy - keeps getting into the whelping box.
White passed the 400 gram mark today.
I have decided that this will be my "Midsummer Night's Dream" litter. Feel free to suggest names for the puppies. Either characters from the play, or characters or actors from the first season of "Slings & Arrows" - which is what I was watching during the period when Mandy whelped this litter.
Since the puppies now have their eyes open - even if only for a few seconds - I am putting toys in the whelping box so that they have something to see. Of course that is Guido in the whelping box. I believe that Guido can hardly wait for the puppies to grow up so that they will play with him. (It is hard being a youngster in a house with a mother and three aunts!)
I finally saw one of the puppies sleeping on their back - the Boy, of course. By the time I grabbed my camera, he had rolled slightly to one side.
Both Guido (Mandy's six-month old son) and Tami (one-year old half-sister to Mandy) have been in the welping box to check out the puppies ... and Mandy rarely objects. But if Mandy is nursing the puppies and any of my other dogs get close, Mandy growls ferocioulsy and bares her teeth. Everyone backs away.
Here is another time, with the Boy headed for Tami. But after Tami left, it was time to go back to sleep. Fortunately sister Green makes a nice pillow.
All the puppies were making attempts to walk today. Here is the Boy sitting.
Today is also "Name Day". So ... drum roll, please ...
Old name = "Formal name" (Call name)
Boy = "Shaksper Robin Goodfellow" (Puck)
Green = "Shaksper Hippolytia" (Polly)
White = "Shaksper Hermia" (Mia)
This evening Puck is 696 grams, Polly is 646 grams, and Mia is 607 grams.
Polly and Mia playing. (Polly is on the left.)
Polly resting on Mia.