Portia's 2019 Litter

Pregnancy

5, 7, 8 Sep 2019
Portia ("Shaksper Portia Catonis AX AXJ CGCA") was bred to Sammy ("CH Abbedale Earl Of Sammywich NA OAJ") owned by Esther Newton. The breeding was an "outside" natural tie - "outside" meaning that insertion was not complete and the dogs were held together.

9 Oct
Ultrasound shows two, maybe three, puppies. It also showed one reabsorption site (dogs reabsorb rather than have miscarrages). Because Portia's mother and grandmother both had preemie litters, this pregnancy will be checked weekly by ultrasound and progesterone levels. Because of the reabsorption site, my vets started Portia on a drug called terbutaline.

17 Oct
Portia's ultrasound today showed three puppies, all with healthy heartbeats. Portia's due date has been calculated to be around 9 November.

24 Oct
Portia's ultrasound today again showed healthy puppies. Blood was drawn to check Portia's progesterone levels. During a pregnancy, the progesterone level slowly drops. If the progesterone level gets too low too quickly, it can result in preemie puppies.

Here are two ultrasound pictures:

31 Oct
While in the waiting room for Portia's weekly ultrasound and progesterone check, I noticed that Portia's abdnomen has really swelled. Note how Portia's harness goes around her chest as compared to her abdnomen. For these last two weeks of Portia's pregnancy, I have switched her to puppy kibble, and I am slowly increasing the amount of food that she eats.

5 Nov
Another ultrasound and progesterone test today. Normally my dogs stand for the ultrasound, but all Portia wanted to do today was lay down. During this last week of pregnancy, I suspect that Portia is starting to really feel uncomfortable.

Today was also x-ray day, to check on the number of puppies - since numbers from ultrasound can be unreliable - and to measure the size of the puppys' skulls in relation to Portia's pelvic size. The good news is that the x-ray showed three puppies, as we suspected from the ultrasounds. The bad news is that two of the puppys' skulls are already too large to pass through Portia's pelvic area. So that means that Portia will need to have a cesarean. This is in spite of my being very strict with Portia's diet, in the hope that the puppies would not get too large. (In fact my repro vets were encouraging me to give Portia extra food.) Since Portia is going to have a c-section, I now can feed her extra food as it does not matter how large the puppies get.

7 Nov
Another ultrasound and blood draw to check Portia's progesterone level. Now my repro vets are trying to determine the optimal day to do Portia's c-section. They are looking for activity in the puppys' intestines - it amazes me that they can see movement in an unborn puppy's GI tract with an ultrasound - and for Portia's progesterone level to drop below 2.0 - which indicates the start of labor. However on both of these criteria, my repro vets said "not today", and asked me to bring Portia back tomorrow.

Week 1

8 Nov
Last night during Portia's late evening feeding, she only ate half her meal. And this morning, she turned her nose up at breakfast. To me, this was a sign that Portia was getting ready to go into labor. So I packed Portia and all my other dogs into my car, and we drove to NC State for Portia's early morning appointment.

This time my repro vets saw (via ultrsound) significant movement in the puppys' GI tracts. And Portia's progesterone level was 0.4. Here is Portia while we were waiting on her progesterone result. So my repro vets said it was time, and they took Portia off to get an IV catheter inserted so that anesthesia could get started for her c-section. I signed the necessary paperwork consenting to surgery. At that point I left and took my other dogs to my petsitter, then went to have a late lunch while I waited. Just as I was finishing lunch, I got a phone call - Portia was out of surgery. There were two boys and one girl, and everyone was doing well. So I hurried back to NC State.

Here is my first view of the puppies. The two boys have collars on. All the puppies were tube-fed with serum from another dog. For the first 24 hours or so of life, the puppies GI tract will allow large molecules to pass into their blood stream. So it is important that they get antibodies into their system. Usually they get this from their mother when they nurse, but the serum is just a backup method in case they do not get sufficient from Portia. After that the puppies were encouraged to nurse to get some of Portia's antibodies. Notice that Portia's belly has been shaved and that you can see her incision from her c-section. Here is another view of all the puppies after they had nursed. Portia, the puppies, and I then began the long drive home, with the puppies in a partially-covered box (so I could keep an eye on them). The box had a hot-water bottle wrapped in a towel to help keep the puppies warn.

We arrived home just as it was getting dark to find the house warm. (I had turned up the heat before we left, as the forcast was for a cold night). I weighed all the puppies. The boy puppy with the black collar - whom I will call "White" - weighed 175 grams. The boy with the green collar - whom I will call "Green" - also weighed 175 grams. (I suspect my scale rounds to the newest multiple of 5.) The girl weighed only 100 grams.

I then put Portia and the puppies in my whelping box (really a nursing box) that I had placed next to my bed. (The red light is from an infrared lamp used to add heat to the whelping box.) I fed Portia some cottage cheese. (It will be important over the next several weeks while Portia is nursing to keep her calcium level up.) At that point, I tried to get the puppies to nurse. But neither Portia nor the puppies were having anything to do with my attempts. Portia did not want to lay on her side. I had to wrestle her over. Then went I picked up a puppy, Portia rolled over. If I put Portia on her side and held her down, then I could not get a puppy to nurse, in spite of holding the puppy right at a teat. I was getting very frustrated. And then the infrared light bulb went out. (The bulb blew.) All Portia wanted to do was have the puppies tucked up underneath her, and the puppies seemed fairly content with that arrangement. So I made an emergency trip to town to pick up an infrared heating bulb. (Lesson for future litters. Have a spare infrared bulb on hand.)

When I got home it was evident from the full bellies that Portia had fed the puppies. She gave me a look that seemed to say "I do not need your help to nurse puppies. Your job is just to pay the bills and bring me food and water." So I said fine and turned in for the night.

9 Nov
My sleep was interrupted multiple times last night, so I have been a zombie all day today. Even a nap did not help. A puppy would be crying (usually the girl), so I would wake up and move the puppies around to different teats until they quieted down. Then I would get an hour or so of sleep, until someone started crying again. Mostly I am trying to move the girl to the rear teats (which usually have more milk), and make sure that her brothers do not push her away. Here is what I saw when I woke up in the morning. Portia likes to keep the puppies tucked up underneath her. Since Portia had moved the pad, that tells me that the whelping box is warm enough, perhaps too warm. When I have handled the puppies to weigh them, they seem warm ... so Portia is taking care of them.

The puppies have lost a little weight today, which is normal in the first 24 hours after birth. The boys are each down 10 grams and the girl is down 5 grams. Mostly the puppies are quiet and have round bellies, so they must be nursing sufficently.

10 Nov
The puppies only woke me up twice last night, so I was able to get a decent amount of sleep. Here are the puppies, note the Girl's head just underneath Green's head.

Initially, Portia did not leave the whelping box for ten hours before she went outside for a quick potty break. Now she is leaving the puppies more often. When she does, I turn on the heat lamp to keep the puppies warm. Here are Green, Girl, and White. And a bedraggled looking Portia with her puppies.

What I like to see of course are the puppies nursing. Here is the Girl nursing. (Note that you can just see her tongue where she is sucking on Portia's teat.) I weigh the puppies in the morning and evening. As of this evening, both boys have gained five grams over their birth weight. But - worrisome - the Girl has kept the same weight for the past 48 hours - five grams below her birth weight. She seems to be getting nursing time. Her belly is round as if it is full, and she is not crying. Every time I check on the puppies, I make sure the Girl is near the rear teats which have more milk. This evening I started supplimenting her with Esbilac - a puppy milk replacement - fed very slowly via syringe. The Girl has a strong suckle reflex and sucks the end of the syringe as I slowly push the plunger.

11 Nov
Green seems to think that his sister is his own personal pillow. When the puppies are sleeping underneath the heat lamp, I often find Green sleeping with his head on his sister.

While the Girl gained 10 grams overnight (probably because I supplemented her yesterday evening) she has not gained today. On the advice of my repro vets I have started to tube feed her. Tube feeding is basically forced feeding. You stick a tube down the puppy's throat, and put formula (Esbilac) directly into their stomach. If it sounds unpleasant, it is. The puppy is not happy about the procedure.

I brought two of my dogs (Tami and Siri) home from my petsitter. Portia was initially happy to see them, but then not happy when they wanted to go into my bedroom to check out the puppies. I have put up a gate to keep them out of the bedroom. Portia just barely tolerated it when Tami and Siri came to sleep on my bed for the night.

12 Nov
What I like to see - puppies nursing. I continued to tube feed the Girl today. She had a nice weight gain last night and today.

13 Nov
The Girl gained weight last night, but not today. I do not think the Girl's poor weight gain indicates that anything is wrong with her. It is just that her brothers are so much bigger that they push her off when nursing. If I see either of the boys nursing but not the girl, I pull the boy off and push the Girl next to a teat.

Green has pulled ahead of his brother in the weight race game.