Eating 101

IMG_6133.jpegWe gave Dilly the last dose of his anti-giardia medication yesterday. By all appearances, it seems to be working. We haven’t seen a sign of anything like diarrhea for the past week, though we’ll have him retested in about 10 days to confirm that the nasty parasites are truly gone.

With no diarrhea to wake him, he has slept through several nights. He woke us at 3 a.m. Saturday night, however, with an urgent need to pee, so we think this particular unpleasant aspect of puppy-raising is not completely over. Still we’re hopeful the end of it is near.

Now our attention has shifted to getting this guy to eat. For folks like Steve and me, who’ve raised eleven Labrador retrievers (purebred and crosses), this is an almost unimaginable problem. Labs, even tiny ones, don’t eat so much as they inhale their food, racing to get it into their stomachs as fast as possible, then instantly looking around for whatever else they might snack on. But golden retrievers can be pickier.

For our first week or so together, Dilly would calmly munch his way through a fraction of a cup of dog food… then stroll away. Both the CCI vet who examined him right before he flew to San Diego and our own vet have decreed that he’s a bit underweight. “See how you can feel his bones,” our vet said, probing behind all the hair that makes him look more like a lamb than a puppy.

Happily, he has begun to seem much more interested in food, greeting most meals with this sort of enthusiasm:

IMG_6093 from Jeannette De Wyze on Vimeo.

He’s now consuming almost three cups of puppy chow daily — our target.

Because he was so restrained about eating, we haven’t done what we normally do with our CCI puppy trainees, namely putting their halters on them when we feed them. If you’re a Labrador retriever who thinks eating is the most joyous experience in life, then eating with the halter on should make you associate halters with good times. At least that’s the theory, and Steve and I have had good luck using that ploy to break through the resistance that many dogs initially have toward wearing a halter.

Now that Dilly has gotten more enthusiastic about eating, we finally steeled ourselves to add the halter. Steve put it on…IMG_6125.jpeg…and Dilly looked a little stunned. But he didn’t instantly try to claw it off. In fact, he ate all his kibble before he seemed to realize that something annoying was wrapped around his muzzle.

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Note the wagging tail!

Since then, we’ve dressed him in the halter for several meals, and it’s gone about as well as we could hope. The next step will be to try walking him around the block with it on.

Stay tuned.

Parasites invade Dilly!

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Illustration of the giardia parasite

Our sweet, fluffy blonde puppy has been invaded by tiny monsters. We found this out because our excellent vet, Dr. Kevin Scoggin, had a hunch Dilly’s fecal analysis should be repeated. (The one he had Saturday had come back negative.) I was skeptical, but Steve dutifully took in another stool sample yesterday morning. Bingo! This time, the more experienced technician who did the analysis found swarms of live creatures swimming on the slide.

So this, it appears, is the definitive answer for why Dilly had diarrhea, an affliction that made it necessary to take him outdoors to relieve himself several times a night. The diarrhea has improved, but the fecal analysis shows he still needs treatment for the active giardia infestation, according to our veterinary team. Giardia (which infects people too, mainly when they drink from streams contaminated by cattle feces) is a fairly common canine ailment, and an exasperatingly difficult one to deal with. You get rid of it in the victim by feeding them vermicides that kill the parasites without harming the host. This morning, we gave Dilly his first dose of Panacur, a powdery concoction that should clean up his gut within a few weeks. (We’ll have to repeat it for five more days, then have him rechecked later in the month.)

But besides living in Dilly’s gut, there is giardia in our environment now, we can be sure. We haven’t yet read the lengthy handout that came with the medicine, and frankly, I’m dreading the complex instructions for cleaning up Dilly’s fur, his bedding, the yard. It promises to be a lot of work.

Though I’m not happy my pup has been infected, it’s nonetheless great to get an explanation for what’s been wrong with him — and the hope that it will soon resolve. Dilly weighed more than 14 pounds at the vet’s yesterday. That means he’s gained about three pounds in the two weeks we’ve had him. With restored gut health, I’m optimistic he’ll soon be sleeping soundly every night. After my report about his first unbroken night’s sleep (Saturday), he did wake up at 4 am Sunday night. But last night he slept for 8 hours straight. That’s what I call normal, something that will be wonderful to have routinely back in our lives.

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Too bad Dilly can’t just attack those parasites with his sharp little puppy teeth. He’s so good at that.

 

A breakthrough?

Steve says I shouldn’t write this; that it’s too soon to say anything, lest we anger the Puppy-raising Gods. But I can’t help it: last night Dilly went through the whole night without awakening us!

Granted, it was not a super long night. We turned out the lights a few minutes after 10 pm. Sometime early in the morning, I woke up and couldn’t resist peeking at the clock. It was 4 am — far longer than this puppy had ever slept before. And still he didn’t stir. I miraculously went back to sleep and woke again around 5:10. Dilly slept on.

Steve was stirring next to me, and I could tell he was also awake. I had a fairly strong urge to pee, and I suspected Steve did too. But neither of us adult humans spoke or moved, lest we wake the baby canine and make him aware of his own full bladder. After 10 or 15 minutes, I couldn’t stand it and crept to the bathroom. Steve followed after I was finished. STILL Dilly slept on.

Only about 5:40 did he begin to whimper, at which point Steve, wide awake, sprung to take him out. “He peed a gallon,” he reported upon their return. “But NO poop.” Then he put Dilly back in his kennel (which is inches away from my side of the bed), and — another miracle! — silence returned for another 10 minutes or so.

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He’s a limber little fellow.

Now, in mid-afternoon, Dilly has produced three normal stools so far. This is enough to make me think we have beaten the diarrhea devils, through the combination of feeding him six times a day (but only a quarter cup of kibble each time), giving him supplementary Pro-Pectin and powdered pumpkin, and adding a tablespoon of low-fat cottage cheese to each feeding. Our vet’s assistant suggested the latter. We talked to her when we were dropping off a stool sample yesterday morning. The test cost $45 and came back normal. I have often found when we get desperate enough about some puppy digestive problem to pay for a stool analysis, it invariably comes back normal and the problem almost immediately disappears. So my second hypothesis is that paying the vet something somehow appeases the Puppy-raising Gods; they then cut you some slack.

Yet a third possibility was raised by Dilly’s mom’s breeder-caretaker, who told me his half-sister Zari had an allergic reaction to the anti-flea medication she was given. (Dilly developed his problem almost immediately after taking the same pill.)

I don’t know, nor do I care, which explanation is right. I just hope his gut stays happy. Even if he does wake up a few more times in the middle of the night, he’s given me hope we may all be sleeping better soon.