Good news and bad news about turning 8 months old

What’s the different between the two dogs above? The one on the left is 8-month-old Dilly (as of yesterday). On the right you see the 7-month-old version. Not much difference. Older Dilly looks a bit more sleepy but he tends to get like that by mid-afternoon. He may be a pound or two heavier and a smidge taller. But that could just be a trick of the camera angle.

For Dilly, the BAD news about this landmark was it marked the beginning of his life without lunch. CCI puppy-raisers actually are supposed to eliminate their dog’s mid-day cup when the pup reaches the 6-month mark (adding a half-cup to the breakfast and dinner fare) but two months ago we were still fretting about Dilly’s delicate digestive system. Smaller meals — for a while — might be easier on him, we told ourselves.

This strategy seemed to work. He had no trace of diarrhea. In fact, he got to where  he was occasionally defecating only once a day, typically massive but firm deposits on his morning walk. Then about a week ago, we were awakened around 2 in the morning by the much-dreaded, high-pitched, pitiful sound of puppy distress. I took him out, and two hours later, Steve had to repeat the long trek with Dilly out into the darkened yard.

We have a theory as to what may have provoked this. The weather is finally warm enough so we can dine out on our patio, and a night or two before the digestive disaster struck, we got so caught up in talking that we failed to notice what Dilly was doing. Only when he had consumed the better part of the pot of kale nearby us did the carnage catch my eye.

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Ummmmmm. Would you believe me if I told you a gopher did it?

Can bunches of baby kale, seasoned with some kale roots and fresh compost, cause doggy diarrhea? Who knows. Thankfully, a few days back on the Diarrhea Diet (a melange of plain rice, cottage cheese, and Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Puppy Chow) straightened things out.

To be honest, this particular puppy has so completely stolen our hearts, we’re finding it more tempting than ever to coddle him. But we want to be good dog-raising citizens. So yesterday we served him a cup and a half of breakfast (that was the easy part!) and nothing at lunchtime. He looked a bit sad and hungry, but he tends to look like that whenever one of us is eating and he isn’t. We trust in a few more days, he will forget his lunches ever existed.

Compensating for this sad transition, he got to play with another puppy, only his second social date in a couple of months. Yesterday, the playmate was Emmett, a feisty four-month-old purebred Labrador male being raised by Mary Milton, who lives not far from us. Emmett still has a bunch of sharp little baby teeth, which he used to chew on Dilly. But Dilly chewed back. They climbed on top of each other; raced at top speed around our pool (miraculously avoiding falling in.)

I think the look on Dilly’s face says all you need to know about what a great present this was:IMG_7097 2IMG_7096 2

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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.

 

A better pup

Our collecting Adagio’s poop sample yesterday, driving it over to the vet’s, and paying $45 for the analysis apparently propitiated the puppy gods! This morning we got the call that the lab found nothing amiss in the sample. And better still: Adagio was the model of good puppy health all day yesterday.

In the evening, he performed much better in puppy class, with less barking and yowling. Back at home, he crashed, sleeping not only the rest of the evening, but straight through from 10 pm to a little after 6 am, when I woke him. His kennel was dry, and out in the back yard, all the solid waste production was very solid indeed. This has continued today.

Steve has another theory about what worked (an alternative to the placating-the-gods theory). We followed CCI’s online advice for puppy diarrhea and cut Adagio back to just 3/4 cup of puppy chow three times a day. He also gets a fair number of treat bits (as part of his current training regime), and Steve speculates that maybe before the cutback it was just too much food for his little system to handle.

One thing that’s clear: he’s a very hungry little puppy now, one who now gobbles down his food without trying to paw off the halter (which we’re still putting on during meals, to build an association between it and something wonderful, i.e. food). Despite this (temporary) cutback in the chow, he’s still growing at an impressive pace.

The first photo below shows what he looked like two days after we got him last month, when he was 2 months old. I took the second one yesterday, on his 3-month birthday.

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It’s a pretty remarkable transformation!

Sick(ish) puppy

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Although Adagio has his sleepy moments, he’s still playful and hungry.

I hate sick puppies. My dismay and anguish aren’t directed at the puppies. It’s not their fault, of course. But confronted with a baby animal that is in some obvious distress, I almost feel worse than when one of my human family is ailing. We have words to describe what’s wrong and guide us on the path back to wellness. A sick puppy can’t explain — or understand — what’s going on.

For the last six days, Adagio has been sick…ish. The trouble started last Tuesday morning, when we awoke to find evidence that he had vomited, sort of, in his kennel. We found no regurgitated solids, but rather what looked like lots of saliva. We tried to ignore this and fed him normally throughout the day, but the hour after dinner was nightmarish. He wasn’t vomiting or having diarrhea, but he must have peed 5 or 6 times within an hour — not the teaspoonish quantities that would hint at a urinary tract disease, but rather copious amounts every 10 minutes or so. Steve insisted this was payback from the puppy gods for my having blogged last Monday about how well the house-training was going.

Later that night Adagio woke us up crying a couple of times, and each time we took him out, he urgently evacuated more of the contents of his guts — not diarrhea, but something very close to it. In the morning, I called the vet to inquire about bringing in a stool sample. But the guts seemed to return to normal as the day wore on.

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Adagio and his sister Apple, beating up on 5-month-old Kyla at the puppy social. He ran non-stop for a full hour.

Another puppy-raiser loaned us some of the Pro-Pectalin (the probiotics/pectin/kaolin pills that CCI is now recommending for pups with loose stools). Things continued to improve, and he played with ferocious abandon at the Saturday-morning puppy social. Then Saturday night he woke up at 1:30 a.m. crying in a kennel awash with urine and soft feces. While I cleaned up the kennel, Steve took him outside where he had real diarrhea. We put him back to bed, but he awoke again at 3.  Then again at 4:30. And again at 5:30. At least I think those were the times; we were beyond groggy, stuck in a canine excremental nightmare.

It’s been up and down since then. One thing that has comforted us is how normally Adagio has been acting. He’s playful and energetic, and he’s eating with gusto. (Following standard instructions from CCI, we also cut back on his rations, but he just seems hungrier.) To limit the strain on both of us, I did something last night I’ve never done with any other puppy: slept in our first-floor guest room with Adagio in his kennel there, so Steve could get a decent night’s sleep up on the second floor. My night wasn’t too bad, though puppy squeaks did awaken me at 11:15. Outside, he had another small but unquestioned bout of diarrhea. Then he slept soundly until 5:45 am, when the sound of puppy vomiting noises awakened me. Nothing emerged from the regurgitory sound track, however, and he’s been eating and acting fine ever since.

I did manage to collect a (very normal-looking) stool sample early this morning, and I dropped it off at the vet’s at 7:30. They say we’ll have the results of the lab analysis tomorrow. This cost only $45, but Steve thinks the offering may be sufficient to placate the puppy gods, and that Adagio will now recover completely. I hope so.