|Eve's second litter, born 6/16/16, right on time!|
Puppies were born yesterday morning going into early afternoon and I am finally getting a chance to post now that I am caught up on sleep... somewhat.
Things began on Wednesday night. I took Eve's temperature in the evening and it had dropped to 98.3 F. Earlier, in the morning, Eve's temperature was 99 F and for several days prior it had been around 99.5 to 100 F. Why was this temperature drop so important? Well, in the majority of expectant doggy moms, temperature monitoring is a reliable way to determine that puppies are coming within ~12 to 24 hours.
You may be wondering how this neat trick for predicting when puppies are coming works. To understand this means having an idea of what is going on at the hormonal level. Progesterone is the main hormone required for an expectant mom to maintain her pregnancy. A series of hormonal changes in the time period leading up to whelping (another term for canine delivery) leads to a drop in progesterone. Once progesterone reaches a certain level, a message goes to the hypothalamus in the brain and it tells the pituitary gland to release a spike of the hormone prolactin.
The hypothalamus is essentially the part of the brain that serves as the body's control center for routine functions that we don't need to think about, such as breathing, heart rate, metabolism, and hormone release. It is also responsible for maintaining body temperature, so when the progesterone level drops and prolactin release is activated, we simultaneously see a short term drop in body temperature by 1-2 degrees. This means that the "cool" thing about the way the body works (yes, bad pun) is that it also provides us with an easy way to check for the imminent arrival of puppies.
In keeping with the theme of the body telling us about what is going on, this is where the rest of the story for the hormone prolactin comes in. Once a large amount of it is released from the pituitary, it circulates the body telling it to prepare for the babies. It has the main job of stimulating milk production, but it also causes mom to start looking for a place to have her babies and she engages in behaviors such as pacing, restlessness, and nesting (digging at blankets, shredding or tearing paper, etc.).
Just as you might expect, then, shortly after her temperature dropped, Eve started panting and pacing on Wednesday night. She would lay down in a spot, start digging and shifting positions, then get up and move to another spot and repeat the process all over again. She also refused to eat her dinner, another sign that puppies were on their way soon. (Yes, the hypothalamus controls appetite, too.)
Around 11 pm on Wednesday night, I went to sleep on the couch hoping to catch a little bit of sleep. Shortly after 2 am on Thursday morning, I woke up to Eve pawing at me and licking my face. She was having the first of her contractions. So what did this mean at the hormonal level? Well, one of the reasons why progesterone helps maintain pregnancy is that it prevents the uterus from having contractions. Once progesterone drops below a certain level, contractions begin. Eve had started into labor. Not knowing how quickly things would progress, I stayed up with her to keep an eye on things. However, it wasn't until after 8 am in the morning that she finally started to push and eventually delivered her first puppy - a little girl who now wears a pink collar.
Next to follow the first puppy was boy, who now wears a blue collar. The following hours saw the births of five more girls. I was pleased that Eve was able to deliver naturally with only some assistance, but the news wasn't all good. The last puppy, a very large tan and white girl, was stillborn and despite doing everything we knew how to revive her, we were unsuccessful. Unfortunately we will never know why she didn't survive.
|Puppies include 1 tri-color boy, 4 tri-color girls, and 1 tan & white girl.|
Upset as I was by the loss of the last puppy, I needed to turn my attention to the rest of the babies. I had noticed that one of the puppies was a runt, significantly smaller than the rest of her siblings. Something also didn't look quite right where her umbilical cord was attached. I was worried that she had a severe umbilical hernia or a mild form of something called an omphalocele. An omphalocele is a type of hernia where the abdominal skin and muscles don't close properly around the umbilicus. Instead, the area is covered by a thin membrane that allows the internal organs such as the intestines to protrude. I was extremely worried that the baby could be fatally injured just by mom grooming her too aggressively and there was a possibility that she may have other abnormalities associated with her GI tract.
|Tiny girl's birth defect. Time will tell how this heals.|
Luckily, I work in the right field, being a veterinary technician, so I reached out to my veterinarians to find out what they thought needed to be done. Despite her birth defect, the puppy was feeding well, moving around well, and had all the right puppy reflexes. Given that this tiny little girl was a spunky one, I wanted to give her her best chance at survival. I packed her up and headed to the vet to be examined and to potentially have her belly stitched up... all on her first day of life.
|Tiny girl on her way to the vet.|
At the vet's office, the doctor put on his magnifying head gear to get a closer look at tiny girl's belly. After careful examination and consideration, he felt that her muscle wall was closed and it was just the skin that did not properly close. The shiny membrane that covered most of the defect was likely to be connective tissue. I breathed a sigh of relief and almost broke out into tears. Tiny girl was still the runt. She would still be at a disadvantage due to her size and would need to have help competing for food against a brother and several sisters who were nearly twice her size. I would have to keep her belly clean to avoid infection. However, she had a chance. We didn't have to perform any kind of surgery. Tiny girl and I returned home, where she promptly nursed, then snuggled in with her brother and sisters.
|Tiny girl currently is not wearing a collar but is easy to identify since she is half the size of her siblings.|
Since returning home yesterday evening, I have been keeping a close eye on everyone and all seems to be going well. Eve has been a terrific mom. So far, she has kept the crate and the puppies meticulously clean. She seems to know every puppy by scent and gets upset if one of them gets too far away from her. A wandering puppy is gently picked up in her mouth and brought to stay close to her.
Because Eve is so protective, I've minimized my handling of the puppies to keep from upsetting her and it will probably be several days before I can get individual puppy pictures. I mainly put my hands on top of each puppy to gauge if they feel warm enough (a puppy who is cooler to the touch than the others is exhibiting warning signs that something is wrong). I apply a chlorhexiderm solution to tiny girl's belly and periodically assist her in getting prime real estate at the milk bar.
Even though Eve doesn't want me picking puppies up, she also doesn't want me far away. She actually cries if I go into another room for any length of time. At one point today, Eve asked to be let out of the exercise pen, jumped up on the couch and came over to me crying, then jumped back down and cried some more until I followed her back to the crate. Once I sat on the floor outside of the crate, she climbed back in and began to nurse the babies. She just wanted me to hang out with her. While this is inconvenient for the time being, I expect she will settle down over the next few days. Besides, I have to admit, it feels nice for her to want me around.
|Where's Waldo? Tiny girl is front and center. Can you can find her?|
As for me, I am still pretty exhausted but catching back up. Three hours of sleep Wednesday into Thursday followed by 22 mostly waking hours isn't enough to get by on. Plus, yesterday was quite stressful. I'm just glad that everything finally seems to be going smoothly and I'll do all that I can to make sure that continues. I will keep you all updated as things progress with the babies, so stay tuned! I plan to post again in another couple of days.