Wednesday morning, I noticed some small flat white pieces in the momma dog’s poop.
A dog gets infected by tapeworms by swallowing fleas that have ingested tapeworm eggs. Once inside the dog, the tapeworms develop and attach to the dog’s small intestines.
As the tapeworm matures, the tail segments drop off. The tail segments contain eggs. If there are fleas around to ingest the eggs the cycle continues.
While I’m never excited to discover an animal has a parasite, it’s nice when it’s obvious what parasite an animal has. And getting rid of tapeworms usually just takes a three day course of Panacur. So I contacted Miranda, my adoption coordinator for this dog family, and she mailed some Panacur to me.
Unfortunately, over the next few days while I waited for the Panacur to arrive, the momma dog’s poop got looser and looser until by Friday it was a seven on the Fecal Scoring System (Don’t click here unless you want to see pictures of poop! I stumbled upon this just recently. All those times I’ve described poop to veterinarians as being like pudding or chocolate milk? This would have been very useful. There’s even a scale for people called the Bristol Stool Scale. I bet you can’t wait to use this knowledge at your next doctor’s visit).
Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I fed the momma white rice and chicken to help get the diarrhea under control. The Panacur arrived Saturday and by Monday her poop was a five on the chart, much improved.
But it’s unusual for tapeworms to cause severe diarrhea so I suspected an additional parasite, Coccidia or Giardia. Either can cause severe diarrhea. Coccidia is usually treated with a drug called Albon. Giardia is treated with Panacur and a drug called metronidazole. Since the Panacur seemed to help the diarrhea that could suggest Giardia. But Panacur sometimes improves the symptoms of Coccidia too. And the momma dog’s symptoms weren’t clearly one or the other. Her diarrhea was very foul-smelling, like with Giardia, but not green or greasy looking, which is more typical of Coccidia. So Miranda is mailing me Albon and metro to treat her for both.
This momma has a few little quirks. The very first night, after I set her food bowl down in the dog area and started to leave, she grabbed the bowl with her teeth and dragged it in to the whelping box, spilling kibble everywhere. In the morning, I saw that she’d dragged her water bowl in the box too. After that, I put both bowls in the whelping box whenever I filled them. When the puppies became more active – concerned a puppy might crawl into the water bowl – I began putting the bowls outside the box again. She left them there unless Steve or Amanda were the ones doing the refilling. If she saw either of them, she’d grab the food bowl and move it into the whelping box again. The other day, she got upset when the food bowl spilled as she was moving it and her puppies started clamoring for the kibble. I suppose she didn’t like the idea of sharing. Now she drags the food bowl over to the dog bed next to the outside door instead.
And why am I still calling her momma dog? While I picked the name Sweetness for her, it doesn’t seem to fit. She’s quiet, sad, almost mournful. Her tail still clings to the back of her legs, she’s never come close to wagging it. She cares for her puppies, but doesn’t seem to take pleasure in them as our other mother dogs have. When I open the door to let her outside, she’s reluctant to go. She walks ever so slowly, and takes little interest in the yard. After she relieves herself, she wants to come right back in. Yet lately she’s begun to come and stand near me when I enter the dog area – staring up at me with her pretty brown eyes – and when I kneel down and pet her she continues to look in my eyes. She’s also recently shown signs of boredom – dragging the dog bed around, shredding newspaper – so I’ve started taking her upstairs to the kitchen. She lies on one of the dog beds chewing on a bone while I have breakfast or lunch or make dinner.
Is she naturally subdued, unresponsive or is something temporary altering her personality? Is she recovering from the strain of pregnancy, struggling with the demands of nursing nine puppies? Is she still anxious being in a new place with new people? Could her Heartworm disease be contributing to her low energy, solemn personality? Like so many questions I have about my fosters, this one will go unanswered, at least for now.
She has one feature that defies this picture of her as dull and downcast. Despite the heartworm and parasites, the demands on her body, she still has the most beautiful shiny black coat. Like her bright, alert eyes, her healthy shiny coat gives me hope. So rather than naming her for what may be a temporary characteristic, it occurs to me now to call her Velvet. To remind myself what is bright, shiny and beautiful about this dog.
And now pictures and video of the puppies, now three week old. They don’t get much cuter than this.