Puppies are five weeks old today

The puppies are eating three solid meals a day now and whining less and less. And I’ve noticed Velvet nursing them soon after they’ve eaten. Before their meals, the puppies are frantic: yipping, running around in the whelping box. Once out, they race toward Velvet, all nine lunging for her. It’s simply too much for her. Once they’ve had some kibble, they’re much calmer; perhaps that’s why she’s more open to nursing and licking them.

Saturday and today were warm and beautiful and the puppies were out in the side yard all day. On Saturday, they whined at first when Velvet and I went back inside and left them alone.  But before long they began wrestling with one another and playing with the toys. Then they found the dog house and took some naps. They’ve been enjoying themselves again today racing around and playing, exploring the yard (or what’s left of it, all these dog families have been very hard on the plants).

Meanwhile Velvet gets to rest quietly inside most of the day and is showing signs of improvement.  Look how bright eyed she is in this photo.P1060520-001

In this video, even though she’s running away from the puppies, she’s wagging her tail and at the end she even bites playfully at one of the puppies:

She’d really like to eat the puppies food but they won’t stop trying to nurse:

She gives in eventually:


Happy puppy play time:

Life is good.






This morning it was too cold to feed the puppies outside, so I put the dish in the back of the whelping box and changed the messy newspapers in the front of the box, lifting little bodies as needed. The puppies ate well the first time I offered them softened food, but the next two meals they hardly ate anything. So I started adding puppy formula to the mixture to make it taste more like their mother’s milk. Now they’re eating avidly, leaving nothing behind.

Once the puppies finished eating, I let Velvet back inside. If I didn’t put her out, she’d try to eat their food. Given her altered mood, she might even lash out at the puppies. Several of the puppies whined and jumped up on the front of the whelping box so I scooped them up onto my lap. Velvet, who’d been standing next to me, walked over.  I held a puppy out to her and she began licking his nose, his paws and his bottom. Then, she wagged her tail two or three times!  We sat together for a while; I’d hold out a puppy while she gently licked it.

I’m reminded of the early days with my own babies. How exhausting caring for them was. How there were times I wasn’t sure I’d get through it. But then my mother would come by for the day with a pot of soup, sweep the floor and hold my fussy baby so I could take a nap. I’d think maybe, just maybe I’ll make it. Maybe Velvet felt a little like that this morning.

Hungry Puppies

The puppies have been crying a lot. And instead of jumping into the whelping box to see what’s wrong, Velvet ignores them. This isn’t normal mother dog behavior, most mother dogs are very distressed by their puppies’ cries. We hear them crying during the day and off and on over night. Velvet is making plenty of milk. So much milk she’s engorged – reminding me of a milking goat – and leaks milk all over her dog bed. A few times I lifted her into the whelping box to nurse the puppies but she fought hard to get away.

I started wondering, can dogs get postpartum depression? I’ve never fostered a dog who was so emotionally indifferent and unresponsive to her puppies, to everything around her. I found an article online on Maternal Behavior Problems in Dogs; Velvet is definitely exhibiting many of the signs listed in the article for what they term “Lack of Maternal Behavior.” Unfortunately, the article says there is no treatment.

But I could help the poor hungry puppies. Velvet is still making lots of milk.  She isn’t always engorged and sometimes they do quiet down. So she must be feeding them – perhaps at night when I’m not around? But not often enough. So a few days ago I started them on food.

Snow was still on the ground and the yard was wet but it wasn’t that cold. So I put down a sheet and a couple of old rugs.

I think they like it.
The puppies don’t just miss food from their mother, they also miss the comfort of nursing and the pleasure of being licked. So they still continue to cry even when they’re done eating.  I’ll scoop up four or five of them and hold them close, talking to them softly. They look up in my eyes so seriously. They stop crying and settle down in my arms. Then I put them down and grab another bundle of puppies. Velvet watches us as she watches everything, quietly and indifferently. I wonder if she was ever a happy dog. I hope once the puppies have been adopted, once she’s spayed and her hormones settle down she starts wagging that tail of hers.

Icky subjects and cute puppies

Wednesday morning, I noticed some small flat white pieces in the momma dog’s poop.

Tapeworm segments:

Image result for tapeworm segments

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.


Image result for tapeworm dogs

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.








Content little family

We’ve had our newest dog family for over a week now.  The shelter called the momma Carly. I renamed her Sweetness; she’s shy and submissive, quiet and docile. At first, she’d tuck her tail deep between her legs whenever I approached. And while her tail is still down when I’m nearby, at least now it’s visible. It may take a while to get a wag out of this shy girl. Occasionally she’ll sniff me when I put my fist near her. When I let her outside for breaks, she doesn’t stay out long. She seems content lying down with her puppies. I stay only long enough to change messy newspapers and towels and refill the food and water bowls. Since puppies shouldn’t be handled more than necessary until they are at least three weeks old and Sweetness isn’t comfortable around me yet it’s best to leave them alone as much as possible.

But they’re two weeks old today, so I did slip in to take some pictures and video:


Now that their eyes are opened, they’re starting to look pretty cute. It’s hard to keep my hands off them.


New momma and pups

Last Saturday afternoon, a kind volunteer named Sou drove our newest momma dog and her nine puppies up to us. They were in a giant airline crate which we carefully carried into my entry way.  While I took the puppies downstairs, three at a time, and placed them in the whelping box, Sou sat on the floor and waited with the momma. The momma dog seemed anxious; her tail between her legs and the whites of her eyes showing. When it was time to lead her downstairs, she pulled away from me. With some patience and gentle talk, I was able coax her downstairs to join her puppies. Once in the dog area, she quickly drank down the water and ate the food I’d put out for her. I opened up the back door but she was to nervous to go out. Her tail was still between her legs and her eyes anxious. The best thing to do was leave her alone with her puppies to rest and settle in.

Monday, I took the following pictures and video: