Wednesday evening, just before turning out the lights, the little black and white puppy waddled over to the front of the whelping box, looked up at me and whined. When I picked him up, I noticed he felt dirty, gritty even. I ran my finger over his fur and felt a layer of scales, crumbling pieces of dried skin and what felt like scabs all through his coat. Occasionally rescued puppies will have cuts and scrapes or a few scabs but I’d never seen anything like this before. I looked closer at his skin and fortunately didn’t see any swollen places, raw or red spots, no sores or signs of injuries.
Thursday morning, I gave him a bath in the kitchen sink using a seborrhea dermatitis shampoo that I happened to have. Normally I don’t bath young puppies. Their mothers and their own bodies’ mechanisms generally keep them clean enough to maintain health. But I was concerned that this strange build up of dead skin might trap moisture and bacteria against his skin and cause a skin infection. The puppy accepted being bathed surprisingly well. Perhaps the rubbing and running water aren’t too different from the rough licking he receives from his mother. But when I’d finished and lifted him out of the warm bath water, he started to whimper so I quickly rolled him up in a towel like a sausage, leaving only his head exposed. Young puppies – just like newborn babies – love to be swaddled. I held him for a moment, looking at his sweet face. Then I unrolled him and rubbed him down. Unfortunately, the bathing hadn’t done much good, the scales, and crusts of skin were still embedded in his fur. So I got out a wire dog brush
and gently began to break up and brush away the crusts of dead skin. As with the bathing, the puppy seemed to enjoy the attention – which was fortunate as it took a long time. Still, even with all this effort, the puppy still had some scaly areas. But I still hadn’t checked his brothers and sister. I might have four more puppies to clean, I couldn’t spend the whole day on one puppy. So I gave him off to my daughter Amanda to hold and went down to get the next puppy. Sure enough he too had crusts all over his skin. This time I brushed the puppy before giving him the bath and that was much more effective. I eventually worked my way through all five puppies – each and every one of them had this same strange build up of dead crusty skin. Thankfully though, none had any sores. And what felt like scabs were simply thicker, harder clumps of dead skin.
Later I read up online about dog skin conditions and looking at pictures and symptoms, nothing matched. I did read an article that listed skin ailments of newborn puppies which mentioned that they sometimes get dandruff because their sebaceous glands aren’t mature. What these puppies have goes well beyond dandruff. But could they have layers of naturally occurring dead skin trapped in their fur? I thought about how mother dogs usually spend hours licking their pups and wondered what would happen if they didn’t. Could the dead skin accumulate on the puppies to this extent?
If the condition returns – i.e. if I notice new layers of dead skin building up – I’ll ask Liz, my Adoption Coordinator, if I can take one of the puppies to the vet for a diagnosis and treatment advice. Otherwise the next time I’m at my vet for one of my pets I’ll tell her about this weird condition and see if she has any ideas.
Since I had all the puppies upstairs anyway, I decided to take some video, pictures and get them posted on Petfinder:
Then after the puppies were tired out from playing and starting to fall asleep, Amanda and I gave them their first vaccine and de-wormer and put them back in the whelping box.
What about the puppy’s mother? Thursday morning, I came quietly into the dog area. I soon noticed a thump, thump, thump sound. At first I wondered what Amanda was doing upstairs. Then I realized it was the momma’s tail wagging against the wall. She was in the back left corner near the outside door on the the dog bed we set out for all our momma dogs (which we wash of course before any new arrivals). As I approached her, she didn’t get up. But she did make eye contact. And when I knelt down near her and put my fist out she sniffed it. I gently stroked her upper chest – the best place to pet a dog you don’t know well.
By Thursday evening, she would rise and walk over to me. By Friday, if I sat down on the ground, she’d lie next to me, or on me as I petted her face, head and back. Her fur, like my part Beagle Little, is extremely soft, and she has the gentlest, sweetest brown eyes. After getting a better look at her, I think she is all or nearly all Beagle. Her teeth are very white, so I expect she’s young, perhaps just two years old.
She’s been going on the newspapers I put down; whenever I open the door to the outside, she shows no interest in going out. Has she spent her whole life inside? I learned that she and the puppies were rescued from a hoarding situation. Twenty dogs in total were removed from one person’s home. Thankfully she’s a loving, gentle-natured dog; sometimes dogs from hoarding situations are terrified of people. Some day soon, when we have good weather, I’ll lure her outside and begin socializing the puppies to the outside world.