Earl the McNab

Earl the McNab
Earl the Mcnab

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Chevy: The Saga of a Shaking Puppy

Little Chevy faced challenges right from the start.

His mother Molly, right at the appropriate gestation period of 63 days, first gave birth to a still-born puppy. It was small, not fully formed, and had likely died a couple of days prior to birth. I helped her deliver it; it presented tail-first. The fact it was stillborn meant her hormones didn't kick in properly to deliver the next puppy, so I called the vet and promptly loaded her in the truck to take her in for some help.

When I arrived, I carefully checked the floorboards in the rear of the cab where she'd been sitting. There, breathing but not vigorous, was a small black puppy she'd delivered on the 40-minute drive. I rubbed his chest as I rushed him and his mama into the clinic, calling out, "He's breathing!" to the bewildered receptionist. The staff took him back right away to the exam room and began warming him.

The others - one more of which was still born - were born over the next 12 hours. They were all larger than little Chevy. Typical of a runt, he struggled to compete with his larger litter mates when nursing. They simply knocked him out of the way or squeezed in together so he couldn't force his way to a teat. I'd hold my hands on either side of him to protect his space while he nursed, making sure he fed properly. I weighed him three times a day so I could monitor his growth and compare his rate of weight gain to the others.

Little Chevy (at left, above), snuggling in the arms of his sister, Beni (with the white face). Note how much larger at the other puppies are already.

Left: Chevy showing off the six toes on each rear foot.
On day three, little Chevy suffered cardiopulmonary syndrome. I'd been with the puppies constantly, sleeping on a futon beside the whelping pen, and monitoring them closely. When I awakened after a couple of hours of sleep, I found him nearly lifeless. He was cold, non-responsive, and limp. Having bottle-fed kittens, I knew he was likely hypoglycemic as well as hypothermic. I also knew to warm him slowly and not give him any food (including formula) until he had warmed up. I tucked him into my shirtfront while I warmed towels in the dryer and made an emergency rice heater (a sock filled with white rice which I could then microwave for a couple of minutes).

While the towels were heating, I rubbed Chevy's chest, "swooped" him to make sure he had no fluids interfering with his breathing, and gave him gentle mouth-to-muzzle breathing. My husband took one look at the tiny limp creature and shook his head, saying, "He's gone," but I knew we had a chance. I wrapped him in warm towels, made some KMR (kitten milk replacer) I had on hand, and sent my husband to Tractor Supply for some Esbilac.

By the time my husband returned, I had already gotten some KMR into little Chevy with a puppy bottle. It was slow going. Slowly, he began to revive. From then on, I continued to ensure he had assistance nursing, and I also supplemented his diet with bottle-fed Esbilac. He gained weight, some days; other days he gained and then lost even more, but he grew increasingly lively. The other puppies rapidly outpaced him in rate of gain, even with all the extra feeding. I started him on Nutrical as well.

Chevy seemed to be about two or three days behind all the others in his developmental milestones. He opened his eyes a bit later; crawled later; and so forth. It was when he was about two weeks old I realized something more serious was impacting him. He developed a noticeable tremor in his head and hindquarters, and within a few days it had worsened. The first day or so I noticed it, I optimistically thought it was just muscle fatigue from struggling to keep up; then, as it increased in severity, I researched it. It was a textbook case of "shaking puppy syndrome" or hypomyelination. None of the references cited McNab dogs as having a genetic predisposition toward this disease, so I could find nothing that could give me an idea as to whether he - like afflicted puppies of certain breeds - would be likely to re-myelinate and outgrow the disease or not. Some puppies progress to where they must be euthanized; some breeders simply euthanize any afflicted puppies; and some puppies are given supportive care and eventually (between three months and 18 months of age) recover.

Heartbroken for the sweet little guy, with whom I'd bonded over puppy-bottles and cuddles, I decided that as long as he had good quality of life, I'd give him every chance of recovery. My definition of "good quality of life" meant showing no sign of pain; being able to do certain normal puppy things, such as being able to play in some form; and being responsive enough to show happiness. I had to break the news to the person who'd planned on giving him his forever home, Mary, that he was not a healthy puppy and that I wanted her to consider his beautiful brother, Tank. Although Mary would certainly have given him the love and care he needed, I wanted her to have the healthy, rambunctious, protective puppy she deserves. I am grateful for her immediate fondness for him and her encouragement.

I continued bottle feeding him until he was eating enough solid food to supplement his nursing effort.  Fortunately, his appetite was outstanding.Shaking puppies struggle to keep weight on, as they tremble it right off, so we made sure he had extra feedings (both from his mother as well as from a dish) and that he was undisturbed while eating. Chevy ate longer than the others. It did my heart good seeing him eat.

I began doing a sort of physical therapy with him. I'd support him so he could stand, and encourage him to develop strength and muscles. I flexed his hind legs (his weakness is far worse in the hindquarters) and played with him. I noticed that firm pressure on his body minimized the tremors, as did holding up his head for him. He had no tremors while he slept or when he lay on his side. I also noticed his tremors were worse when he was excited, even if it was a "good" excitement like feeding time, greeting one of us, or trying to play. When the tremors were at their worst, he "hopped" backwards, pulled to the rear by the severe shaking, when he most wanted to go forward.

He never did show pain, but he yelps and cries when he's frustrated. Cognitively, he is fine. He's bright-eyed, sweet-natured, and loves to give kisses. He's playful, too, and he has tremendous heart and determination. However, he wasn't gaining any strength in his rear legs, and his left leg would just slide under him so he almost appeared to have a paralysis. The muscle atrophy was evident. I attempted (rather feebly) to make a set of wheels for him, with no success. I then ordered a canine wheelchair for him from, of course!, Amazon.

Chevy turned seven weeks old this past week. He is still struggling to manage with the wheelchair. His front legs aren't strong enough to pull himself around well yet, and his shaking bobbles the cart around; tomorrow, I'm going to try to weight the end of it to stabilize him. Still, he has figured out how to walk forward already. I want him to know that the feeling of being upright is normal. The cart allows him some relief from dragging his hindquarters, and will help him stand squarely in the front. I limit his sessions in the chair to where he starts showing exhaustion; when he does so, he makes his way to me and rests his head on me.

Having him in the wheelchair requires constant supervision. He's had roll-overs and has turned onto his side. I can't let the other puppies around him when he's in it; they think it's a toy, and try to drag him around. When the cart isn't on him, though, he loves playing with his brothers and sisters; he wrestles, plays tug of war, and has fierce growling matches with them.

With continued care, patience, and love, I'm optimistic little Chevy will have a happy life. He wins over everyone he meets; he's a happy little guy. I'm happy to say no one has suggested euthanizing him. It's difficult to see him struggle to do basic puppy things, but he doesn't know he's different. He does, for certain, know he's loved - not only by the humans in his life, but by his dog and cat family here. One sibling in particular, his sister Beni, is particularly loving and nurturing of him. Right from the beginning they had a special bond; now, she's still the one he snuggles up with, and she often sleeps with her head on him.

Keep good thoughts for little Chevy!

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Copyright (c) 2019 MJ Miller * No part of this content may be reproduced without the express permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared and are appreciated * Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

McNab Puppy Progress: First Day of Solid Food

The pups celebrated their three-week birthday today with their first solid food. Their eyes are open, their little needle-teeth emerging, and they are in the early stages of playful behavior. Plus, they give kisses. They bark and growl and raise their paws in invitation to play. There's nothing more wonderful than puppies.

Mattie-K8 (left) helps Molly raise the puppies.

Mattie-K8, our Papillon-in-Charge, has coveted these puppies since their arrival. She initially wanted to steal them; now, she is insisting on co-parenting. She awakens me in the night by barking if one yelps, and she promptly leaps over the makeshift puppy gate and checks on them. She also growls at Molly and insists the puppies are, in fact, hers.  It's a testament to Molly's good nature that she lets Mattie-K8 away with so much puppy appropriation.

Now, the big event: introduction to solid food!  As I note in the video below, I expected the puppies to be reluctant to try something new. Years of marriage to a very risk-free and unadventurous eater have apparently conditioned me. To my surprise, the puppies jumped onto that food (literally as well as figuratively) and devoured it greedily. It was a thing of beauty. 

Although I have a beautiful new stainless steel puppy dish, I opted for a saucer for their first effort, again thinking it'd be easier if they needed coaching. At their next meal I'll use the puppy dish and then get my fingers quickly out of the way of these voracious little sharks. 

I made them a meal of Royal Canin canned puppy food (affiliate link) and water - two parts canned food to one part water.  The Royal Canin is a top-quality food, ideal for weaning puppies as it is only 7.5% protein. Higher protein foods can be challenging for delicate puppy tummies. The Royal Canin also is a paté-type consistency, easy to mix with water and free of big chunks that can challenge little pups. The puppies just wolfed it down. Before I even had the chance to dip the first pup's nose in as introduction, he was squirming out of my hands to eat. No need to baby these babies through! 

Feeding was a messy affair, as you can tell from the photo and video. Many wet-wipes were sacrificed to clean puppy faces afterwards. As soon as they'd had their fill and flopped down for the post-feeding happy-belly nap, I let Molly back in. She promptly cleaned up the leftovers.

On the next feeding, the puppies will be using their stainless steel puppy dish (affiliate link). The dish is weighted, dishwasher safe, and has a raised center to keep food from being pushed inward - which will help keep puppies from having to crawl into the middle of the dish. It's also large enough to provide ample space so the bigger pups, like Tank and Spotty, don't shove tiny Chevy or petite Flashdance out of the way. Mid-sized Flower has no problem squeezing into the fray.

Although Molly will still be feeding the puppies also, I'm going to hang a water bottle on the side of the pen. The puppies will need more and more water as they wean from her. Molly's already seeking more adult conversation these days, and less concerned about feeding the pups. Nature is encouraging her to instinctively spend less time with the little ones. 

Now it's time to do puppy laundry ... again. They're still quite easy to clean up after, and Molly is still helping with the cleaning, but puppies are gonna puppy and that means lots of handy-wipes and wash cycles.

Copyright (c) 2019 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photos or video, may be used without permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared and are greatly appreciated * Thank you for linking, liking, sharing, tweeting, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

You Guys! McNab Puppies!

Right on schedule, at 63 days, Molly delivered her pups. She's been an amazing mother just as we knew she'd be: We've long called her "Nurse Molly" for her loving, nurturing nature. She loves babies of all sorts, from kittens to calves and baby donkeys. Finally, she has some all to herself.

Initially, Molly wouldn't leave her puppies, be it to eat or to empty her bladder. I had to pack the whole puppy crew into a backpack-type animal carrier and tote them outdoors. Molly would then follow and, with a look of panic on her face, instinctively race off well away from them to evacuate. Dogs being den animals, of course, the last thing a mama dog wants to do is foul anyplace near her nest. And nest she did: Before the puppies were born, she went into a nesting mania. I'd built her a sturdy wooden whelping box, complete with a rail to prevent her from accidentally smothering the puppies. After watching her rearrange the towels and pads I put in the box, I had a brainstorm: I put plain brown parcel paper inside. Molly went to town shredding it and arranging it to her liking. It's not what I left as bedding after the pups were born, but it satisfied Molly's instinctive need to create a nest for the little ones.

Once the babies arrived, though, I lined the bottom of the box with cardboard, topping it with bath mats. Foam isn't recommended for newborns due to the risk of suffocation, but bath mats seemed to have the heaviness to remain relatively intact and not fold over onto puppies - and they take a machine washing. The new crate pads arrived today, and now that the puppies are nearly a week old they should be safe with the cozy new pads. 

Watching the other house animals with the new arrivals has been interesting and fulfilling. Little Mattie-K8, the Papillon, has had major puppy envy. She has wanted to steal the puppies from the start, but Molly growled her away. Molly's lightened up considerably since the birth, and tolerates Mattie-K8 looking enviously through the play pen wire, but when Mattie enters the playpen and approaches the box, Molly growls. When the puppies cry, Mattie trembles. At one point, as I was bottle-feeding a puppy who needed a kickstart to get over "fading puppy syndrome," I set him down on the heating pad as I walked off to get his formula. Mattie jumped in and took him, moving him about four feet away. When I returned within just a minute or two, she'd already licked him all over. 

Earl, our ten-year-old McNab, was nervous about the puppies, but not terrified; just apprehensive. Ethan, the father of the litter, was more involved. Fatherhood has matured him: He's quiet (for him, anyway) around them, and respects Molly's space. He and Molly have been exceptionally close, and during the latter days of her pregnancy I confined her at times in the play pen with the whelping box inside it. Ethan, the athlete, nimbly leapt over the playpen side to visit her. Once the puppies arrived, though, he never once attempted it. 

As for the cats, whom I feared might be aggressive - they have been anything but. Froggy-Isabella, the proud huntress, was interested, but neither fearful nor aggressive. Lucy Lovebug was initially frightened, and sought refuge in the basement or outdoors in her catio. But poor Hank - eighteen-pound titan Hank - was utterly terrified. He stayed downstairs in the basement, wide-eyed and trembling, until emerging to visit the catio, and when he did finally come back indoors through the master bedroom door, he climbed onto the bed with my husband and panicked whenever he heard a puppy whimper in the other room. After three days, it dawned on me to put a movie in the player for some background noise. Sure enough, Hank visited and approached the puppy box. He inspected the "threat" and calmly returned to business as usual. 

After the first three sleepless nights since the puppies arrived, we have all settled in. Molly, requiring some "adult conversation" at times, now leaves the puppies to go outside for brief intervals of play. She made up her own bed in a blanket next to the puppy box and when it's warm, she lies on it. She happily greets her most-adored human, my husband, when he gets home from work, and is adopting a healthy routine again. 

One of the many touching and entertaining things she does is line up the puppies side by side and then sits, grinning, admiring them. Nurse Molly - now "Mama Moll" - is so very happy to have her puppies to cuddle and adore.

Copyright (c) 2019 MJ Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photos, may be used without the express permission of the author * Links, however, may be freely shared and are appreciated * Thank you for linking, liking, sharing, tweeting, and otherwise helping grow my readership * Most of all, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Big News from Molly and Ethan McNab!


We are overjoyed to announce that Ethan and Molly are expecting! Molly, a purebred McNab from Garcin's Stock Dogs, is due the first week of April, 2019. We call her "Nurse Molly" for her nurturing nature and can't wait to see her as a loving mama. She is gentle with our other animals and is fascinated with newborns, from the newborn donkey and foals to the calves and baby chicks. She has raised kittens and is now keeping watch over the latest arrival of new chicks. Molly is protective (not aggressive) and very caring.

Ethan, on his first birthday

Ethan, also from Garcin's, has a small percentage of Kelpie and Border Collie in his McNab lines. Ethan is the most athletic dog I've ever seen; balanced, startlingly fast, and particularly fond of jumping and leaping - over, onto, and across whatever obstacle is before him. He has great stamina, fast reflexes, and brains. He's also the orangutan of the bunch: He is into mischief at all times, usually to hilarious results. Ethan is both protective and vocal, but not aggressive. He has been good with toddlers and, like Molly, is attracted to newborn animals. Seeing him play with the baby donkeys is priceless. Ethan is our head "goat watcher" and will, on command, immediately locate our goat when she's turned out, let me know where she is, then will help me return her to her pen when it's time to lock her up. He's a treasure on the trail whether we're on foot or on horseback - the trail dog I always dreamed of having as a child.

Ethan and Molly

The two of them are ever-joyful. Affectionate, happy, and scary-smart, they're going to produce highly active, extremely intelligent, hardy and vigorous puppies. We selected Ethan specifically to cross with Molly; we're thrilled at the prospect of welcoming their babies and giving them a solid foundation. 

Bred to work livestock, these pups will require ranch homes or rural owners who require extremely active and athletic dogs for agility, trail dogs, or lengthy backpacking / hiking companionship. These are not suitable dogs for crating on a frequent or regular basis nor for confinement on small properties with only moderate interaction. Owners must commit to spending the time and energy to provide an intellectually stimulating, loving home and active lifestyle for them. 

We've already reserved puppies on our waiting list. Email me at marcyjmiller06@gmail.com for details.