Puppy Update: (Cautiously) Optimistic

So, after the past few days, my best guess about Little Ruby is that she is a normal puppy who is on the weak side and cannot quite get enough milk to support herself. This is not that uncommon.

When Honey had four puppies, two boys and two girls, the two girls could not quite manage and needed a little bit of support, not much, all the way to weaning. In that case, both female puppies weaned super fast, starting at three weeks and two days, which is extremely early. Fat puppies that are getting plenty of milk often ignore all suggestions about weaning until they are practically ready to switch straight to hard kibble, about seven weeks. Average age for a puppy to wean is about five weeks.

When Leda had four male puppies, Tiny Boy Four could not quite manage and needed a fair bit of support right up to weaning. In his case, I shifted him from tube to a syringe with a nipple attachment at three weeks and two days. He would not try to lap, though he was amazingly cooperative about tubing, which is normally impossible with a healthy puppy by three weeks because the puppy fights too hard at that age. But at that point the swallowing reflex is mature enough a puppy can cope with syringe feeding. Prior to about three weeks, the risk of aspiration makes syringe feeding via a nipple attachment prohibitively dangerous compared to tubing, which is not fun for the puppy, but very safe.

Nursing, you may not have realized, takes a fair bit of vigor and strength. Weak puppies just can’t get enough milk and thus become weaker and the whole thing is bad news. In all the above cases, the weaker puppies did fine as long as they had the support they needed. They wound up perfectly healthy, normal puppies.

I was worried that Little Ruby Girl might not fit the same pattern, but now I think she probably does.

Little Ruby Girl is at the top here

Little Ruby is gaining as long as I provide support. She weighs just over 300 g compared to her big BT brother, Goliath, who weighs abut 560 g. Besides Little Ruby, the next smallest puppy is about 440 g.

When weighed before nursing and then again after nursing, I see that Little Ruby is taking in six to eight ccs of milk at a time, which is not great, but a lot better than zero. When I weigh her and see that she has gained eight ccs of milk, I’ve been topping her off with five ccs of formula, to bring her up to about what she should be getting every three to four hours. This seems to have given her the boost she needed, as her inclination to latch on to a nipple and nurse is now much, much better than it was on Monday, suggesting she has regained a good deal of strength. I mean, on Monday she was showing poor nursing reflex. That can imply something is really wrong. That she now consistently latches on and nurses with some vigor is a really good sign. That’s why I think she now looks much more like a weak but normal puppy rather than a puppy with some kind of abnormality.

I have a guess about what happened to push her back. Little Ruby insists on taking a rear nipple and when a bigger puppy pushes her off that nipple, she quits nursing. During the day, this is fine because I can keep that from happening. I think the initial problem started at night because I wasn’t awake to intervene for her, thus she was seriously weakened and got into trouble. In the wild, a puppy like this would of course die. Handled by an inexperienced or ignorant breeder, she would obviously die. If this is the only problem, in my hands, she will only experience a minor setback and will be fine. So … not sure this IS the only problem, but that’s how it looks to me now. (Sometimes there is a roller coaster; one does not relax until the puppies are actually weaned.)

I am now calm enough about this litter to think about names, so I’ll do a post about that soon. I’m also making plans for how to handle these puppies as they get big and start roughhousing. Sometimes a little puppy is spunky enough to not be bullied, but sometimes that’s a problem. Because this puppy lets herself be pushed around when it comes to nursing, even if she’s fine, I think she might be prone to being bullied. I’m planning to keep her separate some of the time if necessary, with Aunt Naamah, because Naamah is reliably very gentle with babies and will let a tiny puppy win when wrestling. That should be good for a small, less assertive puppy.

So, cautiously optimistic! We’ll see how it goes…

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2 thoughts on “Puppy Update: (Cautiously) Optimistic”

  1. Oh good to hear! Still keeping my fingers crossed for the little ruby (and the others just in case).

  2. I’m already calling the littlest one Little Ruby, but I guess that won’t be an acceptable name.
    Glad to hear she’s getting stronger.

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