Little puppies need early check-ups.

In one way, these two cases seem similar: very young puppies who were doing lousy, and now they are on the mend (though hardly up to their potential — they could, and will, be so much better).  In other ways they seem totally different, yet they still share one underlying factor: they waited WAY too long to seek medical attention.  I could call it bad veterinary care, but mostly because there was no veterinarian involved.

Angel_2 Angel was a freebie.  Her owners were puppy-shopping, and the breeder told them that they could have Angel at no extra charge, since "she may not live".  She was half the size of her littermates, had very little appetite, and was very thin.  Like most commercial breeders [breeders who raise dogs the way farmers raise pigs], these folks don’t give the puppies much individual attention.  Everything is done on a herd-health basis.  When the puppies are two weeks old they get this.  When they are three weeks old, they get that.  It’s all cookbook.  This is a practical way to handle things, and most of the pups will do okay (providing your cookbook has the right "recipes").  However, when an individual has special needs, the cookbook approach just doesn’t get it.   

While her breeder had vaccinated and de-wormed her, she had not had any diagnostic testing.  A stool exam showed that she had coccidia (a microscopic one-celled parasite — since it’s not a worm, de-worming doesn’t get rid of it).  We started treatment for the parasite, but she didn’t respond very fast. In fact, she lost weight in the first ten days, from 1.8 pounds down to 1.7.  She required fluid therapy, as she had become dehydrated, in addition to being thin and under-developed.  She still had to be hand-fed, and just didn’t get much better until we also gave her a jump-start with anabolic steroids (fortunately, she’s not planning an athletic career, so we’re not worried about her getting disqualified and losing her medals).  After her second 10 days of treatment, she’s up to 2.5 pounds and getting better every day.

Without the individual attention (that she COULD have had weeks earlier), this beautiful little puppy just wouldn’t have made it.

Duke_elvis_2 You can’t really see how scabby and nasty Duke and Elvis are here. This is definitely their "good side".  What you can see is that they are wide-awake and interested in what’s going on.  That’s a far cry from four days earlier when they were presented with sub-normal body temperatures.  Elvis was laid out stiff and couldn’t even swallow. We’re talking weak. Besides having a lot of hairless, scabby areas (due to Sarcoptic Mange, aka scabies), they were also heavily parasitized with intestinal worms — hookworms and roundworms.  They were the dog equivalent of cold, scabby raisins (shriveled, as it were)  If we had seen them a week earlier, treatment would have been quick, simple and cheap.  As it was, Elvis had to be gradually warmed to a normal body temperature before he could be treated with anything.  I was amazed to see him come around after about thirty minutes, as he looked so bad that I really feared he would die.  It is so great to see them looking fat and sassy (though still scabby).

With both cases, I have to give credit where credit is due.  Medicine only does so much, and these guys got intensive nursing care at home.  Their folks picked up the ball and ran with it once we got them started.

On the other hand, I have to admit that it makes me a little whacky to see these guys get critically ill when a simple check-up early on would have averted the problems.  Puppies should have their first check-up and de-worming at about 3 weeks of age.  Their second check-up and first vaccines at around six weeks of age.  If they aren’t doing well, DON’T WAIT THAT LONG.  This seems so simple. Maybe it’s too simple, and folks are looking for something more complicated.  Beats me.

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