This was an unintended breeding; well actually it was intended but planned for 2016. Bette is only 18 months old and was having her first heat in September. Bolt was at Camelot because he had been to the RRCUS National Specialty in Utah September 6-10 and he stayed for two shows in Vallejo September 13-14 and two more in Yuba City September 20-21 (he earned his AKC championship at the Septenber 20 show). On September 18, as I was dressing after my shower I looked out the back window and there were Bolt and Bette, in flagrante delicto. Somehow they had managed to get together, even though we were trying to keep them separated. I took Bette to Bishop Ranch that day for a progesterone test. The result came back at 19.7, which indicated that she was well past the peak fertility period so we crossed our fingers and hoped that she wasn't actully pregnant. However, time would tell otherwise and it soon became clear that Bette was indeed pregnant. Following is a post and photo from my Facebook page on nov 6:
Confession. After 25 years as a breeder--more than 30 litters, I have finally experienced my first unintended breeding. Well, actually it WAS intended, but was planned for 2016. Two months ago Bette (Camelot's Devine Miss M) and Bolt (Ch Camelot's Jamaican Thunderbolt) snuck off behind the house, in the far corner of the back yard where it was private and I am sure very romantic. As a result, 18-month old Bette is due to deliver what appears to be a full-sized litter a week from tomorrow. Bette is a daughter of GCh Camelot's Salsa Roja and Au Ch Isilwane Powderfinger. Bolt is a son of Ch Isilwane Back to Camelot and GCh Koda's Coast to Coast. Since Bette' sire and Bolt's dam were litter mates, this is a line breeding on Leelu, Au BISS GCh Camelot's the Fifth Element.
Four of the five puppies appear to be potential show dogs and have already been placed. The fifth puppy is Bailey, a female who has a congenital megaesophagus. She requires special care and if she survives she will spend the rest of her life here at Camelot.
Although we expected Bette to whelp on nov 15 (a Saturday), she began to show signs of labor on Tuesday, nov 11. Sure enough, she delivered her first puppy on a dog bed in my office about 4 pm. She was actually sharing the bed, which was under one of the desks, with 4-week old Willow. We took her and the puppy back to the whelping box, which was set up in the master bath and she delivered the other four puppies there over the next 6 hours. The puppies were all large, ranging from 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds. They were vigorous and all nursed actively from the start. There were three females and two males. All have excellent show-quality ridges and there are no obvious faults such as kinks, excessive white or dermoids. They have strong, very handsome heads, as was expected since both their sire and their dam have very nice heads.
Following are some photos taken during the first two weeks.
We had visitors this afternoon--Stephanie and Truong Doan and sons Paul and Luke. The puppies weigh about 5±.25 pounds and are very easy to hold. They seem to like the attention and do not squeal and struggle as is sometimes the case with three-week old puppies.
The time came to move the puppies from the whelping box where they have spent the first 3 1/2 weeks of their life, to one of the kennel rooms. This 5x8 room is outfitted with a little crate, a cozy bed and a space heater. It has a rubber-flap dog door to an outdoor 5x30 gravel run but the puppies won't learn to use the dog door for a few more days.
In the last few days since the puppies began to eat softened puppy kibble from a community pan it became clear that one, the little girl we have named Bailey, has a problem. I had been a little concerned about her even the last few days in the whelping box as I was seeing milk aspirate from her nose after nursing. After the pups started eating from a pan I began so see that Bailey would occasionally regurgitate some of the kibble, they eat it right back up. This is a classic sign of megaesophagus, a condition in which the esophagus is distended and does not perform its usual job of propelling food from the throat into the stomach. The eating and swallowing functions work but the food just collects in the enlarged esophagus and falls back out through the mouth. This morning I took her to Bishop Ranch for a checkup by Dr. Liesl Peterson. Chest x-rays confirmed that she has megaesophagus, as I had expected. Dr. Peterson suggested that I take Bailey to the University of California at Davis Veterinary Teaching Hospital for a further examination.
I began to feed Bailey separately from the other puppies and instead of softened kibble, I ground the kibble in a Waring blender and mixed it with a milk formula made from goat milk, yoghurt, egg yolk, corn syrup and mayonaise. The thought was that this semisolid food would have a better chance of getting through the esophagus and into the stomach. After eating I put Bailey back in with the other puppies.
I spent the better part of the day at UC Davis with Bailey (shown here cuddled up with mom).
Our day here at UCD consists of a full battery of tests including ultrasound and full blood work up. This will provide some guidance on the chance Bailey can survive to adulthood. The people at Davis, mainly Dr. Moria Borys, performed a battery of tests on Bailey, including full-body ultrasound to determine if the megaesophagus might be caused by a constriction at eh point where the esophagus enters the stomach, a possible cause that might be corrected surgically. However, the conclusion was that Bailey's condition doesn't appear to be the "operable" kind. Occasionally puppies can regain some esophageal function by 6-12 months. So now it is just see if she can maintain her weight gain with special care--feeding a semi-solid diet in an erect posture. However, the ultrasound also showed that Bailey has rather small adrenal glands, although the veterinarians admitted that they don't really have enough experience with such young puppies to know the normal size of adrenal glands. They also did a full blood panel on Bailey and one of the findings was a low cortisol level (1.0 where the normal range is 1-6. This raised the possibility that her megaesophagus could possibly be due to impaired adrenal gland function. Dr. Borys recommended that we carry out an ACTH stimulation test. This is a test in which the dog is administered an injection of a hormone called ACTH and the blood cortisol level is determined after one hour. If the level does not increase under the influence of the hormone this would indicate a condition called Addison's Disease and this has previously been found to be a cause of megaesophagus (although rare). So I scheduled an appointment at Bishop Ranch the following Tuesday. Dr. Borys also assured me that a simple chest x-ray of the four apparently unaffected puppies would be sufficient to insure that they do not suffer from some mild and non-clinical version of megaesophagus.
I am trying a new protocol for feeding Bailey. Rather than the semi-solid gruel I am feeding her softened kibble like the other puppies and then I am holding her upright for 10-15 minutes. Then she hangs out with her mom. This seems to get enough food down that her weight gain is the same as the other puppies.
We had visitors; David Cherry and two of his friends came to visit the puppies. David is considering Babette and Barbie as possible future consorts for Buster, his hansome two-year old male.
I am feeding Bailey her food in a small bowl on a step-stool so the kibble has a better chance of finding it's way by gravity through her enlarged espohagus and into her stomach.
After each feeding I hold her upright for 10-15 minutes. During this time I read a book on my iPad, check my email, or check in on Facebook.
I took all five puppies to Bishop Ranch today. The four unaffected puppies, Bob, Bill, Babette and Barbie, were all x-rayed and given a full bill of health by Dr. Peterson. Because Bailey has a low resting cortisol level (1.0 microg/dl; reference range, 1-4 microg/dl), we did a resting cortisol level on Babette, who has the same weight as Bailey. Her level was found to be 0.5, so a low cortisol level seems to be normal for puppies of this age. In addition the ACTH stimulation test recommended by UCD was carried out and the result was definitive--Bailey does not have Addison's Disease so this is not the cause of her megaesophagus.
Theresa Bowermaster dropped by this afternoon and stacked the puppies while I took 1st audition photos. You can see them here.
The puppies had visitors today. Arya and Jackson Gillam, Bolt's human kids, came with their dad Matt to drop off Bolt and Coco. We are keeping them while the Gillams celebrate the holidays with Shawn's family in Portland. Also visiting were Gerlinde Staub and Bob Loose, who will be the new family of one of the boys, most likely the one we call Bob.
The pups have grown into pretty agile and independent little critters. I have lowered the rubber flap on the dog door connecting their little indoor room from the outdoor run and they quickly learned to negotiate it. They do almost all of their poops outdoors now but they still pee on the newspapers I line their kennel floor with. Here they are all lined up waiting for me to prepare their kibble meal. From left to right, Bill, Bob, Babette, Bailey and Barbie.
Three times a day Bailey eats from her elevated bowl and then I hold her for 15 minutes. The last few days have been a little hard for her. She has been regurgitating more lately and she is starting to lag behind the other puppies in weight. I think she is having another bout of aspiration pneumonia so I have resumed her liquid Clavamox twice a day. She does still spend most of her time with the other four puppies and participates fully in their play.
The clavamox did its job--after only three doses Bailey snapped out of her slump and began to be feisty again. Here is a little video of her eating breakfast from her elevated bowl.
Theresa helped me take the 2nd audition stack photos today.
We had several visitors this weekend. On Sunday Marcia Anderson came for a visit to see the puppies. Marcia will be taking Bill home with her in January. His new name will be Apollo and he is destined for a life in Cool, California. Marcia has had show Ridgebacks before and, in addition to being interested in conformation, she is very involved in agility and lure coursing, so Apollo will have an active life. While we were visiting I snapped this photo of Bailey and Bob napping in the warm afternoon sun.
Bailey is continuing to make progress. When I feed the puppies I put a common bowl down in the little kennel room for the four healthy puppies and then put Bailey's bowl on the raised stool. She usually stands with her front feet on the stool waiting for me to put her bowl down. She eats enthusiastically and then I pick her up and take her to the family room where she sits in my recliner next to me for 15 minutes. She has become quite adapted to this routine and usually falls asleep after about 5 minutes. Sometimes she struggles and then I know she needs to go outside to pee and poop. When she is finished she comes back to me to be picked up again. Yesterday morning, after eating her share of breakfast (about 1/2 cup of water-soaked kibble) she regurgitated about half before I could pick her up. I realized that she can't always handle that much food at one time, so I began cutting her ration in half. She gets the first half at the same time as the other puppies and the other half an hour or so later. This worked but I will have to experiment with the details because feeding her six times a day just isn't going to be practical. Bailey will be going with us to the Palm Springs shows this coming weekend and while we are on the trip I will try giving her four meals a day.
On Tuesday afternoon we headed south to the annual Palm Springs dog shows, which are traditionally the first weekend in January each year. This year the first show was the San Diego Rhodesian Ridgeback Club specialty on New Year's Day, followed by a Hound Club specialty and the two Palm Springs Kennel Club shows. We took six dogs plus Bailey and left the other four puppies and our six house dogs in the care of our friend Theresa Bowermaster. Here are a few Bailey photos from the trip.
Following posted on Facebook on January 3: She has had an awesome road trip. She is eating 2 full cups of water-soaked kibble each day, divided into 4 or 5 portions. She still eats from an elevated bowl. After eating she resists being held upright immediately so I let her run around for 5-10 minutes and then hold her. She has not regurgitated even a single kibble for the last three days. She is fully crate trained and sleeps through the night -- usually 7 hours. That alone is exceptional for a puppy not yet 8 weeks old. At this point I have little doubt she will make it, but only time will tell.
Following posted on Facebook on January 4: Bailey hunkered down in her crate for the drive home. After 3 days of no regurgitation she had a small setback this morning--probably because I fed a little too much for 'second breakfast'.
Today was graduation day for the first puppy. Gerlinde Staub came with her husband Bob Loose to take home Bob, whose name will be Camelot Love at Best Hundel's Quest (Eivin).
Theresa Bowermaster also visited and stacked the pups for their third and last audition. The photos may be seen here.