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THE DANGERS OF KENNEL COUGH IN PUPPIES

Having had a very successful litter of puppies from Daisy in the winter of 2006, I decided to put her in pup again with the hope of breeding a show pup for myself. After an uneventful pregnancy, Daisy began whelping in the early hours of the 14th of July. The first puppy arrived at a quarter to five in the morning, and four more followed over the course of twelve hours. However, as the fifth puppy was born it became evident that Daisy had become exhausted and was struggling to continue. As we were sure there were still several puppies yet to arrive, we whisked her off to the vets. Initially they gave her oxytocin with the hope that she may deliver the rest of the puppies herself, but after half an hour it became obvious that she would need a caesarean. I waited anxiously at home for news for what seemed hours. Much to my relief my vet (Hugh of Wolgar Veterinary Group) later rang to say that the caesarean had gone well, and that Daisy was recovering with her eleven puppies. It was evident from the caesarean that Daisy was unable to continue with the birth because a puppy had become lodged in the birthing tract. Unfortunately this puppy did not survive, but I was so relieved that Daisy had made it through the operation and was recovering well with the puppies.

I picked Daisy and the puppies up from my vets at 10pm that night. Hugh warned me that the operation may cause her milk to dry up, and so it would be necessary to supplement the puppies with bottle-feeds. As we were expecting there to be a large number of puppies I was prepared to bottle-feed them in case Daisy could not provide enough milk for them all. After weighing each of the puppies and giving them a feed I settled down beside their box, ready to get up every two hours to feed them throughout the night.

The following few days were fraught with problems. No matter what I offered her, Daisy refused to eat and drink and as a result became very weak. She also continued to lose a blood-stained mucous discharge and had become very ill. I took her back to the vets who found that she had an infection following the caesarean and they admitted her for treatment. I was warned that if the infection did not improve it would be necessary to spay her, although if she did not gain some strength she would not survive another operation. I was devastated at this news, and was desperately hoping that she would respond to treatment. In addition to Daisy’s problems, my show bitch Madison had begun to cough quite severely. Little did I know that worse news was yet to come.

After visiting my vets it was confirmed that Madison had caught kennel cough. I realised the seriousness immediately, and although the other dogs had all been separated from Daisy and the puppies, Madison went to stay at a relatives as a precaution. I desperately hoped enough had been done to prevent the other dogs and the puppies from catching it. Meanwhile, Daisy had shown significant improvement and was allowed to return home. With gentle persuasion she began eating and drinking, and as long as she continued to get better it would not be necessary to spay her at this time.

The puppies at this point were mostly thriving, with all but one putting on weight. This one particular puppy, Gracie, started off as well as the others but seemed to gradually deteriorate over a few days. She got so bad that she was completely floppy and uninteresting in food. She was also really struggling to breathe at some points and was very lethargic. As a last attempt at saving her I gave her a glucose and water mixture, and this seemed to make her a little better. However, as soon as she went back onto the formula milk she deteriorated again, leading me to believe that she had some sort of intolerance to it. I made sure that she was the first to feed from Daisy, but she had limited milk herself. Gracie had several episodes of deteriorating and then making some recovery, but eventually died two weeks after they were born. I was absolutely heartbroken to have lost Gracie after such a struggle to save her, but thankful that the other puppies seemed to be doing well.

During this time the kennel cough had spread to Ebony, my Rottweiler bitch. She was immediately put on antibiotics, and I hoped that having already isolated the puppies from the other dogs there may be a chance they would not catch it. As there was a possibility that Gracie may have had kennel cough, my vet decided to put all of the puppies on antibiotics as a precaution.

Shortly after Gracie died another puppy showed signs of being unwell. Harry deteriorated very rapidly, with symptoms of extreme difficulty breathing and weight loss. Fortunately, my vet was visiting to drop off more antibiotics for the puppies, and so I asked him to examine Harry when he arrived. The vet decided to take him straight back to the surgery where they placed him in an oxygen tent and put him on different antibiotics. Harry spent the night at the vets receiving treatment, but unfortunately it was not enough to save him. Early the next morning Harry was put to sleep. Of course I was devastated again, especially as it had all happened so quickly. On discussion with my vets it was decided that a post mortem examination would be beneficial, as perhaps it would shed some light on the cause of their decline. In fact, all that was revealed from the post mortem was that Harry was only able to breathe with a fifth of his lung capacity, due to infection.

Almost immediately after Harry died, another puppy began to deteriorate. Tia’s symptoms were much the same, and at this point I realised that the puppies had caught kennel cough. My vets had warned me that should they catch it, the puppies would likely die one-by-one as they were too young to fight the infection. I was heartbroken, but determined not to give up yet, although I knew that I was doing everything possible already.

Throughout the entire process I had been regularly talking to Sandra and Margaret of Barrenger Bassets, as they are both good friends of mine and provided the sire to the puppies. They had been so supportive during all the problems I had encountered following the puppies birth, offering advice whenever I needed it. I rang them to confirm that the puppies had caught kennel cough, and after we had spoke they set about researching any possible treatments that we could try. Later that evening I received an email from them containing and article they had found on the treatment of fading puppy syndrome. The article itself described how a blood plasma transfusion was given to the puppies with fading puppy syndrome, which appeared to save them.

Having read the article I immediately rang my vet and asked if there was any possibility that this may be able to treat my puppies. Hugh (my vet) requested that I send him the article and said that he would be in touch in the morning. He rang early the next morning and made it clear that there were no guarantee that it would work, but he was willing to try it. As Ebony has recovered from her bout of kennel cough, we decided she would be the perfect blood donor. I took her to the vets that morning, where they took a pint of her blood. Having acquired the necessary equipment, the vets proceeded to separate the blood plasma, a process taking several hours. They said that as soon as it was ready they would ring so that the ill puppy could be treated.

That afternoon I returned to the vets with Tia. Again they warned that the plasma may not work, but as we had nothing to lose we had to try. In addition, Hugh said that giving Tia the injection may cause her to go into anaphylactic shock, and as such she may die as a result. However, I knew that the plasma was our only chance of saving her now, so decided that the risk was worth taking. Hugh injected two millilitres of plasma into Tia, who fortunately did not go into shock. I took her home and continued to watch her closely, eager for any signs of improvement. After several hours Tia did seem to improve, but it was not to last. Her breathing deteriorated and it was necessary to put her on oxygen via a portable tank that my vets had lent me for use at home. The following day she showed no improvement and was struggling to breathe, so I made the decision to have her put to sleep to end her suffering. I was distraught at having lost another puppy, especially having tried everything possible to save her. Hugh suggested that perhaps the plasma had been too late for her, and that it may still save the others. At this point another two puppies were beginning to decline, so I took all of them to the vets to be injected. Hugh gave each one two millilitres of plasma and advised me to set up a large tent at home over their box, which I did as soon as I got home. I also placed a bowl of steaming water with a few drops of Olbas Oil in the tent in the hope that it would help breakdown the mucous on their chests. He also advised that it would be beneficial to keep the puppies moving as much as possible, as this would help clear their lungs.

As the days progressed it became clear that all of the puppies were full of the infection. Each of them had coughs and snotty noses, and had mucous in their faeces. However, encouraging them to move did help clear their chests. I also used decongestants such as Olbas, eucalyptus and peppermint oil in a vaporizer to help clear their chests, I continued with this treatment over several days, and to my relief the puppies seemed to respond. The ones that had begun to deteriorate were recovering, and no more had shown any decline. As you can imagine I was so relieved and overjoyed that I would not lose anymore.

Since then the puppies have gone from strength to strength, and are now gorgeous bundles of trouble. I have been in contact with my vet, who shares my delight in their recovery, and said that once they get over the kennel cough they will go on to be strong and healthy dogs, and not be affected by it later in life which is a great relief. I was devastated to lose three, but so pleased that we managed to treat the rest before I lost them all. Kennel cough in grown dogs is treatable and not life threatening, but to young puppies and very old dogs it is a fatal infection.

Should you find yourself faced with this horrendous situation or fading puppy syndrome if might benefit your litter to consider this course of treatment.  I, for one, cant thank my veterinary practice enough for everyting they did, which really was above and beyond......without them I have no doubt I would of lost the whole litter......

 Tia having oxygen to help her breathe.

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