We would like to share with you our recent experience with our first litter of Dogue de Bordeaux puppies. We have, thankfully, successfully bred and reared four litters of staffies with no major problems.
Our Dogue bitch Ella had been fit and healthy throughout her pregnancy and was due Friday 12th July 2002. On the Thursday I noticed she had been panting heavily although her temperature had not yet dropped. I thought it best to get her checked over by our local vet. On examination he was tempted to start her with Oxytocin but did not as due to her size was unable to feel whether her cervix was fully dilated, however he did say he thought she was on the way.
On the Friday lunchtime her temperature did drop and the usual nesting and panting began. When by Saturday lunch time (24 hours after temp. drop) she was showing no signs of contracting I called out our local vet. He said she was not in the First Stage of labour, which I am sure all of you breeders will agree temp. drop, nesting and heavy panting is the first stage, and merely gave her a diluted calcium injection as he thought she could be showing mild signs of Eclampsia.
Off he went leaving me with a very distressed bitch now getting very exhausted. Before leaving he told me to leave her alone to let her get on with it, something I would never do incase of complications.
At about 10.00pm I again called the vet out as there were still no signs of straining. He came out and this time said he thought there were "slight" signs my bitch was in labour and gave her a small injection of the much needed Oxytocin.
After about an hour and a half the first puppy was born. Puppies were born throughout the night in total a litter of nine. Though this may seem a large litter it is not for Bordeaux. From this litter of nine five were born dead. I managed to get four breathing again but sadly the little dog could not be saved. Out of this litter of nine many were born with no sack and no placenta attached. All signs my bitch had gone over her dates and should have been induced sooner.
Next day Ella was still exhausted. She was off her food and it was as much as I could do to get her to drink. Again I called out the vet. He gave her more Oxytocin to "clear her out" and checked the pups stating they were all fine.
On the Sunday lunch time I went out to the puppies, as I had been doing in half hourly intervals, and sadly a little bitch puppy was pushed away from the others. On checking her and trying to revive her she was dead, maybe with Ella being so tired and being so big she may have crushed the pup.
By tea time another little dog puppy had been pushed aside. He was still alive though very weak. Throughout the night I bottle fed him with Lactol at two hourly intervals and he seemed to be doing OK. Sadly by Monday morning he had taken a turn for the worse. I took him to the vets where he was put to sleep as he was loosing mucus and blood from his nose and mouth.
This was heartbreaking I had lost three puppies from this litter already. Having no confidence by now in my local vet I contacted Swanbridge Veterinary Hospital in Hull. One of their vets called to visit as I had noticed the pups not seeming to be gaining weight. When the vet came she told me Ella had stopped producing milk and ALL the remaining pups would need to be hand reared. This was devastating news as I know of the low survival rates and increased risks to hand reared pups. Ella was given anti-biotics and more oxytocin injections and we monitored her closely.
The puppies meantime were brought inside and kept nice and warm. They were bottle fed every two hours and helped go to the toilet. By the time I had finished feeding the last puppy it was time for the first pup to be fed again. They were doing really well and though dropping on my feet with tiredness it all seemed so worth it as it was saving these helpless little bundles.
Sadly at the age of two weeks my biggest bitch puppy refused to suck her bottle. She had also gone very floppy. I took her straight to our local vet, though not impressed with this vet this puppy need urgent treatment. When we got there he did not really give any explanation as to what it was just that it was an infection and I should commence tube feeding, which I did. I had never experienced fading puppy syndrome so was not aware of any of the signs from past experiences. Sadly this bitch seemed to get worse and worse. I took her back to the vet who gave her another anti-biotic injection and sent her home. The next day I took her along with the rest of the litter to Swanbridge to be checked over.
Whilst there I was given the sad news that she had got Fading Puppy Syndrome and had gone too far to even attempt to save. The kindest thing was to put her to sleep and out of her pain. I was told that FPS could be caused by viral infections such as E-Coli and Herpes virus. Anti-biotics will not cure the FPS just help prevent any secondary infections. As my puppies had not received their mothers milk they were even more at risk as they had NO anti-bodies to fight these awful infections.
On checking the litter the vet thought that the two dogs were showing early symptoms so they were kept there in isolation and given anti-biotics to support them. The only cure would be for them to fight the infections themselves. After a day they seemed to have picked up and came home. By which time another of the pups had shown the same signs. I took her straight to the vets but after a days fight she also needed to be put to sleep peacefully. By this time the two dogs had again took a turn for the worse and also had to go back in the vet hospital. As you can imagine we were absolutely devastated, these little pups we had become so attached to and worked so hard to save were now dropping one by one.
Another bitch then needed to go in as she also was showing signs. All this happened over a period of about four days, with lack of sleep it is hard to remember exactly.
I spoke to a vet at Swanbridge and asked for their honest opinion, was I going to loose them all? To my sorrow the reply was "There is a good chance as the anti-biotics are not killing the cause of this infection" My heart sank, did I give up now and save any further suffering and ask they all be put to sleep? I could not do that yet!
I came home and searched and searched the Internet. My search was for articles related to Fading Puppy Syndrome. It seemed to be every article I read gave the same sorry ending and confirmed what the vet had said anti-biotics could only support the puppy and help against secondary infections.
Then finally I read an article that mentioned something none of the others had "Plasma Transfusion" I read and read over this short article. I then phoned the vet where by now all four remaining puppies were. I told him what I had found. His reply was that it was done in horses but not known in dogs. The idea of this plasma transfusion preferably from a recently vaccinated dog was to actually inject anti-bodies into the puppy. This is what they desperately needed to fight these horrible cruel infections. Much discussion with the vet began. He could offer no guarantees it would work but what had I or the pups to loose as they would have died anyway.
Claude the puppies father had by chance received his booster vaccination the week previously. He was the ideal donor. Off I went to Swanbridge with him and explained to him he was his babies only hope, I am sure he understood!
On arrival Claude and I went to theatre. He let the vet take huge tubes of blood without any anaesthetic. I had to leave Claude there incase more blood was required. The blood was spun down using a centrifuge as only the white cells are required as they contain the anti-bodies.
Carefully, several mls. of this plasma were injected into the tiny little puppies legs. All we could do now was wait ..
In what seemed to be only a few hours the improvement was visible. They had the desire to suckle again, they had perked up and were crying for their food. They were moving around and nuzzling up to each other. The same day I brought the two bitches home. The two dogs needed to stay in to receive anti-biotics as an added support as they had developed pneumonia also a few days earlier. However, the next day they too came home. The vets were over the moon and so was I.
Whilst home until they were three weeks I tube fed them to prevent them inhaling any milk whilst sucking and making the pneumonia any worse. A course of anti-biotics was given to them all for extra support. Those anti-bodies had got straight to work and attacked those awful killer viruses.
My puppies were weaned at three weeks and were the easiest litter I have ever had to wean. They piled on the pounds and were behaving as any other puppy would. Play fighting, running around and of course messing everywhere!
Three of them have gone to wonderful homes and though not our original intention to keep one for ourselves we did, as after all that we had been through with them I could not let them all go!
I am so grateful to all the vets at Swanbridge firstly for all of their hard work and secondly for listening to my idea and being prepared to give it a shot.
On speaking to them they have said in a similar situation they would not hesitate doing a "Plasma Transfusion".
As for us, if ever we had a litter which received no mothers milk then even BEFORE any symptoms of FPS were shown we would get a plasma transfusion done to give those puppies at least some anti-bodies to fight infections. If ever we had a litter showing the first signs of FPS we would do the same. We would not give this horrible syndrome the chance to get to work on our puppies.
As far as I know this is the first time this has been done in this country as I called around several vets and like Swanbridge they had heard of it in horses but not dogs. I do understand it would need to be proven in hundreds of other cases to become a recognised cure but I am convinced. My litter was dying before me, nothing was saving them and they were really close to death. If it can save them then a puppy in the early stages of FPS would stand an even better chance.
I know I am writing this for all breed owners but FPS is the same in any breed and if my experience can help and prevent any of you going through the same heartache as we did then my time taken writing this article will have been well worthwhile.
If you are faced with this situation and need any further information, you are most welcome to contact us on 01652 660681.
Likewise if you are faced with this situation and your puppies do receive a Plasma Transfusion please let me know the outcome. As the vet said there are no guarantees, but if the pups are dying anyway what is there to lose?
and Phil Brannon
(RedRoar Dogue De Bordeaux and Castlestaff Staffordshire Bull Terriers)