Expect the Unexpected

If I was to write a book about bringing home a new puppy that would probably be the best title for it.  Or, “Take All Advice With A Grain Of Salt”.  But I’m getting ahead of myself – let me give you a little background before I get into our latest kerfuffle…

It seems that as soon as you have a puppy, or are thinking of getting a puppy, there is no shortage of advice being offered to you.  We were fortunate to receive some wonderful advice that helped us ease into Kona’s early days at home. 

We also quickly discovered that multiple sources means multiple opinions.  It can be difficult to know whose advice is best.  Early on when we were thinking of getting a dog we read the following concept, which we have tried to apply as best we can: 

“Take health advice from a vet, behaviour advice from trainer, and breed advice from a breeder.”

Given that mantra, we took the time to find a breeder, vet and trainer that we felt we could trust and rely on.  It has meant that when we were at our wits end on an issue (house training, digestive problems) we knew who to call and could trust in their advice.   And so far, that tactic has served us well.  Until now. 

One of the biggest decisions we needed to make about Kona’s health was when to get her spayed.  Vets encourage you to do it when the puppy is 6 months of age.  There are two reasons for this.  It helps control the animal population by making sure dogs are spayed / neutered before they are mature enough that an accidental litter could occur.  Second, for females there is a slightly higher risk of mammary (?) cancer if they go into heat before they are spayed. 

On the other hand, our breeder and a neighbour who also breeds labs both encouraged us to wait until Kona was at least 10 months of age.  Their argument is that this way the puppy develops enough hormones to develop female or male specific traits.  Otherwise you allegedly end up with an “it”, a dog that is neither male nor female and does not develop to be a true physical specimen of the purebred dog that you selected (smaller, lankier, etc).  Our breeder felt so strongly about this that she sent a letter to all the families that adopted her puppies when the litter reached 6 months of age. 

P and I debated this for a long time.  In the end, we decided that the only real risk to waiting was that we might have to deal with a dog in heat and she’d be at a very slightly higher risk of one type of cancer.  As our breeder also claimed that Kona’s mother, grandmother, and several generations back were all over a year old when they went into heat the first time, we thought it was a risk worth taking.  So we waited and scheduled Kona’s procedure for December 28th, 5 days after she reaches 10 months. 

Guess what? 

Somebody’s in heat.

P made the discovery when he came home from work Monday night.  We went straight to the internet – always the best source of information (note the heavy sarcasm) to find out what we were in for.  Some of the comments / cautions are fairly entertaining (I especially like the one here that describes a dog in heat trying to chew her way through a door to reach a male dog).  We’ve also heard tales of dogs barking outside of a house where a dog in heat was inside (and the bitch returning the barking), and of males jumping 6 ft high fences to get to the female in heat. 

The biggest issue is that we have to confine Kona to our property for 3 weeks – no dog park visits, daily walks, and an end to letting her unsupervised in our yard (apparently male dogs might try to break in or she might try and break out).  I’m really worried about the lack of walks –she’s going to go stir crazy in our house.  Since I rarely see other dogs on our 6am weekday morning jaunts, we may try and maintain them at least. 

I also called our vet and confirmed that we have to cancel the surgery – there’s a much higher risk of blood loss if they are in heat when they get spayed.  We have to wait until she’s no longer in heat (2-3 weeks from now) and then rebook the appointment. 

We’re very frustrated – this is not something we wanted to deal with and discovering it right before Christmas (and just 9 days before she was to get spayed) made it that much more annoying.  All in all though, it’s mostly an inconvenience.  The situation is completely manageable and hopefully in 6-8 weeks it’ll be like nothing ever happened.  On the plus side, she’s become a lot more affectionate.  Last night she curled up on top of my feet – something I’ve been hoping she would do ever since we brought her home!

Kona’s Health – Updated

It’s been a week and a half since Kona was diagnosed with her staph infection, and I thought I would share an update on how she is doing.  We are completing the second week of antibiotics, and are starting to wean her off of the steroids.  Hopefully her symptoms will not reappear / worsen and we won’t need another round of either one. 

The rash on her underside is all but gone, and the swelling of her vulva is gone.  The pustules on her face are slowly drying up or popping.  It looks like tiny hairs are starting to grow back on the top of her nose where the pustules were, so we are hopeful that she won’t have much scarring.  Only time will tell…

Her energy levels are back and then some.  She is on a lower dose of steroids, so the thirst and bladder issues have disappeared and we aren’t getting any middle of the night wake up calls.  Unfortunately, for the past 4 days she is uncooperative at bedtime.  Since Day 1 of her arrival she would fall asleep on her own between 9 and 9:30 and needed no coaxing to sleep in her crate.  Now, she is restless up until 9:45 or 10 pm and if crated before she settles she will commence a long barking session.  We are torn on how to respond, as we don’t want her to be rewarded for barking but we also don’t want the neighbours to complain about the noise.  For now, we are getting her to settle outside of the crate, and then getting her to move to the crate for the night.  P and I are getting a lot of reading done while we wait. 

On the plus side, her attentiveness and responsiveness to commands has stayed at the higher level for a solid week now.  Even with minor distractions, she will heel as soon as the command is given.  She is maintaining a high level of obedience on her walks which are increasing in length. 

We’ve also discovered that “first time illness” is covered in our pet insurance policy (something I will address in a future post), so we should get most of our vet costs back.  Also, the vet gave us a credit for the second visit (when we were misdiagnosed), which served to offset the cost of the emergency visit. 

All in all, we’re just happy to have a recovering puppy in our house.  Fingers crossed that we have beaten this thing.  And the bedtime issue may resolve itself on its own – we’ll probably have an entirely different puppy a week from now!

One final note – if you are curious about what Kona’s face looked like do a google search on “puppy strangles“.  This isn’t what she was diagnosed with (it occurs in puppies 2-4 months of age and she is 6 months), but the symptoms are identical.  You can also check out my original post that has a not-so clear picture of Kona 24 hours after diagnosis, before her symptoms hit their worst point (taken on my phone, so not the greatest quality).