Letting Trouble Puppies Die? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-16-2013, 10:43 AM Thread Starter
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Letting Trouble Puppies Die?

If the dam is experienced, I'm wondering if there is a case for letting puppies that she knows just aren't thriving to die (or removing them to have them PTS). I know there are folks in the Tamaskan dog community in Europe who practice this regularly, as mom often knows more about her pups than we can tell. If it's a practice in the USA the breeders I know sure keep quiet about it.
I think new mothers cannot be counted on to identify a trouble puppy, as some accidentally exclude or crush their pups out of inexperience or even confusedly treat them as whiny squeaky toys. But a mother on her second or third litter is a bitch whose instincts I'd be more keen to trust. There's usually a reason that she persistently refuses to feed or removes a puppy from the whelping box, and I'm just wondering if our human desire to 'save them all' is really the best plan for them.

I have multiple threads about my dogs on here, but one in particular has been nothing but a medical headache since he was born. He would not nurse when whelped, mom kept leaving him at the cooler end of the box, he did not seek his littermates, and received sub-q fluids twice in the first three days. He picked up just fine after that and by week 7 was the largest in the litter, but I always harbored a reservation about that in the back of my mind. His breeder said it happens all the time and they just need some help sometimes, and I believed it and thought no more of it. I'm sure a lot of the time a fading puppy just needs a little boost and then is right back on track.

Since then, we've had issues. All the dogs and puppies at his breeder got hookworms and my boy had the worst complications. It took him longest to resolve the diarrhea and he was the only one who had lethargy problems. When he was 10 weeks old he developed a limp that continued till recently, and he was diagnosed with non-traveling pano that has now become full-limb pano in the past few days. As I type this he is curled in a ball in bed because all his legs hurt so bad. And he's an extremely stoic dog.
He cannot have Rimadyl or Vetprofen because when he was on pain management for his pano initially he developed a severe gastric complication (may not have been related to the medications, but to be safe he no longer takes them), in which his stomach flora succumbed to enterococcus, his gut shut down, and we had to open him up twice. He had four inches of dead intestine removed and had his pyloris cut after being hospitalized and not being able to digest food for over a week (constant vomiting).
Most recently and perhaps as a complication of his 'outbreak' of all-limb pano he has stopped eating and had uncurable diarrhea for five days. Despite sub-q fluids, pro-pectalin, probiotics, and metro his diarrhea has continued. His prostate is enlarged and mildly painful. He has diminished appetite, each day he refuses food more.
He's also had spotty hair loss around his mouth (checked for demodex even though both parents back at least three generations have no signs whatsoever, scrape was negative).

He is obviously not a breeding candidate, and I was going to rehome him with a family I know who has his sister and uncle, but I'm going to keep him as a pet instead. He 's just too complicated to pawn off on somebody else and I have an employee discount working at my vet so it's a lot easier for me to handle all this crap than whichever family he ends up with.

I love him and he's the sweetest boy I know, but I can't help but wonder if 'saving' him in the whelping box was the best choice. His mother has had litters before and she's a good mother. Continually excluding him may have been done for a very good reason. Maybe he has a systemic disorder that we just haven't diagnosed yet. Maybe he has an auto-immune disease. One more system problem and we'll have to find a specialist like Dr. House to see if there's a common thread that unites all his issues or if he really is just the unluckiest dog in the medical world.

Luckily, the pano will resolve some day. We'll see how his diarrhea goes; if we have to open him up again to re-cut his pyloris I might have to make a hard decision. I cannot have him put under every 4 months and cut open. That's too cruel and unnecessary. I hope it doesn't come to that. I'd hate to have to euthanize him for that. I'm just glad he was free; I've paid far more than his sale price would have been just to keep him alive. He's been by far the most complicated dog I've ever owned. One of my females has HD, but that was simple. Another female has had zero problems and I didn't realize how nice that was until I had this male to compare it to.

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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-16-2013, 10:54 AM
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I don't really have anything to add, but I am curious as to what others have to say. There was a puppy from Jackson's litter that was struggling to survive. He was about 1/3 he size of his littermates by 4 weeks old. The breeder helped him through, but even as he grew, he was constantly picked on and harassed by the litter- he rehomed the puppy early because he was being pushed so far by his littermates, he felt it would be better for his development to remove this puppy. I wonder how he is doing now. I really am curious and think about that puppy every so often.


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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-16-2013, 10:59 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah, I expect we'll see pretty polar views on this. When I first heard about letting pups die in the Tamaskan community I was shocked and thought them callous, in the same league as large litter culling like they used to do back in the day when they were just test breeding. But now I wonder if there's some merit to it, and I am really interested to see what folks think. I bet there's a big difference between the US and international inputs; we're a very different animal culture here, it seems.

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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-16-2013, 11:15 AM
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I am on a few breeder lists and forums with more breeders and it seems the general consensus is that the breeder will leave alone a puppy that the mother is rejecting and the pup is not thriving. Most say they will intervene if the pup is really trying to suckle but can't (maybe he is runty, the litter is very large, etc), but if the pup is not demonstrating a will to fight and the mother is not helping or continues to reject the puppy, it is often PTS or left alone, no heroic measures. I've heard a few stories of people trying to save problem puppies and either spent a lot of money and lost the puppy early on anyway, or as the pup grew it was apparent there was something majorly wrong. I guess you really have to know and trust the bitch though, not all are great mothers.

If there is something wrong with the mother, that's another thing. My first GSD was tube fed and went to a surrogate because the mother stopped producing milk. Not ideal, but not the pup's fault and not the same as being rejected by the mother.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-16-2013, 11:26 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Liesje View Post
If there is something wrong with the mother, that's another thing. My first GSD was tube fed and went to a surrogate because the mother stopped producing milk. Not ideal, but not the pup's fault and not the same as being rejected by the mother.
Absolutely. Mastitis, eclampsia, difficult recovery from c-section etc... all totally not the puppy's fault.

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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-16-2013, 03:00 PM
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I'm not a breeder and obviously I have no experience with this, but taking the situation that Liesje describes as a pure hypothetical, I think I'd remove an obviously failing/rejected puppy and have it PTS rather than letting it die slowly as a result of maternal neglect.

Just seems like once the decision is made, why drag it out, you know? Unless puppies die pretty quickly and painlessly in that situation (which I have absolutely no idea about), my only priority would be to reduce the little guy's suffering.

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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-17-2013, 02:27 PM
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Interesting concept, although knowing myself, I could not let them die, I'd intervene and hand raise if necessary. Not that it's better, I guess it would just be better for me and my guilty conscience

My aunt used to breed Siamese cats and I was cat-sitting for her and she had two litters of kittens.

The one day I went into the cattery and the one mamma cat was nursing all the kittens but one. This one was meowing at the door of the cage, was obviously trying to find mom who was chirping to it and it was responding but unable to find her. I picked it up and put it in with her and the other kittens and mom purred and little kitty was happy.

Next day I came by in the morning and I was shocked to find the mother cat had killed and decapitated the kitten.

They know when something isn't right. It was pretty awful for me to find, but my aunt said there was something wrong with it for her to do that. There were no other problems with her and her remaining kittens.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-17-2013, 04:24 PM
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The only experience I have is from conversations with Finn's breeder. Finn came from a large litter dropped by an experienced bitch. She refused to nurse two of the puppies and would move them to the other side of the whelping room and hide them under the hay and blankets. After a few days when it was obvious mum wasn't going to do anything and they weren't thriving under hand feeding, she had the pups PTS humanely.

The breeder said that, 9 times out of 10, if mum isn't taking care of the pups then they aren't going to survive or they will, but their quality of life would be poor. She told me the story of one of her first litters where she hand fed and took care of the "runt" of the liter that mum had given up on. The pup ended up having severe medical problems; couldn't walk right, was deaf, was epileptic and it wasn't controlled by meds...basically everything you can think of went wrong with that pup. She ended up having him PTS after about four months of doing everything she could.

I don't see anything wrong with it, personally. If it's not a bitch issue, but she is constantly rejecting the puppy while all the others are thriving and doing fine, then if I were a breeder, I'd take it as a sign of an issue and I'd probably humanely euthanize as well.

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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-17-2013, 06:01 PM
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I had a cat once. We rescued her from being dropped at the humane society. I was 14 years old. I'd had to have my last cat put to sleep because she was so sick there was just no coming back from it. I was devastated. My grandpa saw how hurt I was over the loss of my best friend. About 2 months later, we were heading to Walmart near the humane society. There was a beautiful calico kitten in the car next to us. My grandpa decided to follow them. Turns out they were taking her to the PPHS. They were so thrilled we were willing to take her.

About a year later, after getting outside, she had a litter of 4 kittens. The first kitten, perfectly fine. The second kitten, rejected. Third and fourth kittens, perfectly fine. When we inspected the second kitten, we saw why she's rejected him. Heart was outside the body. We could have taken the kitten to the vet and basically taken extreme measures that likely would have failed. Sugar had rejected the kitten. Even had the kitten been formed correctly/complete and she'd rejected him, we would have allowed the rejection because she would have known better than us.

If a pup is born that has a will to fight and is trying, I can understand helping. If not, it will only be a struggle for the handler AND the pup in question.

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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 06-17-2013, 06:18 PM
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It is easy to plan on passively culling the ones who don"t seem to be able to make it. That is...until you see them being born and realizing that they all were born with a desire to live. This happened to me while rescuing a pregnant mutt from the streets She was huge and I planned on not interfering after birth regarding this issue. Well, she birth 10 pups and five were small and weaker but I managed to keep them alive and grow up healthy by rotating them in nursing shifts.
Maybe it helped that the mother dog never rejected anyone of them. In that case it might have been different.
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