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Pediatric Puppy Leads Her Litter

By: Sacha Adorno Date: Mar 5, 2019
Limb issues are common in English and French bulldog puppies. Stock photo courtesy of Rawpixel.
Limb issues are common in English and French bulldog puppies. Stock photo courtesy of Rawpixel.

English Bulldog Missy recently gave birth to her first litter. All puppies were healthy except one, who had a potentially mobility-limiting limb deformation. In just a few weeks, the tiny little bulldog would be the first of the brood to walk.

“Missy came to Ryan Hospital for a planned caesarean section,” remembered Dr. Carol Margolis, Lecturer in Pediatrics, Medical Genetics and Reproduction, who also oversaw Missy’s breeding and pregnancy. “During the neonatal resuscitation and recovery physical exams we noted one of the six puppies had hind limb malformation. This type of deformation could be bone or musculature. Based on the exam, I had a high suspicion hers was muscular. The condition is not necessarily serious or cause for major concern.”

Margolis added that limb issues are common in English and French bulldog puppies. She sent Missy’s owner home with detailed instructions for helping the puppy develop a healthy leg.

“The most important thing with these cases is to incorporate early physical therapy that encourages muscles to form,” she said. “I had the puppy do baby versions of rehab exercises that are done with working dogs and such. Her twice a day routine started on her back, with her owner positioning her legs into a normal conformation and then moving them in bicycle peddling motion. She also had aqua therapy in a little tub of water.”

The owner’s due diligence paid off. The little dog was walking within three weeks, before any of her littermates.   

One, Plus Five More

At the same time Missy’s owner was providing physical therapy for the one teacup sized neonate, he had five other newborns and a recovering, nursing mom to consider. For weeks after Missy’s caesarean, the dogs’ at-home care plan included confining mom and neonates to a small, quiet, warm area; feeding Missy; observing the puppies to ensure they were milking enough and correctly; and weighing them on a gram scale to monitor proper weight gain. 

“Puppies are considered neonatal until two weeks after birth and pediatric until about a year,” said Margolis. “During the first year, especially the first months, there is a lot of attention required on the owner’s part to make sure the young dogs are developing. Consistent visits to the vet are important, as is following a recommended vaccination schedule that is specific to their maturing immune systems.”

Margolis suggests owners talk to their veterinarians about the appropriate vaccinations for their dogs’ size, breed, and lifestyle. She also recommends people visit the Canine Health Information Center’s OFA website to learn about breed specific health screenings, vaccination recommendations, and genetic health resources.

And...Don’t Forget

In addition to encouraging vaccinations and regular vet check-ins, Margolis gives her clients essential non-medical advice for their new family members: “Get your puppies micro-chipped and seriously consider health insurance,” she said. The latter, she explained, can go a long way in cutting costs that can mount while raising rambunctious pediatric dogs. As for the chip: “After all the work that goes into nurturing a dog, micro-chipping can bring added peace of mind for owners.”

Caring for a Neonatal and Pediatric Puppies

Below are common care guidelines for neonatal and pediatric dogs, as well as signs that something may be wrong. This content is not diagnostic or a substitute for medical advice. If your dog exhibits any of these clinical signs please contact your veterinarian or Ryan Hospital for an evaluation.

Puppy Care

  • Schedule check-ups with your veterinarian or Penn Vet
  • Follow a veterinarian prescribed vaccination schedule, including follow-up boosters  
  • Feed high quality puppy food at the recommended rate and portion once the puppy has weaned from its mother
  • Puppy-proof your home, putting cleaning supplies, small or chewable objects, and poisonous plants out of reach
  • Brush and groom regularly, checking for ticks and fleas
  • Speak to your veterinarian about breed-specific diseases and disorders, how you can help prevent them, and what clinical signs to watch for

What to Watch For

  • Weight gain (puppies should gain weight on a daily basis for the first few weeks)
  • Regular defecation and urination
  • Crying during or after eating
  • Diarrhea for more than 24 hours
  • Vomiting
  • Unusual tiredness or lethargy
  • Eye or nose discharge

For more information about caring for puppies, visit the American Kennel Club’s Puppy Health page.

About Penn Vet

Ranked among the top ten veterinary schools worldwide, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) is a global leader in veterinary education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the first veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, handling more than 34,600 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. The hospital handles more than 6,200 patient visits a year, while our Field Services have gone out on more than 5,500 farm service calls, treating some 18,700 patients at local farms. In addition, New Bolton Center’s campus includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.