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.
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.”