Newborn Chihuahua Saga...Cleft Palate
(Mount Prospect, IL)
I Love My Sis
Well, our Chihuahua story continues...
As a recap: We bought a pair of breeding Chihuahuas last April, from what we gathered were their 3rd owners in their short 3 year life. We fell in love with them and wanted to give them a forever home, where they could be part of a family.
When they were shipped to us, Lexie was already pregnant. We had 2 pups die at birth and one to failure to thrive on day 11. We have our little terror, Cocoa, as sole survivor of the litter. She's a handful, but after all we've been through with the litter and her, we just couldn't bear to part with her.
So, as the saga continues, Lexie decided that we could use another challenge and had a silent heat. We were very careful to watch for signs and would make sure that Harley had his belly band on, once her cycle came. I'm sure you must be thinking that having Harley (Mr. Dad) around would have alerted us to the heat cycle, even if no outward signs were visible. Yes, that would have worked a charm, as Harley was indeed a restless little loverboy, if it weren't for the fact that my first Chi was in heat at coincidentally the same time. We were very careful with her and watched them like hawks. Turns out that we were watching the wrong pair and one thing led to another - and you can guess the result. Needless to say, we were very surprised.
So, now we find ourselves with yet another dilemma. Lexie gave birth to a little girl and a very plump and strapping boy, both of which I had to revive after they were born. Another little girl was born 8 hours after the second pup, but she must have been gone for a long time. She was born placenta first and you could tell that she had been dead for a good while. The placenta must have detached and there's obviously not much to be done about that.
So, we were presented with an adorable pair of sable colored pups. Our little girl was quite quick at figuring out her source of food and comfort. The little boy would have too, but for one little problem. He couldn't latch on. I noticed earlier while I was swinging him and stimulating him to breathe, that there was a thin line on the roof of his mouth. I had never seen this before, but nothing registered with me at the time. Not until he showed no signs of being able to suck or feed, did we take another look and do a lot of research and then took that info to our vet.
Our little boy has a cleft palate, which prevents him from sucking and with that, eating. Once we realized the problem, we immediately started tube feeding him. He had lost about 20% of his birth weight (4.3oz) and we needed to get him hydrated and fed. Luckily, he seems to feel the need to try and nurse, by which he gums the nipple and with that, is able to get small drops of mom's milk.
We've discussed all the pros and cons of trying to save this little guy, with our vet. She is very cautious in giving us any real hope of success, but that's her job. We idealistic puppy parents are always hoping for the best outcome. And this little guy seems to be a fighter, unlike our failure to thrive pup. He also loves to cuddle with his sis and they are often lying together with one of her paws draped over his shoulder. Too stinkin' cute!
So, we are now tube feeding every two hours. I'm about ready to just find a corner and pass out. LOL Lexie didn't have a baby, WE did. The pup pretty much has accepted his lot in life, and after the first week of really fighting his feeding tube, has now actually realized it as being his meal ticket. He can smell the milk and most times actually "sucks" the tube down. He is very strong and squirms unbelievably in his excitement, which makes it a two person job. He has reached 8 oz exactly and with that has almost doubled his birth weight in 12 days. His sister is 12 oz! She's almost quadrupled her 3.4 oz birth weight in the same time. She looks like a baby hippo, not a baby Chihuahua.
We are still second guessing ourselves every day, but when we see him, we just couldn't have him put to sleep. He was having two episodes of gagging today, but all is well again. But things like this make us worry like crazy. We are extremely vigilant in trying to avoid any regurgitation or any liquid aspiration to in turn, avoid the pneumonia of doom. But, we are also especially optimistic after seeing some success stories on line. One little Chi had a GI tube for feeding. I think she was about 4 weeks old when they did that surgery. This was just a stop gap until she gets big and strong enough for her palate repair.
Do you know of anybody with any success with this type of situation? He just wants to fight and survive. We want to make it happen. His little eyes are opening already and it's like he's eager to see the world around him. "Big" sis is perfectly happy to just keep her eyes locked shut as long as she can nurse. LOL
We are looking for some positive input (we know all the negative, so we're hoping nobody feels the need to put us down) and advice to make sure this little man gets a fighting chance. We haven't even contemplated the financial burden of surgeries or long-term care, but if we're discussing that, then we've succeeded to get him to the next level. That's our ultimate goal. :)
Well, you certainly do have your hands full now don't you! Those puppies are just adorable, and I know exactly how you feel about giving this little guy a fighting chance.
You are doing an amazing job with him, preventing pneumonia in this sort of situation is a huge challenge - one that you've risen to. Congratulations!
I don't have any personal experience with palate repair in puppies as I don't own the breeds that tend to suffer from these difficulties myself.
However I do know that there are surgeries that can fix cleft palate problems providing they're not very severe. As your guy doesn't have any obvious external signs of his problem, and is tube feeding and thriving, I would imagine that there is real hope for him.
Of course the financial cost will probably be considerable, but you may be lucky enough to have a vet who will allow you to use some sort of payment plan etc. I will say a little prayer for your puppy (and you too!) and I really hope that he continues to thrive.
If anyone reading this has experience of dealing with cleft palate problems, in any breed, please feel free to jump in her and give Natalie the benefit of your advice and experience. Just use the 'comments' form below to do this.
Natalie - you may want to check with an online veterinarian to get a second opinion, or some general overview of your situation. Although, your vet is in the best position to advise you and to suggest procedure and prognosis.
If you do want to try and get another 'professional' input, you can contact an online vet on my Ask A Vet page. It usually only costs $12 - $15 to get an accurate, professional opinion.
I wish you the very best of luck with your puppies, and am glad to hear that Coco is still her feisty little self. Keep us posted with your progress... you could even build a PupSpace Profile for Coco so that we can keep up with her lol