She was so small that her big sister was a Beanie Baby. She’d been sold straight from a cardboard box in the parking lot of a Big Box store. Her owners were entranced from the moment her fluffy 1 ½ pound body hit their hands. The sellers were short on details like birthdates. We guessed her to be 2 months old? She was christened Missy, her basic exam checked out, and she had her first vaccination before they took her home.
The roller coaster ride had begun. Sadly, Missy had already been exposed to Parvo virus. Parvo is dreaded throughout our Valley, as we seem to see a lot of this viral disease in young, usually unvaccinated dogs. With no immunity, they fall ill, exhibiting extreme vomiting and a watery bloody diarrhea. The virus further attacks their body by dropping their white cell count, so they can’t fight off the infection. Many puppies die from the disease. Supportive therapy in-hospital with intravenous fluids and medication provide life support while their body recovers. It’s a puppy’s best chance to survive. Missy was sick so quickly we knew that she had been incubating the disease when she was brought in and the vaccine wouldn’t have had time to provide protection. (The vaccine itself does not cause the disease) Further complicating matters was her very small size. She had no body fat to speak of. Placing an intravenous catheter in her threadlike leg vein was a miracle. And like many tiny, tiny puppies she couldn’t keep her blood sugar up without constant eating – and Missy couldn’t keep anything down. If her blood glucose levels plummeted she might faint, seizure or even die. To counteract this, we added dextrose to her IV fluid drip. And then we worried about overloading her tiny body with fluids or we might flood her heart! We have an IV syringe pump that carefully meters each drop to these most extremely small of all patients.
Missy was a fighter. She gamely held on and after four days Missy turned around and successfully fought off parvo. Hurrah! But within days it became obvious that Missy’s body couldn’t regulate her blood sugar levels on it’s own. She would appear dazed and weak at home for no obvious reason. I had to explain that Missy couldn’t waste a mouthful on treats – many treats are high in sugar (check the labels for corn syrup, dextrose, sugar beets, etc) and just as with diabetics, it gives a quick sugar high and then just as quickly dips back down. The dangerous Sugar Rollercoaster. Don’t take that ride! Missy needed to eat dog food, with protein, fat, slow-release complex carbohydrates (carbs are the sugars in food) and the calcium, vitamins and minerals a growing puppy needs. For several days she had to be fed every two hours, including at least once during the night. We expected her to outgrow this…. but when?
Missy’s body did learn to self-regulate. She grew to over 4 pounds. She finished her series of puppy shots and had no further health set-backs. We set the date for her ovariohysterectomy /spay for 8 months of age, when I could reevaluate her teeth – tiny dogs often have delayed dental eruption (they are slow to lose their baby teeth) and if retained, the baby teeth will crowd the adult teeth, trapping food particles and eventually rot out both teeth! It is so much easier on the puppy to remove these excess baby teeth under the same anesthesia they undergo for their spay / neuter surgery. We schedule the surgery when the adult teeth have come in. The big day came. We checked Missy’s blood sugar before surgery. Normal. We checked her teeth – she had retained three deciduous canine (fang) teeth. We extracted them. Hurrah!
Monitors beeping calmly, we proceeded to spay Missy. She acted like a completely normal patient, recovering beautifully. Hurrah! Postoperative blood glucose tests were all normal. Another hurrah! I don’t know if her little feet ever touch the ground (spoiled by love), but in addition to all the other miracles, Missy is a superb outgoing doggie friend to everyone she meets. Hurrah!
Christine B. McFadden, DVM