By comparison, our little bundle of Joi (on the right) with 2 of her brothers.
As previously explained on our “Rottweiler Reproduction” page, dogs are multiple ovulators, meaning they release many eggs at a time, up to 20!. A Female is receptive to breeding for anywhere from 3-7 days during her heat cycle. Each time she is bred during this time period, she has the potential to conceive, meaning when she gives birth, some of the pups can be a week or more behind in development than their siblings depending on when they were conceived. Sometimes the “runt” of the litter is simply a puppy that needs to catch up developmentally, and not a puppy genetically predisposed to be small.
Also with large litters, you expect the birth weight of the pups to be much lower (just as a human mom having one baby will have an average birth weight of 6-8 pounds, and a mom of triplets will have a birth weight of each baby significantly lower). So when Diamante had 10 pups, we were not alarmed when a couple of the pups were a little smaller. All were carefully monitored with weight checks and physical exams, and we began supplementing all the pups with a homemade milk re-placer to ensure a litter that large all had adequate nourishment.
We were very blessed with Diamante being such a wonderful mom, and with very healthy, eager pups. One little girl, however was born significantly smaller than her siblings (about half the weight of most her siblings) and over the course of the first 48 hours, we noticed that our little girl just did not wiggle as much as the rest or “dive” in every time mom laid down. When you are less than a pound, it does not take much loss to become life- threatening. I had dozed off on the couch for a about an hour (although between the week of around the clock monitoring before Diamante whelped her pup, and the constant supervision since birth, it truly felt as though I had only closed my eyes!) When I checked on the pups, my heart sank, mom was trying to stimulate our little female by licking her, but she lay motionless. We have seen puppies pass this way before. It is called “fading puppy” syndrome or “failure to thrive”, and it never stops breaking my heart. I immediately picked up the puppy and with joyous surprise realized she was still alive, but just.
We brought her in, put Kayro under her tongue to help raise her blood sugar, and began warming and stimulating her. I spent the next 24 hours tube feeding her, but she was just not getting better. I took her to Jeff (GR’s vet). He confirmed she was dehydrated and hypoglycemic. However, her abdomen was hard and distended. We gave her x-rays to ensure that everything was where it should be inside and he checked her heart and lungs. When he found nothing wrong, he proposed her digestive system was not working correctly. Her digestive system could have needed more time to develop, or she could have suffered this problem after birth if she had become separated from mom long enough to have a drop in her body temperature. Puppies cannot regulate their own body temperature until they are about 2 weeks old. If a pup has a drop in body temperature, the digestive system stalls and nothing moves. The pup must keep their temperature up or they are unable to digest. She could have gotten separated from mom long enough to have become hypodermic and for some reason when we warmed her back up, her digestive system did not re-boot. So we put her on drug therapy to stimulate her digestive system, and I continued to tube feed her. For nearly 4 days, she was unresponsive to most stimuli and did not have her righting reflex (an instinct to turn herself over when help upside down- absence of a righting reflex is often used to diagnose severe cases and typically means the puppy is on it’s way out.) This is Joi at 2 weeks in my husbands slipper-easily as small as a newborn puppy!!
It was touch and go for nearly two more weeks, but she was a fighter, and as long as she had a will to survive, I would not give up on her. She finally began nursing on her own at about 10 days. She is amazingly strong willed and so quickly won our hearts. My daughter, Liliana, knowing we were on our “J” litter insisted on calling her Joi (pronounced Joy) because of the great joy she has given us by blessing us with her presence. She is a very special puppy, and having been spoiled rotten by constant cuddling, is quite the snuggler. Most “breeders” have a “let nature take its course policy.” Even my vet has empathetically cautioned me on several occasions that a 20-40% loss of pups is expected as a breeder. This is not acceptable for me, and I will do everything in my power to improve those odds.
For those of you who already own one of my “success stories” (a pup I “should have given up on”) I am sure that you could never put a dollar sign on the love and affection you now receive daily. I have been reprimanded by other breeders several times for “putting way more time and money into a puppy than it’s worth.” I am not God to judge any living being’s worth, and I certainly do not base my decisions on money. I have time again invested thousands into a pup that I sold for hundreds, and more than that I invest sweat and tears. I believe that being is breeder is a great responsibility, and I owe it to this amazing breed to honor that. For those of you who do not know, some time back, tragedy struck my home. Parvo was tracked in. I had a litter on the ground, another on the way and an amazing litter that I had just imported from Europe . We felt so proud and privileged to get this amazing litter that was hand picked just for Guardian Rottweilers. Long story short, one by one, the parvo decimated all the litters. We tried everything humanly and medically possible from blood transfusions to experimental drugs, to the tune of over $30,000. Even if all would have survived, I would have never made that much on the sale of those pups, but I do not regret the extraordinary measures we took in our vain attempts as each and every one of those lives were precious. I do not deliver dollar signs, I deliver best friends-courageous guardians and loyal companions. I do not breed for the money. I do it for the love of this incredible breed as there is no other creature on earth more capable of the unconditional love offered without reservation or expectations by a Rottweiler. It is as close to the perfection of heaven as I have been privileged to experience.
Joi is now 2 years old and a very spoiled and loved member of her family! She is greatly missed here at Guardian Rottweilers, but we are so very glad that she is doing well. Joi is a special girl, and I am glad she has a family that realizes that.