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Mysterious illness strikes their puppies; the cause: contaminated bedding.

Man's best friend is the faithful dog. One of the most versatile breeds -- and, in our opinion, ideal for the homesteader -- is the English Springer Spaniel.

The Springer is an intelligent, fun-loving companion -- ever loyal to its family. They are friendly... but quick to become a "guard dog" should a stranger enter the yard (or knock on the door).

There are two types of Springers -- the "show" type and the "field bred" or hunting dog. I recommend the latter, particularly if you are interested in hunting. Most people are aware of the fact that the Springer is a "bird" dog, but they are excellent rabbit dogs as well. They flush the game and retrieve it for the hunter if they have been properly trained.

Even if you aren't the hunting type, their hunting abilities can be appreciated by just watching them work a field, playing catch with a Frisbee, or retrieving a ball. They love the water, and delight in retrieving sticks tossed into a creek or lake.

Springers are very intelligent. They are quick to learn, and are eager to please their people! They are also able to "sense" danger or 'special needs" of people. An example is our 10-year-old son, who is legally blind, and his three-year-old Springer, Buttons. Our property is heavily wooded. Our son, Dusty, with the help of Buttons, can safely take a walk through the woods. She never strays. Gently, she guides him between the trees, "nudging" him this way or that, to avoid the obstacles! She is a wonderful companion to Dusty, and naturally, he (and we) think the world of Buttons!

This past February we bred her to a male of equally fine temperament. On April 15th, she gave birth to a beautiful litter of six, healthy pups.

All seemed fine...until the pups were five days old. One male pup, "Oreo," began experiencing "explosive" diarrhea. Concerned, we consulted our vet. She thought it might be parasites, and gave us medication... and also puppy formula and a syringe to feed the little guy, since he had stopped nursing.

So, I fed him round the clock, a few drops at a time. By day nine, I was exhausted and at my wits end -- because now there were four afflicted pups. Little Oreo had not improved, in fact, he had become so weak that he could barely move.

We boxed up the pups and took them all to the vet's to see what could be done to stop this mysterious and devastating illness. Together, we explored the possibilities of what could be causing this sickness. Finally, our attention settled on the culprit ... their bedding! Unknowingly, we were killing these poor little pups!

The diagnosis was scours, a condition familiar to farmers who raise calves, but a "one in a million" occurrence, according to our vet, with puppies. The vet told us that apparently a farmer had spread scours contaminated manure on his straw field... and through the straw that we used as "clean" bedding in the whelping box, the pups contracted scours. (Until the pups were four days old, they weren't in contact wit the straw, as they were on old newspapers.)

The vet gave us some antibiotics for the pups, and we returned home to attempt a cure. By then, we had two very weak pups -- Oreo and Minnie Mouse, two newly sick pups -- Maggie and Goose and perhaps the most puzzling thing was that two pups, Capt. Hook and Indiana Jones, were totally unaffected! Immediately, we disposed of the contaminated straw, and thoroughly cleaned the whelping box. Next, we administered the medication to all of the sick pups - and began feeding the sick pups, all of which had stopped nursing, puppy formula every two hours.

That evening, Minnie Mouse died. The next day, Oreo died.

I felt like giving up, but instead, I stuck with it and fed Little Goose and Maggie as much warm milk as they would take every two hours. By day 12, Maggie had become strong enough to nurse on Buttons -- and that was when I realized that there was indeed hope.

I continued to feed Goose with a small, plastic, puppy bottle, but, it wasn't until day 16 that he began nursing on his mother again.

The puppies have fully recovered, with no adverse effects. In the future, we will use only clean paper bedding in the whelping box. We have even switched to cedar chips bedding for our outdoor dog houses. Scours is a devastating and deadly disease that, with simple precautions, is avoidable.
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Author:Baughan, Loretta
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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