Separating Littermates

...Plus, more on supplements and EIC.

(Question) My wife and I have just gotten two Elhew pointer puppies from the same litter (eight weeks old today). We picked them up last Monday. I have two questions that I know I have seen answers to already, so if you just redirect me to the article I will be happy to do a little homework on my own.


The first question really doesn't pertain to these pups because their mother was very ill after she had them and they lost their littermates, but when do you think is the "right" time to separate them from the litter? I seem to remember 10 weeks, but could you confirm?

Second question and the more important one is whether and when the two of them should be separated from each other. One is male and the other female. Both look to be very healthy and alert. The male is about 15 to 20 percent larger than his sister, although she is the more dominant. Maybe the real question is do they need to be separated? --DC


(Answer) Although some of my fellow Gun Dog contributors disagree, I've always used 49 days as the optimum time to take pups from the litter. The basis for this seems to be that they need a two- to three-week post-weaning period to learn how to get along in the world of dogs.


Nine to 12 weeks of age is a period in the pup's life when he may display anxiety or fear of new objects, people and situations. This is not a time to fly pups or involve them in serious training sessions. This is a time to bond with the new pup and teach him that you are the good person in his life.

I wouldn't try to separate littermate pups if your intent is to keep both and have them as part of your lives. All of the two-legged dogs in your pack will need to demonstrate to the pups that humans dominate dogs.

Then the two pups will have to work out who is the dominant one in their relationship. I suspect that has already happened.

I recently got another pup myself, so I have a great deal of empathy for where you are with your two new housemates. My pup is a German shorthair out of local stock on the sire's side and field trial background on the dam's side. She is now 17 weeks old and a very nice little dog.

She has some special issues in that she was from a C-section litter that my technician hand raised. Her people-bonding is great but she has had to learn some dog social skills. The first time she met my pointer, she got four low warning growls and when that didn't work the pointer left a mark on the pup's nose. Now when the pup goes out in the yard she looks around to see if that "big white dog" is around.

Enough about my pup for now. I'll write more in future columns, as I'm just amazed at the way they grow and learn. I'm excited about my new dog just as I'm sure you are about yours.

(Question) I bought my Brittany when she was about six months old from a dedicated breeder in the Northern New England Brittany Club. When I got her she was already housebroken. As she got older she started to have incontinence problems, but only when she was sleeping.

My vet put her on Phenylpropanalamine, 25mg. twice per day. This works great as long as we keep up with the dosages. The last time I went in to refill the prescription I was told by one of the aides that that drug in tablet form would no longer be available.

I know they have chewables but my dog will not eat them. Any ideas were I can get the tablets, or is there an alternative? She has been on this medicine for seven or eight years. She is currently 10 years old, and was neutered at about nine months. Thanks. --TA

(Answer) I'm surprised your dog won't eat the chewables. We use a phenalpropanolamine product with the trade name Proin and have had no problem with dogs not eating it. It is a semi-moist chunk and could be broken up and mixed with liverwurst.

Another thing you might try is to have your veterinarian check with some of the veterinary compounding pharmacies and see if they can compound the drug in a flavor your dog likes or just put the raw drug in a capsule form that you can give her by mouth.

(Question) In a recent column you suggested boosting dogs in the field by giving them honey or syrup from squeeze bottles. How much should they be given when you do this?

You also stated you use a burger type product as well. You might not have been able to state the name due to advertisement reasons. Could you tell me the name of the product and where to get it?

There was also a product that has been advertised lately that looks like a beef stick or beef jerky; have you heard of this item? Last year during hunting season I would give my English setter little pieces of venison bologna during our breaks; is this okay? --RO

(Answer) I had to go to the kitchen to answer parts of this question but it was worth it. Honey is just carbohydrate. No fat, no protein. Also no salt but that is not relevant to this discussion.

Our brand of Sioux Bee spun honey has a label claim that one tablespoon will supply six percent of a person's daily carbohydrate needs. If we make a rather unscientific comparison, that means we could give our dogs about 25 percent of their daily carbohydrates in a big tablespoon of honey.

Another factor is that nutrients must be digested, absorbed from the gut and converted to simple compounds that can be transported across the cell membrane and into the cell for its use. The sugars in honey are ready to go almost immediately.

This factor has an up side and a down side. Such supplementation does offer fast relief from hypoglycemia but the sugars are rapidly used up and don't last long in the bloodstream. For that reason I like to include something with protein and fat in it.

In your case you are using venison bologna. Good quality dog foods also provide these needed fats and proteins. As an additional treat I used a Purina product called Butcher's Burger. It is easily carried in a game vest and the dogs like its flavor. This product contains 18 percent protein, seven percent fat and 33 percent moisture. This analysis might be similar to your venison bologna.

Another product I received a sample of was the XtremeFuel Booster Bar. This product contains 11 percent protein, six percent fat and 32 percent moisture, and it comes in a nice resealable bag.

I hope this information helps. Remember, water is still the most important nutrient for a hunting dog!

(Comment) You were thoughtful enough about six years ago to publish my letter about my 15-month-old Lab, who collapsed and died of suspected EIC [exercise-induced collapse].

The attached is from a friend of mine at the University of Minnesota. See the second item in UNEWS about their research findings of EIC. I am sure your Gun Dog readers will be well-served. --AH

(Answer) Thanks for the reference article. I'm sure every Lab owner will appreciate the information contained in it. I got to it by going to www1.umn.edu/news/ then from the left column selecting Features, then at the bottom of the Features page select More Feature Stories, then scroll down to "Vet School finds gene for exercise-induced collapse."

Here are some things I extracted from the article: Until recently there was no test for EIC, and while veterinarians, Labrador retriever breeders, and owners of field trial dogs suspected the syndrome was becoming more common, no one knew just how prevalent it had become.

A recent discovery at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine has changed that. Genetic researchers have pinpointed the mutant gene that causes EIC. The findings have vast implications, not only for the Labrador retriever population, but also for molecular research in both veterinary and human medicine.

"EIC involves a mutation in a gene critically involved in the communication between nerves within the central nervous system. Communication between neurons occurs at synaptic junctions," says James R. Mickelson, professor of veterinary biosciences at the University of Minnesota and one of the lead researchers.

"This synaptic communication requires structures called 'synaptic vesicles' to contain necessary neurotransmitters. The gene involved with EIC is responsible for making new synaptic vesicles and enabling nerve communication to continue. A naturally occurring mutation in this gene has not been identified (in any mammal, including humans) until now."

Not only did the researchers identify the gene involved in EIC, they also developed and submitted a patent application for a genetic test that can identify affected dogs and carriers of the disease. The $65 test is available exclusively through the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

The group's estimate is that 3 to 5 percent of all Labrador retrievers are affected and carry two copies of the mutant dynamin 1 gene. Another 30 percent are carriers with just one bad gene.

This is very good news for the dog world--not just the fact that these researchers have found this gene and a test for it, but that they now have the tools to investigate the genome, find defects in it and then do something about the defect.

I remain at htholcombdvm@qwest.net, playing with my GSP pup and awaiting your question.

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