What is a water puppy?
Here’s a hint: it has nothing to do with how much your pup loves playing in the water!
It’s actually a very serious condition that can deeply affect a newborn puppy, and something you need to know about if your dog is pregnant.
It’s not often talked about because it’s an uncomfortable thing to discuss.
I mean, nobody wants to think or talk about a potentially fatal condition that could harm brand new puppies.
But, if your dog’s about to give birth, this condition is something you need to know about just in case something goes wrong.
So please, read on and learn about this serious condition that is much more common than what you might expect.
What is a Water Puppy?
A water puppy is a puppy that is suffering from a condition medically known as anasarca. It’s most commonly seen in short-nosed breeds, like bulldogs, pugs and Boston terriers.
Other common names for the condition include walrus puppies (not to be confused with the designer mixed breed walrus dog), swimmer puppies, and rubber puppies.
The condition causes the puppy to come out incredibly deformed. In fact, water puppies are born 2 to 4 times the average size of regular puppies. This can cause a heap of problems.
Extreme water retention causes the deformity, and since that retention increases the pup’s size well beyond what is considered normal, it can be dangerous for mom, too.
These pups can actually get so large that they entirely block their mother’s birth canal, making it impossible for her to give birth naturally, not just to her water pup, but to the other healthy pups in the litter, too.
In other words, the mother’s going to need an emergency C-section to get all the puppies out.
And once you get the affected puppies out, most of them don’t make it. In many cases, they’re already stillborn.
Those who do survive can range from mildly to severely affected.
With all this mind, I’d think it’d be hard for a short-nosed dog breed owner to ignore the possibility of this becoming an issue for their dog.
Honestly, it’s nothing to take lightly as it can cause the mother extreme pain and distress.
And don’t forget about the puppies themselves. Once they become affiliated with this condition, they usually either end up dead or have some severe complications from it.
Due to this, it’s essential we go over the causes and try to avoid this condition from further affecting the dog community.
Causes of a Water Puppy
There isn’t much known about the cause of this condition; however, some vets have theorized the following factors could be the causing agents:
- Reaction of the dam’s body to sodium
- The inability of the dam’s body to process proteins
- Lymphatic system malfunction
Now, other theories have been completely ruled out, such as the mother drinking too much water being the issue.
The theories listed above do tend to make a little more sense, especially parvovirus and hyperthyroidism, given the impact these two conditions can have on a dog’s body.
With the causes out of the way, we should onto what I consider the most crucial part of this article: the section about what are the warning signs your dog might be giving birth to water puppies.
The Warning Signs that Water Puppies Might Be Coming
As with all conditions or illnesses, there are indicators that a subject has become affiliated. In the case of water puppies, these indicators are obviously going to appear in the mother during the birth process:
- Extra weight gain resulting from excessive fluid
- Water ring around the teats
- Swollen mammary glands
- Shifting of puppies from one side to another
- Leaking from the vulva
If the mother shows any of these symptoms, there’s a serious chance she might be carrying some water puppies in her expected litter. Contact your vet immediately and get an ultrasound.
The ultrasound will confirm whether or not your dog’s carrying a puppy with excessive water retention. Once you establish the diagnosis, you can then prepare for yourself based on the findings.
In my opinion, you should take your pregnant dog in about two weeks before you think they’re ready to give birth regardless of the situation.
This ultrasound will provide you with an indication about whether or not there’s something wrong or potentially dangerous happening with the pregnancy.
And this ultrasound does show water puppies are coming, the puppies born with the condition will most likely suffer from the following symptoms:
- Bloated or distorted features
- Rubber looking skin
- Flat chest with front legs splayed
- Swollen or distended abdomen, legs and or head
Even though, these water puppies do face incredibly long odds of surviving as most them die during the birth process or soon after: there is a treatment plan doctors put in place to combat against this condition.
Treatment Plan for Water Puppies
Unfortunately, most of the puppies affected by this condition will get recommended for euthanization. But for few that suffer from a mild form, the treatment plan will be something similar to the following:
- Elevating the puppy’s neck and extending it to clear the airway
- IV of Lasix, which is chemical furosemide. It will help with resorption of sodium after the birth.
- Puppy will be put into a warm environment such as on a warming blanket or chamber to regulate body temperature.
If it’s a mild case, after an hour inside the warm environment, the puppy should start breathing normally. Once they start breathing normally again, it should be smooth sailing from there.
In fact, some puppies do survive and grow on to lead normal, healthy lives. Pretty remarkable, I must say given all the horrible things that come with this affliction.
During my time volunteering at a recuse shelter, I saw a couple of these water puppies pull through, and they ended up living mostly uncomplicated lives.
However, most of the time, the water puppies we did encounter didn’t last more than 36 hours.
Now, there’s one area I’ve neglected to bring up so far throughout this article: preventative measures.
Preventative Measures to Limit the Chances of Your Dog Birthing a Water Puppy
The reason I waited to the end for this section is a straightforward one: none of these methods are proven to reduce the risk.
But, given the severity of the issue at hand, I thought it would be beneficial regardless.
After all, there’s nothing about adhering to these preventative that could end making your dog’s health worse.
So, with that in mind, why wouldn’t we try anything to avoid the hellish experience of birthing water puppies?
As a result, here are three things veterinarians theorize will help reduce the risk of your dog’s puppies being water puppies:
- Put your dog on a low-salt diet
- Avoid any potential trauma-inducing situations
- Administer autogenous minute virus vaccine if the minute virus is suspected.
I know, it doesn’t seem like a lot, but that’s all anyone in the veterinarians’ field has to offer on the subject right now.
At least, if it does happen to your dog’s puppies, you can now feel confident that you’ll be ready for this scenario after reading this article.
Have you ever birthed a water puppy? Please share your experiences below so that we can all learn from each other.