Ebony’s Story – Neospora

Ebony’s story details the journey of producing a litter of puppies knowing she is positive to Neospora caninum. Taking a litter from her broadens my breeding program and this has been done with careful planning on veterinary advice. Neospora caninum is a coccidian parasite that was identified as a species in 1988. Prior to this, it was misclassified as Toxoplasma gondii due to structural similarities. I understand that the general advice is NOT TO BREED when you know that the bitch has tested positive for Neospora. However, rather than everything going back to Ruby, I want it to go back to Disco (who is a better dog).

September 2, 2020 Questions from the Breeder and Vet responses in blue
I’m trying to get my head around the risks if I breed Ebony knowing she has a positive titre to Neospora. Like everything else it seems the answer to any question just raises another question. I’d appreciate it if you could answer the following questions and supply any other advice that I may not of thought of.

  1. Risk to the bitch, Ebony. Is any pregnancy likely to suppress her immune system and allow the Neospora to actually affect her? This would be extremely unlikely.
  2. Ebony’s titre was 1:1024 and Choice’s titre was 1:256. Choice produced 10 puppies and only one was affected. Would Ebony produce 4 times as many because her titre is 4 times higher, ie would you expect 4 affected puppies in a litter of 10? No the titre does not measure a level of infection only the presence of anti neospora antibodies.
  3. Is there any difference in how the litter is conceived or delivered?
    a.       by that I mean a natural mating or AI with frozen semen.
    b.       normal delivery or a C-Section. 
    No difference for either
  4. Should Ebony be medicated at any time?
    a.       Before the mating
    b.       During pregnancy.
    c.       Whilst lactating

    We had a case of an infected bitch who had a litter of affected pups with some abortion. In her next pregnancy she was treated with clindamycin and whelped normal healthy pups. I would advise we do that.
  5. Should the puppies be medicated at any time?
    a.      By treating Ebony, therefore treating the puppies through their milk

    b.      Only puppies affected given drugs asap on any showing clinical signs
    c.      How young can they be medicated? No
  6. Although it went un-noticed Oscar’s clinical signs were evident at 6 weeks, possibly a bit earlier. How early are any symptoms of an affected puppy likely to show? 4-6 weeks
  7. You have mentioned that some puppies may have to be euthanased. I was questioning Oscar’s viability when he was 3-4 months old. I know that early monitoring and watching for any signs of neuro deficiencies as early as 3-4 weeks is important. Would you expect affected puppies to have more severe clinical signs, or any signs earlier than 3 weeks? That is possible
  8. Oscar’s clinical signs were the paralysis of his hind leg/s. Are there other signs, if so, what are they? Sometimes there is signs indicating the brain is affected
  9. Testing can be done at any time, whenever confident bleeding them. There are some maternal antibodies but usually the positive shine and then retesting week 10-12 as the maternal antibodies have usually faded. Should the whole litter be tested twice, regardless of clinical signs or previous results? Not all affected pups will test positive at 6 weeks
  10. Would the whole litter have to stay with me until at least 12 weeks
    a.       regardless of clinical signs? Yes
    b.       Unaffected puppies can go to their new homes, with owners knowing a retest will be required? Maybe
  11. Would the university be interested in continuing the study and paying for the testing or would it be my expense? Do not know I can ask

September 3, 2020 Questions from the Breeder and Vet responses in blue
After our chat yesterday, I feel comfortable going ahead. I have had a lot of people enquiring about puppies and have told them I’ll keep them in the loop as nature takes its course. I believe that they should be made aware of the situation and will either walk away or be prepared to wait and see. I’m not fussed about finding homes, as such, because I’m sure it won’t be an issue when they are 12 weeks old, I just don’t want to give anybody false hope. What I’ve written below is my way of getting my head around it and the sort of thing I would send to those I’ve told I’ll keep in the loop. I’d would appreciate your thoughts. I may have something wrong or omitted.

Ebony has come into season but there are complications with this girl. She is positive for the Neospora parasite. This means that it is recommended by vets and experts in the field that she should NOT BE BRED. However, as she is very important to the breeding program at Kuven Labrador Retrievers, there is a plan to minimize the chance of having affected puppies.

What this means is that Ebony will be treated with a drug called Clindamycin through the pregnancy. We will start at day 21 post fertilisation and use clindamycin at 11 mg / kg twice daily

When/if the puppies are born they will be closely monitored for any clinical signs of Neospora. These signs may present from 3-4 weeks until 12 weeks of age. They are usually weakness of the hind limb/s or it may affect their brain. Sadly, any puppies that show clinical signs will have to be euthanased.

During the raising of the litter, the puppies will have blood taken to test for Neospora. But because they are carrying their mother’s antibodies there will be no clear picture from the blood tests until they are 12 weeks of age. They will need to be re-tested at 20 weeks when they are no longer influenced from their mother’s antibodies.

To the best of our knowledge this is correct. The 20 week test will be important moving forward with the female pups that may be used for breeding.

As a result of the above, none of the puppies will be able to go to their new homes until they are 12 weeks old and they will still require another blood test at 20 weeks. If they went to their new home at 8 weeks as normal, their new owners would bond with them and it would be absolutely heartbreaking to have to have them put down, should clinical signs develop. I do not want to put any new owner through that.

When the puppies are 12 weeks old and have shown no clinical signs, it is highly unlikely that they will be affected and can live a normal happy life. A puppy that tests positive at this point, will be considered asymptomatic and also live a normal happy life, just like Ebony, but any females should not be bred. Affected male pups however can be used to breed with as mating does not spread the disease.

Worst case scenario is you get some male pups to use at stud in your breeding program. Best case is some unaffected females. We do not want her on any medication for the first 2.5 -3 weeks as this is when the foetus is developing and implantation to the uterus does not occur until then. We will require a 3 -4 week ultrasound to confirm pregnancy.

September 6, 2020 Questions from the Breeder and Vet responses in blue
I have been thinking long and hard…….
Ebony is expected to be ready for mating around next weekend. Her progesterone was 0.7 of Friday and she is booked in for another progesterone test Tuesday.

There are a few possible outcomes. I am not concerned re mating Ebony and the subsequent treatment with clindamycin. Following an Ebony litter through would provide valuable information as well as allowing you to continue your lines. There seems to be a high demand for pups at the moment and so I do not think there is any issues with oversupply. The more pups you have to select your next breeding line from the better.

Ebony’s timeline below
Monday, 31 August 2020   Season started
Friday, 4 September 2020 0.7 Progesterone test
Tuesday, 8 September 2020 0.9 Progesterone test
Thursday, 10 September 2020 2.9 Progesterone test
Saturday, 12 September 2020 8.6 Progesterone test
Sunday, 13 September 2020 20 minute tie Natural Mating
Monday, 14 September 2020 40.1 Progesterone test
Monday, 14 September 2020 20 minute tie Natural Mating
Wednesday, 16 September 2020 25 minute tie Natural Mating
Tuesday, 6 October 2020 Ultrasound
confirmed pregnancy
Started Clindamycin
(23 days since 1st mating)
Monday, 19 October 20 Ultrasound Started Raspberry Leaf
Thursday, 12 November 2020 Expecting her to whelp  
Sunday, 15 November 2020 Due date 63 days from 1st mating


From her progesterone levels I estimate that she should have been fertilised about 15th September. 3 weeks from there is 6th October and so I would like an ultrasound done around then please. We need to confirm the pregnancy and then start the clindamycin at 11 mg / kg (I will need her weight) twice daily.

Ebony was collected from her pet home on October 5 and had an ultrasound the following day. This confirmed the pregnancy with about three puppies visible and Clindamycin was commenced.

October 14, 2020 Questions from the Breeder and Vet responses in blue
Ebony is showing typical pregnancy signs, as her temperament is quite sookie. I didn’t see her yesterday as I dropped the medication off at the carer’s work. I am planning to see her on Sunday but I have two concerns

  1. Last time she was mated (prior to knowing she was positive to Neospora) we didn’t get any puppies, but she was never scanned and may have fallen pregnant and absorbed them. If I am doubtful when I see her on Sunday, I may opt for another ultrasound. Is this okay? Another ultrasound scan no matter what would be beneficial. From memory 3-4 pups were noted on the first scan. It would be good to confirm this. I think she is now about 5 weeks pregnant.
  2. I like to put my bitches on Raspberry Leaf tablets from week 5 as I really believe it helps the delivery with healthy contractions, this has come about as a result of some of my bitches having uterine inertia previously. The product I have is from Dorwest. I’d appreciate your thoughts as I don’t want to do anything without your approval. I have no problem with Raspberry leaf. Lots of breeders use it.

October 19, 2020 Questions from the Breeder and Vet responses in blue
Just had another ultrasound on Ebony, we think there maybe 6-7 puppies. Very happy with the way she is coming along. We will start Raspberry leaf tablets today. Great News

November 1, 2020 Questions from the Breeder and Vet responses in blue
Ebony is coming along nicely, being much more reserved with only 2 weeks to go (or less). I will pick her up on Friday, so she has plenty of time to settle in for the big event. Great News

November 6, 2020 
Ebony came to Kuven Labradors to settle in for the birth of her litter. She weighed 41.8kg and certainly has a tummy full of puppies.

November 7, 2020 Questions from the Breeder and Vet responses in blue
At least 10 puppies if you say 1 kg per puppy and she has gained 9kgs with a week to go, when the puppies gain the most weight. I don’t particularly want to X-Ray her, but will be guided by you. Is there anything else that should be done before her big event? If you are happy to watch her and observe her signs we can let that guide the whelping.  At 9-10 pups sometimes we can still not be certain of numbers using radiographs.  Radiographs are most useful for small numbers. There should be an increase in food which Ebony will probably self regulate and a slight increase in Calcium intake. All else should be fine.

Is Tuesday, November 10 too soon? She has an occasional clear mucus discharge since yesterday. I will start monitoring her temperature from tonight. Expecting her to whelp on or before Sunday, November 15, 2020, her due date. My calculations say the predicted whelping day will be Thursday, please let me know what you think and how early she can safely go. 63 days from 1st mating 60 days from fertilization so this is my whelping date. I am happy for her to go any time after the 12th. Is she going to whelp normally or have a C-Section?

I’m aiming for a normal delivery, with Vets on standby if a C-Section is required.

Her diet is

  • AM – 1 cup Supercoat + ½ a chicken frame or two chicken wings
  • PM – 2 cup Supercoat + meat and yoghurt
  • No extra calcium has been given, I assumed the bone and yoghurt would be enough. Is that okay?

I would add 1 scoop Calci D daily please

Monday November 9 Calcium & Vitamin D (contains Calcium Carbonate 1.5g + Vitamin D3 500 I.U.) One tablet twice daily added to Ebony’s diet.

Tuesday November 10
Ebony has me quite concerned. I’ve noticed her vulva very large and it feels firm which I thought was odd. Today I think her feet/legs are quite puffy. I am concerned about hydrops and would like to know what you think is best to do. She is due on Sunday, can safely go on Thursday.

A trip to the vet was made and an ultrasound done, revealing lots of puppies with healthy heartrates. There was no sign of excess fluid pockets, so my worries were eased. An x-ray was also taken to try and determine the number of puppies. This resulted in varying guesses of 10, 11 and 12 by 3 different vets

November 12
A further concern arose because the dog Ebony usually lives with in her pet home had been unwell the week Ebony was brought to Kuven Labradors. There were concerns that Leptospirosis was cause of her illness and were awaiting test results. As a result, Ebony went back to the vet for a blood test. Her blood results were within normal range and her progesterone level was 18, so the waiting for the litter arrival continued. Ebony’s temperature dropped to 37 that evening.

Friday November 13
Ebony’s labour progressed through the morning and vets were kept updated. The first puppy was born at about 2 pm. As each puppy arrived, their airways were checked, they were weighed and fitted with an ID collar then given back to mum. They were closely watched to ensure they got a drink of colostrum, which is so important. They were removed from the whelping box, out of mum’s way, as a littermate arrived and put back with mum for another drink as soon as she settled again, the last of the litter (number 12) arrived around 11pm.

All of the puppies were good weights, very strong and doing everything a newborn should. However, Mr Blue was not latching on properly to drink and I immediately suspected a cleft palate. The next morning a vet came to check them and confirmed the cleft. As I didn’t want to watch him die, I asked her to take him because I had 11 others to worry about.

By Monday November 16, all the swelling in Ebony’s legs has subsided. She is a good caring mother, eating and drinking well. The first two weeks went very well as you can see by their weights.

Puppy ID Birth Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10 Day 11 Day 12 Day 13
Mr Grey 470 500 510 540 590 620 670 730 760 850 860 940 1020 1060
Mr Blue 480                          
Miss Purple 480 500 510 590 630 680 690 760 810 960 990 1090 1180 1250
Strawberry 460 470 480 520 550 590 630 670 770 810 880 950 1020 1070
Miss Yellow 460 510 520 520 550 630 700 740 770 810 850 920 930 1010
Lime 450 450 480 510 550 630 650 700 730 780 850 950 960 1080
Miss Orange 500 530 510 520 560 630 640 700 740 780 850 920 960 1020
Mr Red 510 530 560 600 640 710 760 790 830 900 970 1020 1120 1170
Miss Aqua 510 490 530 580 640 670 720 790 830 830 880 900 970 1020
Licorice 490 490 510 520 580 610 680 740 790 830 880 900 970 1020
Milk 460 490 510 510 540 610 630 650 700 760 780 850 920 990
Miss Brown 510 530 530 570 620 670 720 760 840 860 920 960 1030 1120


November 27 - 2 weeks old
I could not be happier with the litter and Ebony at this point. Everything is progressing just as it should. Ebony is such a relaxed mother; it all comes so naturally to her and is heart-warming to watch. They will only be weighed weekly from now on and they have had their first worming.


December 14 - 4 weeks old

December 18 - 5 weeks old
The puppies were weighed on Friday, everyone is putting on weight. Ruby is great with the puppies and is happy to help Ebony out. It is much easier on Ebony if Ruby has some of them occupied

December 21
This was just a bit too cute not to share. All my dogs have always retrieved their dinner bowl. They have never done it this young, 5 weeks and 3 days old. Having said that I’ve never had these small puppy bowls before this litter. It was Miss Yellow that I spotted first, then Miss Licorice, Miss Lime and finally Miss Strawberry.

December 25, 2020 - 6 weeks old
The puppies were weighed and wormed on Christmas Day, everyone is doing very well. The strength in their legs is checked on a daily basis with no sign of any abnormality Their playtimes are getting longer and we have begun our daily walks in the 20 acres. Please forgive the quality of the video, particularly when we are out in the paddock. It is not an easy task to try and walk backwards to be able to film them while at the same time trying to keep count of them all and not fall over. Some of you may not be aware that I struggle to get my tongue around puppy, puppy, puppy so when I call them I say Tuppy and will also use my whistle.

You may not be aware that the puppy with the cleft palate that I asked the vet to take is still alive, as the vet took him out the gate she asked if it was okay to give him a crack (at saving him). It was fine with me. His name is Albie and he nearly died twice. He is about half the size of the others and the vet refers to him as the black Siberian Mouse Hound LOL


3 puppies in the litter have Incorrect Coats, they initially looked like they needed ironing! As they have grown they look less curly, except for Albie. He will be included in their registrations, microchipping and blood tests. So there will be 12 samples to test. Providing he continues to do well, the vet (his new owner) does hope to do a surgical repair on the cleft when Albie is big enough.

December 30, 2020 Comments from the Breeder and Vet responses in blue
Thank you for the update. We need to firm up
1.       Are you still giving Ebony antibiotics?
2.       Are the pups drinking from Ebony at all?

Ebony has not missed any antibiotics. She stopped feeding the puppies herself last week. She basically has no milk and went home this afternoon. There were only 3 doses left that will be given at her pet home.

I’ve put a timeline together to get my head around how to handle the litter. I can’t keep all 5 black bitches until they are 20 weeks old, so I’m choosing the black bitch puppy that is showing me the traits etc that I want to breed on with. Hopefully all 5 will be Neospora negative at 20 weeks and there won’t be any issue.

  • 8 January – Vaccinations, Microchip and health check. I don’t know if they will have their blood taken for the 1st Neospora test. No we will not take bloods until 20 weeks. At this age they may still return a false -negative or a false positive and so there is no value in testing them at this time.
  • 9 January – 8 weeks old and can start their socialisation journey any time their volunteer carer can collect them
  • 4 February – They will all have to be back from their carer
  • 5 February – They will have their 2nd vaccination and another vet check – 12 weeks old.
  • 6 February – They can go to their new homes
  • 2 April – They will have their blood taken for their Neospora test – 20 weeks old. YESber 30, 2020

Call for puppy carers sent out December 30, 2020
With the welfare of the puppies in mind, they need to be socialised so the main purpose in the call for volunteers is to give these kids a look at different experiences. They are not allowed to go to their new homes until they are 12 weeks old, as we don't want to allow a bond between the new owner and the puppy to develop incase neospora becomes evident. Puppies at this age are a lot of work and it will also help me immensly with less puppies to care for until they can go to their new owners. I will supply the initial food and then the funds to buy whatever else the carer thinks that they may need. If you choose to feed something different that is ok providing any meat given has been previously frozen for at least 48 hours, preferably 2 weeks or cooked. Please do not let them eat cat poo!

A full 4 weeks is a lot of ask of anyone, so it will be up to the individual carer of how long they would like to have the puppy/puppies. Many may wish to take two so they keep each other company (less howling).

Unfortunately I can’t deliver or collect them due to work commitments so the carer will have to come here between 10.30am and 2pm, regardless of what day of the week it is. Each puppy will have a collar and lead, teddy and a few toys.
You can do (expose them to) anything that is safe. Things like children, traffic sounds, different animals, the beach, different people etc. The more experiences they get the better for them. They will have only had one vaccination so you must be mindful, and do not put them on the ground in dog parks etc. You can have them out in public but you will have to carry them.

I will be constantly in touch to see how they are going either via messages, phone or email. Should something happen that they need a vet, by all means take them but you must notify me and I will cover the costs. Every day there will be a regular check on the strength in the hind legs. I will show you how to do this and explain what we need to watch for regarding Neospora. The timeline for the puppies is as follows:

  • 8 January – Vaccinations, Microchip and health check.
  • 9 January – 8 weeks old and can start their socialisation journey any time their carer can collect them
  • 4 February – They will all have to be back from their carer
  • 5 February – They will have their 2nd vaccination
  • 6 February – They can go to their new homes
  • 2 April – They will have their blood taken for only Neospora test (20 weeks old)

There is no obligation, please remember this is voluntary, and only take it on if you want to do it. There will be no reflection on our relationship regardless of your decision. If you decide to go ahead, please let me know by January 7 even if you wish to take one on at a later date within the above timeline.

Puppy update sent out 02/01/2021
Hi All, Happy New Year.
The puppies were weighed On New Year’s Day.  I have increased their food, they seem to be growing taller and longer, which has made them look too skinny. I’m trying to put more chubbiness in, while at the same time not causing any diarrhea. As for their socialisation, I’ve been trying to expose them to different objects and sounds.

They were terrified of the wheelie bin in the beginning, but this is becoming much less of an issue as they get used to it. The golf umbrella didn’t seem to phase them. I placed a Bluetooth speaker on the ground and that had them wondering. I have played sounds of a babying crying, an ambulance siren, children in a playground, a garbage truck just to name a few. We had our own little new year’s eve party (just the puppies and I), dancing in the backyard while listening to Jon Bon Jovi, Pink and a few others.

There was an empty dog food bag that I gave them to play with and they loved it. I have since threaded a broom through it so I can drag it or wave it about. As soon as I pick it up they come running to attack it. A couple of other playground toys include a (swing) board off the ground that moves when the walk on it, with wind chimes that they can reach and rattle as well as ramps that go over the tunnel. I’ve attached the video below, my apology for the last part, you cannot hear me, only the music or noises that I had playing for the puppies.

Some of you are aware that I have put out a call for volunteers and there are some wonderful caring people that have put their hand up. The purpose is to socialise the puppies from 8 weeks when they would normally go to their new home. If there are any that do not go to a ‘Carer’ I will be able to better manage the smaller numbers and do a lot myself.

Puppy Update – 9 weeks old

It has now been confirmed that they will only have the one blood test for Neospora at 20 weeks. This means that Ebony’s Neospora story will continue at least until April 2.

When these results are known, I will post an update on Kuven Labradors Facebook page.

Puppy Update – 10 weeks old

Another mile stone reached today as they turn 10 weeks old and another worming, this time with Milpro. All reports from their carers are very positive, some quite amusing.
Over the last two weeks I have screened many buyers and believe that these puppies will be in very good caring hands, bringing a lot of joy to lovely people – their new owners😊

Puppy Update – 11 weeks old

This will be the last weekly update as the bundles of joy go to their new homes next week. They are all very well, full of energy and certainly ready to learn the rules of the world. They go to the vet next Friday for another health check and their second vaccination and will also be wormed again.

February 5 – 12 weeks old. Every puppy was given their second vaccination and was examined by the vet and found to be suitable for sale. There were no clinical signs indicating that any puppy was affected by Neospora caninum even though their mother had previously returned a positive blood test to Neospora. Written in each puppy’s vaccination passport was ‘HEALTHY PUP’, a magic milestone we have been aiming for.

February 6 – Most of the litter were off to their new homes with lots of smiling faces

Lots of smiling faces











The final hurdle in Ebony’s Neospora story is the blood tests on her puppies.




Labrador Retrievers are part of the Gundog Group
and Gundogs are fun dogs 

Contact Details

Lyn Wise
Wundowie, WA, Australia
Email : [email protected]