Case of the Month – May 2015
Who doesn’t like puppies? You have to have a tough skin not to go mushy for our case of the month for May involving brave Petal and her four pups delivered by emergency Caesarian!
Petal is a delightfully gentle and loving 5 year old Border Terrier. She is a much loved family member and it was always the dream for Petal to have a family of her own. Having found a suitable Border Terrier husband there was a nervous wait to see if she was pregnant. Very quickly she lost her usual svelte waistline and sure enough puppies could be palpated gestating in her abdomen.
Petal continued to get bigger as she approached her predicted date of whelping. In the bitch the length of gestation is around 65 days (give or take a day or two). It can be hard to predict an exact date as it depends on when the bitch ovulates, not when mating occurs. Petal started to show all the classic signs of getting ready to give birth. She was restless, her appetite reduced and then she showed the typical signs of first stage labour involving some shaking, panting, nausea and mild uterine contractions.
First stage labour varies in duration and in bitches having their first litter it can last for up to 36 hours. Petal was being closely monitored at home but after several hours and no signs of puppies her owners rightly became concerned and she was brought to Oak Barn Vets for an examination.
A full clinical examination showed that Petal was well but taking her time about things, the passage for pups to be born was all clear and there were no signs of any health problems. She was taken home for things to progress as planned. We all fully expected her to produce her pups overnight as is usually the case.
However the following day Petal had still not had her puppies. Her first stage labour had lasted some time now and she was not showing signs of progressing on to giving birth. Complications such as this can occur for a number of reasons. These include low blood sugar or calcium levels (hypoglycaemia or eclampsia), one or two large puppies (relative foetal oversize) becoming stuck in the birth canal or weakness in contractions (uterine inertia).
After a repeat examination Petal was admitted to Oak Barn Vets for a blood test to check her glucose and calcium levels, which were both normal and an x-ray to check the size and positioning of her puppies. This confirmed, as you can see in her x-ray, that Petal had 4 puppies on-board. Can you see four skeletons on the x-ray? (Tip count the skulls!)
Ultrasound examination of her puppies to measure their heart rates gave an indication that they were not in any distress so Petal was given a drug called oxytocin to help with the strength of her contractions.
Under close monitoring at the practice, and with the support of an anxious human dad, Petal continued with her labour and started to produce her first puppy. However Petal was tired and her contractions were not strong despite the oxytocin. With gentle encouragement and stimulation Petal continued to try but a repeat ultrasound exam showed her first born puppy was getting more distressed. Just as during the human birthing process, if the foetal heart rate decreases all is not well. The decision was taken for a caesarean section surgery.
Several precautions are taken regarding surgery on a whelping bitch to ensure both the safety of the bitch and her puppies as it is a procedure that is not without risk to all parties. Petal was given intra-venous fluids to support her blood pressure and anaesthetised for her surgery. Everybody in the practice was on hand to help out with the puppies as they were born and soon little squeaks could be heard coming from the operating theatre. Petal’s surgery and recovery went smoothly and soon she was awake and nursing her four lovely pups.
Petal went on to become a fantastic mother rarely leaving her puppies in their first few days and she was quickly back home to enjoy the attention she deserved as you can see from this fantastic happy family photo!
Deciding to breed from your dog is a decision not to be taken lightly. Although the vast majority of whelpings go without a hitch, complications can occur and treatments may be costly, especially if out of normal working hours. Insurance companies will rarely cover the cost of complications either which is something to bear in mind.
Having said that having a litter of pups is a great experience – we had six when Bob had her litter and it was a fantastic if not a little exhausting! Although be warned you will definitely keep at least one of the offspring! As always we are here for advice if you are considering breeding from your pet, so do get in touch!