Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Everybody loves puppies!

One of the most stressful, and also most rewarding, emergencies is a dystocia.  Dystocia literally means "difficult birth," and occur for a variety of reasons, including large fetuses, small pelvic diameter of the bitch, malpositioned fetuses, inadequate uterine contractions, etc.  The end result is that a pregnant female is unable to successfully provide vaginal birth without assistance.

Signs and symptoms of dystocia include active contractions without production of a puppy, green vaginal discharge, excessive delay between puppies, ineffective contractions, or a puppy visibly stuck in the vaginal opening. Any of these problems should alert an owner to contact a veterinarian for an exam.

My patient, Fergie, was a 4 year old corgi currently pregnant with her second, unplanned litter.  She had delivered no puppies yet at home, and had been straining for several hours.  Her family, Dan and Stephanie, brought her to my hospital at about about 1am.  Dan and Stephanie had not intended for Fergie to become pregnant, however they had not prevented this by the most simple method, ovariohysterectomy, commonly referred to as a 'spay'.  Spay surgery is an incredibly important part of preventative care for companion animals; spaying females helps to reduce the dramatic pet overpopulation problem, and prevents development of ovarian or uterine cancer.  Spaying a female before the development of her first heat also dramatically reduces the probability for mammary cancer.  The Humane Society of the United states estimates that 5 million dogs and cats are euthanized every year due to overpopulation.  Spaying (and neutering) is one tool to help reduce this horrible statistic.  Spaying also prevents pyometra, which I will cover in a later discussion.

  I performed an exam on Fergie, and performed ultrasound to detect fetal heart rates.  Her fetuses were in distress, with heart rates dropping to critical levels; it was now or never to try and save these babies.  5 puppies were in Fergie's uterus, and it was our job to get them out safely as well as provide a safe, sterile surgery for Fergie.  Various drugs can be tried prior to surgery, however in Fergie's case, delaying surgery was a more risky option, and fortunately, the family wished to proceed with surgery immediately.  Emergency cesarean surgeries can be expensive, due to the expertise and training required to perform a safe, sterile, surgical procedure.

A cesarean section was performed, and we successfully removed and resuscitated 5 healthy puppies (three boys, two girls).   For me, watching a newborn take his or her first breath, and knowing that I am the one who provided this life with a chance to be lived is an incredible experience.  The joy of seeing the puppies latch on and nurse for the first time while their mom licks them clean, is an experience unlike any other.

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