VET’S DIARY: Double trouble with David and Goliath

AFTER last week’s coincidence of having to retrieve obstructions from the intestines of two Dalmatians on consecutive days, this week’s diary again concerns two dogs with the same problem but this time the protagonists couldn’t have been more different, writes Dominic Plumley.

Last Wednesday evening, the call came through from a client who was concerned that her miniature chihuahua had been whelping for about three or four hours without sign of a pup.

Though it was Sasha’s first litter and it can sometimes take a while for things to get going properly, we decided to take the cautious approach and examine her.

Palpating Sasha’s abdomen, I could feel one large pup that seemed to be lying across the abdomen and not engaging into the birth canal. Of course, I say large pup, but all things are relative; bearing in mind that Sasha weighed in at less than 5lbs, her pup was never going to be a monster. All the same, it certainly felt too big to be born naturally and we decided to proceed to caesarean section.

Sure enough, Sasha had just the one pup that, with the benefit of the exclusive use of its mother’s placenta, had outgrown the channel through which it needed to be born.

The caesarean was pretty straightforward and Sasha was soon recovering from her anaesthetic and feeding her pup.

From the sublime to the ridiculous! First thing the following morning we received another call, this time from the concerned owner of a Rottweiler bitch who had been puffing and panting from about midnight.

This was Nina’s third litter, the previous two proceeding without any hitches. At well over 100lbs, Nina couldn’t have been further away from Sasha in the broad spectrum that is the variation seen in domesticated dogs.

This time vet Daisy Newey was in charge and she quickly determined that Nina was not suffering from large single puppy syndrome, she had a tummy full. In fact, her uterus was so full of pups that it just wasn’t able to contract and push them into the birth canal.

What is more, Nina’s body was preparing physiologically for the period immediately after whelping when she was going to have to provide her large litter with milk.

The resultant drain on her calcium reserves was just pushing her towards eclampsia further contributing to her uterine inertia.

Once again caesarean section was the answer and Nina was soon in theatre.

When whelping naturally, the process of the bitch licking the pups as they are born is vital in triggering their breathing reflexes.

Of course, during caesarean section the bitch is asleep and cannot do this and so ‘puppy rubbing’ is an important and popular role for everyone assisting the surgeon.

In truth, as Daisy was retrieving the puppies from Nina’s uterus we soon lost count.

The pups, for Rotties, were normal size, which coincidentally was not a lot smaller than Sasha – the mother the evening before!

With all hands on deck, vets and nurses were attending to pups everywhere and it was about the time that Nina was coming around from her anaesthetic that we finally confirmed that the litter was 10-strong, five dogs and five bitches.

As with Sasha, Nina was soon feeding her pups, that first tummy-full of milk very important for a good start.

With both ops a success, with all pups live and well we were able to reflect on the David and Goliath nature of our two patients.