Today I had a very, very pregnant dog come in. We have been seeing her for a while, and had been watching her pregnancy for the last couple of weeks. The timing of the pregnancy was weird, as she either was bred a full month after she should have been fertile or she was over a month delayed in giving birth. Somewhere the timing didn't match, so we couldn't be sure how far along she was. However, it was obvious that she was near term simply by looking at her. Radiographs showed about a half-dozen puppies, so we knew it wasn't just fat. She was getting more and more uncomfortable, and today seemed in particularly bad shape. Yesterday she seemed to show behaviors consistent with nesting prior to labor, but was showing no signs of labor itself. After weighing the risks, we decided to do a c-section.
This kind of surgery always carries a fair degree of risk. When we anesthetize the mother, we're also anesthetizing the puppies, so we have to work quickly. It's not normally done with epidurals and local blocks like in human surgeries. It's also more complicated because we're delivering multiple babies at once rather than one or a few. The goal is to get into the abdomen as quickly as possible, remove the puppies individually, then pass them over to a technician who proceeds to stimulate the puppy, clear mucus and fluid from their mouth and nose, and generally make sure they start breathing. Getting the puppies out is very messy, as amniotic fluid and blood come out copiously and you have to try and prevent that from getting into the open abdomen. If the plan is to breed, you have to be careful not to damage the uterus and then close it up. It's much easier to simply spay the female and remove the parts normally. After all that you have a very large incision to close.
This dog had a total of six puppies that I removed, and then spayed her. We were lucky that all of the puppies responded and survived, and once the mother woke up from surgery they started to nurse. The mom left this evening in apparent good shape, though obviously tired and sedated (I gave her lots of pain medications). Even so, she walked out on her own. She's not out of the woods yet, but if she does good for the next few days should be perfectly fine.
There is something incredibly rewarding about bringing new life into the world. This is especially true when you're the one who pulls the babies from the womb and welcomes them into the realm of the living. My entire team was so excited and proud, especially with the puppies all doing well (five females and one male). Everyone had their phones out taking pictures and videos. And I was guilty of the same thing, wanting my daughter to see the new pups.
It will be exciting to see these puppies grow up and know how they first began.