I was in the middle of surgery when my colleague walked out and said, get ready for an emergency caesarean. Layla,a 12 month old Great Dane, had been scheduled for a pregnancy ultrasound later that afternoon. Her owner had wanted to check how many puppies were present and to make sure the pregnancy was going well.
Overnight, Layla went into labour..
Layla’s owner brought her straight in when she noticed she was having suspect uterine contractions that were non-productive and she had also started producing a yellowish vaginal discharge!
Layla was really far too young to be bred and her owners had really tried to avoid this early and unplanned pregnancy. They ultimately aimed at breeding her with their entire male Great Dane when she was fully grown (two years of age). However, in spite of keeping the two dogs separated while Layla was in season, the cheeky male barged in just once and that’s all it took!
We proceeded with the emergency caesarean and found one puppy that was in severe distress. She had premature placental separation which meant she had a compromised oxygen supply.The puppy didn’t move much as I peeled away the membranes covering it.
I was quite concerned that this puppy’s chances of survival were very low.
I immediately handed her to my head nurse ‘Amy’ who then went on to train one of our more junior vet nurses Serena on how to revive a newborn puppy.
As you will see in the video footage below, there is no time to stuff around. I had to gently massage out the puppy and quickly hand it over to Amy. She then supported the puppy’s head while trying to get out any excess fluid in its airways through her swinging maneuver. The puppy was then immediately supplied with extra oxygen placed on a warm heat mat and closely monitored. The video footage contains the actual caesarean procedure. Stay clear if you can’t stomach surgical procedures.
During that time, I proceeded with flushing out Layla’s uterus & ensuring there were no other puppies tucked up in her uterine horns. I then stitched up her uterus and abdomen back together as you will see in the video below.
I would like to take this opportunity to educate you about what to expect after a caesarean. For starters, you will be $1000-1500 out of pocket to cover the costs of a C-section.
Generally, many owners think it is smooth sailing after that.
On the contrary, 50% or more of bitches reject their new puppies after a caesarean.
Some come around a few days or a week after the surgery. The poor things have just had a major operation and need time to recuperate. This leaves the burden of intensive mothering left to you, the owners.
As you can see here, Layla was still very groggy after her surgery and not really responsive to the cries of her newborn puppy. If anything, she was wondering why on earth we kept shoving the puppy in her face.
1. Puppies can’t regulate their own temperature and so you must ensure they don’t get too cold or too hot. You will need to place the puppies in an appropriate box/cage full of soft blankets with warm water bottles tucked underneath. The water bottles must not contain excruciatingly hot water as the wiggly puppies may dig under the blankets and get in direct contact with them! Or you can purchase a heat mat that you can tuck under the box.
2.You must make sure the puppies are getting a feed off their mom every two hours and that’s 24 hours a day! If their mom isn’t interested in them, you must supervise each feed and ensure they are latching on appropriately and that sufficient milk let down is occurring Some bitches don’t have enough milk and so you must supplement the puppies with appropriate puppy milk formulas like Di-Vetalac. Puppies that are constantly crying indicate they are not getting enough milk and it may be due to lack of it or their inability to latch on appropriately or have poor access to their mom’s teats.
3. Don’t leave the puppies in with their mom if she isn’t interested in them as she will neglect them. They may run off and get stuck in a corner and get too hot or too cold. Some bitches may even sit on their puppies and inadvertently suffocate them. Here I was supervising the puppy’s first feed off Layla right after surgery.
4. For puppies to feed well, they must also be encouraged to do their business. If their mom isn’t licking their private parts to stimulate urination/defecation, then you must take it upon yourself to do that. How? You would need to get baby wipes and simulate what their mom would do; gently rubbing their bottoms until they have done their number ones and twos. A puppy will not feed if it is impacted with its excrements.
Now back to Layla, she was not that interested in her puppy the first day after her caesarean. We had to assist her puppy in drinking milk and closely supervised them together. Her owner was given a handout that thoroughly discussed the aftercare required for both the puppy and Layla. The puppy was already compromised as it suffered from in utero fetal distress.
At this critical stage, the puppy was definitely still not out of the woods.
Here is a video of the puppy vocalizing her demands for milk. I absolutely love the sound of a newborn puppy or kitten. Our team was filled with so much pride and happiness the moment we heard this puppy make its first shrieking sound…Layla’s owner was besotted with her puppy from the very moment she laid eyes on her and wanted to do everything in her power to make sure this puppy survives!
To our utter disappointment, the very next day the puppy deteriorated rapidly. She had not been feeding very well and had gotten weaker and weaker by the hour. Her owner brought her in immediately and was very saddened with the state of the puppy.
Unfortunately it didn’t help that Layla wasn’t interested in looking after her puppy. My colleague taught Layla’s owner how to stomach feed the puppy and gave it glucose and warmed it up. He sent the puppy home and the owner was fully set up with its ongoing intensive management. We were all very worried about how this puppy would go. It hadn’t had the best start to life and the odds were really against it.
I tried getting in touch with the owner a few days after that and couldn’t get through. I wanted to check up on the progress of the puppy and was terrified that I would be informed it passed away. On the 5th day after the caesarean, the puppy was discovered bleeding heavily from its umbilical cord. Again my colleague dealt with the emergency and re-ligated the umbilical cord. This puppy kept getting one complication after another and we were losing hope each time we saw it.
Fortunately, Layla’s owner never gave up hope and kept persevering with this tiny creature.
And two weeks after the C-section, Layla came in with her puppy for a post operative check up and for her sutures to be removed.
Layla’s wound had healed very nicely and she was a very proud mother to a very healthy looking puppy.
Layla’s owner looked exhausted from 2 weeks of lack of sleep and having to look after Layla & her puppy. I must admit though, this puppy would not have survived without the dedication and passion shown by Layla’s owner.
I was also recently informed that Layla’s puppy has officially been named ‘Willow’.
Enjoy the photoshoot of ’Willow’ at 2 weeks old and Layla fussing over her.
It is very important to note that single puppy pregnancies in dogs are very abnormal and in this particular case, Layla giving birth to one puppy is very likely because she was too young to be bred. Generally, pets will breed as soon as they get into season even if they still have not reached full maturity.
This is a picture when I first met Layla and she was only four and a half months old in the picture below. Pretty gorgeous, right? She had already had her first season then and it was very odd. Her owner was worried and got her fully examined then.
Breeding your pets is not always straightforward. Leave it to the experts to do. If you intend to breed with your pets, then book a consultation with your veterinarian to discuss the pros and cons of that and what is involved. You must be well researched and prepared to fork up lots of money for any complications.
Lastly, there are plenty of dogs and cats needing urgent homes and everytime you bring in new ones, you are indirectly stamping the death sentence for so many other furry creatures!