On the afternoon of Wednesday, September 22nd, a pregnant 9-year-old English bulldog was surrendered to us. She was very far along into her pregnancy, but her owners couldn't afford to take her to the vet for medical treatment. While most dogs are able to give birth naturally without the need for much human intervention, English bulldogs are an entirely different story. Many years ago the breed resembled longer-legged breeds like Boxers. However, due to unfortunate changes in the breed standard, modern day English bulldogs are selectively bred to have large skulls, broad shoulders, and small hips. Add to that their flat muzzles and short nasal passages (and the consequent breathing difficulties), and you get a potential medical nightmare. And because bulldogs' heads are so much larger than their pelvises, traditional births are not just risky-- they are potentially fatal. The current protocol is to perform a caesarean (c-section) surgery on pregnant English bulldogs to help curb the risk of natural birth.
|Nancy prepping Peanut for surgery|
Caesarean surgeries can be expensive and still pose a risk-- just as any surgery does. And when Peanut came to us, she was already experiencing regular contractions and well into labor. Dr. Lynch, with the assistance of our new vet assistant, Nancy, prepared Peanut for emergency surgery. Together, they sedated Peanut so that she wouldn't be awake or aware of the procedure. Nancy then shaved all of the fur from Peanut's chest and abdomen, and scrubbed both with a sterile solution, to make the initial cuts cleaner and less prone to infection. Once on the table, Dr. Lynch started the difficult task of caesarean surgery on this geriatric, malnourished dog. Despite the risks, Dr. Lynch and Nancy remained cool-headed and focused only on Peanut and her puppies' health.
|Meaghan with the first baby|
As surgery started, several staff and volunteers lined up sporting fresh gloves and clean towels, ready to receive each baby and take on the important task of getting them to breathe. When dogs are born naturally, their mothers clean them and stimulate them to begin breathing independently. However, the drugs used to sedate Peanut also affected her puppies, making them less responsive. One at a time, Dr. Lynch handed each puppy to a waiting assistant, who used small bulbs to clear the puppies' airways and lots of gentle but vigorous rubbing to stimulate the puppies to breath. Within fifteen minutes, most of the babies were breathing on their own and already rooting for food. Once Dr. Lynch finished suturing Peanut and she'd begun to wake up from anesthesia, the puppies were brought to her to begin nursing.
|Peanut nursing her puppies shortly after surgery|
Peanut is still recovering from her surgery, though she appears to be coming along nicely. Because of her difficulty breathing, and a suspected bronchial infection, she is on antibiotics in addition to pain medication. She's tired and still has a long way to go before she's healed, but she's a good mom who takes care of her puppies. And though her situation is far from ideal, those of us who were able to help the medical team during the puppies' birth feel we were part of something very special.
|Peanut nursing her puppies two days after surgery|
So what could have prevented this situation? There are a lot of points at which this risky pregnancy and birth could have been prevented. Peanut's owners could have spayed her, preventing unplanned litters as well as the dangerous condition pyometria (infection of the uterus). She could have been kept from intact males, rather than allowed to roam outside without supervision. The suspected father is a 10-year-old Boxer with whom Peanut lived-- in this situation, pregnancy is almost inevitable! And while it's highly unusual for an animal at such an advanced age to give birth, it's not impossible. Peanut's owners didn't seek medical care until Peanut began to show signs that she was in labor. If she had been brought in sooner, her procedure could have been less risky. One of her puppies was already delivering naturally while Peanut was undergoing surgery, and sadly, that puppy didn't survive.
Remember to seek veterinary care as soon as you suspect that your animal is ill or injured. And even better, make sure that your pet is spayed and neutered. While everyone loves the idea of litters of kittens and puppies coming into the world, the reality is that there are twice as many born as there are homes available.
Peanut will be going to a foster home this weekend for some much needed TLC. If you'd like to check on her progress, read Michelle's Blog in the coming weeks!