Friday, July 29, 2011

Breeding – Balancing faith and actions

Although we have no way of knowing what she’s really thinking, June gives every appearance of being a proud and contented new mother, belying her situation a few days prior to when this photo was taken, when a prolonged labor ultimately resulted in a c-section and the loss of two puppies she was not able to whelp normally.
This is litter number seven for our small Toller kennel and the first time we’ve ever had to use oxytocin to help a labor along or resort to a c-section. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering whether there was something I should have done differently that might have saved June’s other two puppies but I will never know for certain. No matter how much planning and preparation is done, whelping a litter is still a precarious balance between an act of faith and knowing when (and which) action is necessary. I am fortunate I live in an area where I have access to a number of excellent veterinarians who helped to guide our decisions along the way.
June’s official due date was June 19th, as that was 63 days from her first breeding. But I know the 63 day mark is really from ovulation (I’ve read Myra Savant Harris's books in which she stresses this repeatedly), and we did not know precisely when ovulation occurred as the lab result on the last progesterone test we did was invalid due to how the sample was submitted. Still, I was nervous, as I don’t recollect ever having a bitch go past 63 days.
June's temperature started to drop the next morning, on day 64. Even though I knew we could still be 24 hours out from whelping, I called my vet in the afternoon and they calmed my fears. Sometime during the late afternoon I started to see some beginning signs of labor, but it wasn’t until after noon the following day we saw a watery discharge that made me think puppies would be imminent in within the next few hours. When nothing further transpired and labor didn’t seem to be progressing I called my vet again. We went in and had a physical exam and an x-ray done and checked calcium and glucose levels as well. Her levels were normal and there were no puppies in the birth canal so we went home. We went back one more time before they closed to ask for an ultrasound to see if we could locate five heartbeats to match the five pups we knew she carried. We thought we could, so went home again to wait.
Between 7:15 and 8:30pm that night June pushed out three puppies on her own, and then acted like she was finished, though I knew better thanks to the x-ray. About 2.5 – 3 hours after the third puppy had been delivered I called the emergency vet. They recommended I wait another hour and call them back if nothing had changed. As nothing changed, we found ourselves packing up June and her three newborn pups, arriving at the emergency vet around 1am. Calcium and glucose levels were checked again and found to be in normal range. Two shots of oxytocin were administered at ½ hour intervals. The first shot didn’t appear to do anything and the second shot not much more. Poor June simply looked exhausted to me, and I weighed my options with the vet on duty. I decided against a third shot, opting instead to take her home and ride out what was left of the night. The next morning my regular vet called me to find out what had happened. When I explained, she bluntly told me to return to the emergency vet and have a c-section done as she didn’t believe those puppies were going to come out on their own, so that is what we did. Unfortunately, the remaining two puppies were not viable.
I was a bit of a wreck the first week after June’s c-section, worrying she would rip out her sutures, that the incision would become infected or that I wouldn’t be able to keep her quiet (it is June after all!) for the 2-3 weeks necessary for soft tissue healing. My fears were all unfounded. June recovered quickly from her surgery. We are back to our full walking regimen with plans to resume other activities in a few more weeks.
As with her first litter, June is an excellent mother. From day one she has been very attentive to their cries and thorough in both cleaning and nursing them. Perhaps because there are only three, the puppies all seem quite special. I’m very pleased they will be going to equally special homes who have all had puppies from us before.