Food for thought from a bad day in the life of a Dog Wnkr!
I had an appointment with a client recently who’s bitch I scanned 4 weeks previously. With an estimated 7 pups, I was asked to re scan her a few weeks later on the basis that the bitch wasn’t gaining weight as expected and wasn’t far off being due. On meeting the dog for the second time, I noticed how much weight she’d lost as soon as I walked through the door. Roughly 3 kg lost the poor girl hadn’t kept any food down and was being sick constantly after she ate, drinking lots and was generally under the weather the client quickly brought me up to speed. I noticed how dreadful the poor dogs breath was as soon as I was down at her level, literally so pungent I’ve never smelt anything like it. My first thoughts were that I was going to find an awful case of pyometra infection as soon as I put the scanner to the abdomen.
On scanning I found no sign of pregnancy, which was to be expected with the symptoms but what I did find baffled me. The right horn looked to be consistent with an absorbed litter the left horn had a mass that was inconsistent with anything I’ve scanned previously. I called a fellow technician for her opinion and on looking at the scan images again we both agreed the bitch required attention from the vet as soon as possible.
With permission of the client I rang ahead to a vet practice we use and recommend and to cut a story short, the vet wanted to see the dog immediately and with the client having no vehicle accessible I took the client and her dog to the vets for attention.
The vets agreed with me that the mass detected was strange and not something she or I had seen in the uterus before so after discussion with the client the vet took the dog in for exploratory care and agreed to call with the outcome of bloods and various other tests.
The call I received from a distraught owner wasn’t what I was expecting at all, we were informed that the dog was in fact in kidney failure. The vet explained that it was a chicken and egg situation that she didn’t know whether the absorbing pregnancy had basically poisoned the system or the kidney failure had prevented the pregnancy from progressing. We are still none the wiser as to the mass as the poor girl was too poorly to be operated on to confirm what it was and despite the best efforts of the vets she was kindly PTS two days later to prevent any further suffering.
On the journey home feeling completely deflated I had a call from a client I’d scanned for again, approx. 4 weeks prior. As this client explained his situation, and bearing in mind the morning I’d just had, I was concerned and agreed to go and see the bulldog bitch on my way home.
On arrival I was met by a happy bouncy bully and the client filled me in on the morning they’d had which seemed equally as traumatic as mine! The bitch had started to lose discharge the evening prior and early into the morning I was told. Now, this client only has the one dog and this is their first litter so on speaking to the stud dog owner and being filled with dread they flew down to their vet and took the dog in for help.
The first vets basically turned the client away as they don’t have an ultra sound scanner and sent them to another practice, not before charging a full consult fee of course!
At the 2nd practice, the dog was scanned and the client told the discharge meant the bitch was losing her pups and only one heart beat was found and one dead pup with no heartbeat. Not the 4/5 pups that had been estimated a few weeks before by me. The client called me as a last ditch attempt to get some clarity as to what was going on as he was shocked at being sent away with a hefty bill from the vets with no advice or further action.
On scanning I found my estimated 4 puppies, all of which were alive and well as far as I could see and all measured appropriately for the stage of gestation. The bitch also obliged my desire to see the discharge she’d shed the evening before by depositing some up my arm as I scanned! It was a thick, creamy, snotty jelly like mucus which I know to be an end term discharge lost by dogs and humans alike before a labour commences. It’s the bodies way of naturally lubricating the path the puppies will take on their bid for life during labour.
How can one vets practice be so different to another and on the same day?
As I drove home once again my thoughts drifted to the what if’s of my day.
What if the first client hadn’t rung me for a second scan? Would they have just come downstairs one morning to their girl dead in her bed or gravely ill more so than she was today? They were being informed by others who hadn’t seen the girl that her symptoms were those of pregnancy and the owner was begged not to overly worry….. it was the worst possible outcome for the owners.
What if a scanner with less knowledge than me had attended this clients scans or without the confidence to admit they weren’t sure of what they were seeing the way I did and would simply scan, say “sorry no babies now” and be on their way with cash in their pocket?
As it was, this client didn’t drive so there was no way I could walk away, I put the client and her dog in my car and took them the 10 miles to the vets, waiting in the practice to be able to explain on their behalf to the vet my findings and share the images of the scan. The client commented during our wait that no one else would go to those lengths. To be fair I know colleagues across the UK that maybe wouldn’t have either but there is no way I could have just left her like that when I knew I could help.
With the second case, the four pups I predicted were born alive and well just over a week later and mummy dog is a truly doting mummy!
I can’t tell you how many horror stories I hear about vets who maybe haven’t ever bred a dog or maybe don’t know the ins and outs of what dog breeding entails. Vets who frown on breeders and speak to them with disdain like the vet that filled one clients head with comments such as “now you’ve bred this bitch her uterus will fill with pus” I’m all for being honest with a new breeder on the risks of rearing a litter and I am also well aware that there are breeders out there who really shouldn’t be breeding for one reason or another but shouldn’t we be educating these people properly rather than vilifying them as most will go ahead and breed anyway which then puts the bitch at further risk.
But then to be fair, the horror stories I hear from the vets we work with on the expectations of breeders who don’t research and understand the biology and potential risks behind breeding their bitch. The ridiculous expectations they have of their vets, such as the client who asked a vet “at what point do you come out to do the C section then mate” gave visions of kitchen table butchering with steak knives crashing into mind. I guess it’s equally as frustrating both ways.
All I can ask, no beg, is that prior to breeding or at least once your girl is confirmed to be expecting that pitter patter of tiny paws that you research your breed and breeding in general. know the potential risks and what if’s with regards to breeding your chosen breed.
Look into and ask for recommendations of vets in your area, where is your nearest out of hours and do other breeders recommend their practices? Social media makes this sort of thing really easy and maybe make an appointment to go and chat with your vet prior to any dramatic situation occurring. Find a vet your confident knows repro and can handle the unexpected for you without you needing a small mortgage for their care.
My day ended nicely with a beautiful standard poodle scan. 29 days gestation and a happy litter cooking away from what could be seen on the ultra sound. I couldn’t help imparting my experiences of the day and begging the client to do her home work as to local vet practices. If all that happened that day just helps her to take heed it might just have been worth my stress and upset on a day which actually started as my day off work!
The washing will get done another day I’m sure. ;) x