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NancyH
NancyH, Pet Health Care, Rescue,Train,Breed
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Experience:  30+yrs pet vet care & nursing, rescue, behavior & training, responsible breeding, small animal care
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question regarding whelping problem

Customer Question

My golden retreiver just had 6 puppies. We lost 3 puppies as the delivery process took over 24 hours. Can anyone answer a question on placental separation?

Submitted: 11 years ago.
Category: Pet
Expert:  Dr. Vamvakias replied 11 years ago.
 Sure...what is the question?

Dr.V

Expert:  Dr. Vamvakias replied 11 years ago.
 .
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to Dr. Vamvakias's Post: Dr. Vamvakias - I'm not sure what exactly to ask - I am uncomfortable with the way my dog delivered over two days time, with two previous nights of labor/restlessness/whining. Her milk came in almost one week previous to delivery, she had gained 30# XXXXX pregnancy and had a sub-normal temp. the Monday before delivering 2:00AM 3/25. The first four puppies were healthy and seemed pretty normal deliveries, withh the exception of some dark green liquidy, substance squirting out as the fourth puppy was delivered. Puppy 4 born 5:30 AM 3/25 and she waited until 9:30 PM to begin delivery again. Puppy 5 born weak, barely moving, she licked it but not as attentively as the first four. I finally picked it up, rubbed it, swung it between my legs to loosen any fluid and breathed into nostrils and mouth and then heard a slight pop and breathing was easier after that. She finished cleaning pup us well after that. Puppy 6 was stillborn, not breathing at all - fully formed and same size as other puppies, just not breathing....we could not revive it. Puppy 7 was born very weak, barely moving, but making noise, I knew it would make it ....but it was weak for hours. The smell of these deliveries was more pungent than first deliveries and that green stuff was still everywhere. There was not the "liquid,mucuous" around these later puppies as before and mama dog, constantly licking her legs as if to rid herself of taste of new puppies. Each of these deliveries took 3X the pushing/contraction of the previously delivered and yes she was tired and hours later still in labor. (FYI, during the day when checked on she was panting, but didn't look like she was in distress or having contractions that I saw.) Pup 8 was born about 6:30 AM 3/26 we assume dead also as mama dog had eaten body and left head, when my husband went to check on her. I was trying to get in a nap. So 8 puppies later, 6 alive, 2 dead we start the morning. (She may have eaten last puppy because I had removed the other dead puppy to be disposed of and she still seems to be looking for it - although I held it for about 1 1/2 hrs. and let mama dog smell it and see it a couple of times she had to know it was gone....) This dark green discharge almost jade green is all over the blankets, her feet and tail and I think it represents something wrong, but I don't know what.

Placental separation is supposed to take place before labor according to my vet, but why was this "stuff" not present in the first three deliveries and then it shows up at 4th delivery and thereafter.....? Why were the two dead puppies fully formed and the size of other puppies, but just not breathing....stillborn, as if oxygen had been deprived?

I took mama dog and puppies to vet for checkup AM 3/26 and she delivered a glob of stuff including another dead puppy, plopped out a huge puddle of diarrhea in the back of my jeep on the way.

Is it possible that the sacs were broken earlier and the waiting ime was 5:30 AM 3/25 to 9:30 PM 3/25 - 16 hrs....(FYI that green liquid wasn't greenish/brownish like feces mixed in with placenta fluid...it was brighter... even after washing sheets and blankets that green "stuff" is stained on them now three days later.....)

I am not wanting to bring a bad thing upon my vet, I don't want to do anything even if he made a bad call about the dog - I just want to understand vs just the comment that "we just don't know what went on inside the uterus.... the last dead puppy may have affected the whole group especially pups near it."

I understand we can't go back and change anything. I AM GRATEFUL there are 6 beautiful puppies now and will focus on them. My dilemma is I am left with a very bad feeling, and experience that I feel could've gone differently had it been directed differently by the vet. If there were some explanation about what that green stuff was - does it have any bearing on the deaths....I just feel they weren't willing to take any responsibility to possibly missed anything - its all a mystery.....I don't want to go back to him and his staff as a result.

Can you help give me any perspective that could help?
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Is there any vet out there that would be willing to look at this narrative and help me....I need to have some information and I really don't know where to go and what to do.
Expert:  Dr. Vamvakias replied 11 years ago.

 Before I get into the possibilities of cause, the only thing I am unsure about is how you feel that the vet could have changed the results?


Is this her first litter? Her age?

DR.V



Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to Dr. Vamvakias's Post: The dog is 6.5 years old. She had her first litter at 2 yrs. She only had 2 puppies. This is her second and last litter. We will have her fixed.

After our dog had the first 4 pups, she stopped or stalled from 5:30 AM until 9:30 PM that night...I called in the morning to give a status report of the four pups being born. They told me 1)whelping would be done in 24 hrs. 2)goldens rarely have problems 3)she's probably done, since her first litter was small. He proposed she might have a damaged or closed off uteral horn...so just as long as she is not in distress - its fine. I called back at 3:30 PM to check in before the end of his day, saying no more pups had been born, but feeling like she wasn't done, she still looked like she had puppies in her, I didn't actually feel for puppies until the last 4 started being born, then I could actually feel their presence in her side. I said she gained 30 #s during this pregnancy, I don't think that is just 4 puppies...Based on what I saw as the last 4 pups were born the two that survived were very weak, little water/mucus around them and that green fluid so present with all of them after pup 4....It seems to me that the vet should have directed her to be examined that morning, when 3-4 hours had passed and no more puppies were being born, she wasn't done and the sixth pup born was perfectly formed, large as the other puppies, just not breathing.....it was actually healthier looking than the one born before it and after it...the eigth pup was evidently born dead as she ate it except for the head, before we found it.....

I don't know if it would have been good to move her or transport her, but I certainly would've liked to know IF all the pups were born yet, seeing there were 5 more present, she was just half done and stalled all that time....I feel we are miraculously lucky two of the five lived actually, because they may have been oxygen deprived - I don't know what happened....our dog panted hard many times during the day, but didn't seem to be having contractions, she was tending to the four already born, suckling them.

There were unusual circumstances around this delivery - 1) her milk came in nearly 1 week before actual delivery. 2) She had two evenings for several hours each of restlessness, pacing, getting up, laying down, and actual whining....I was so sure they were going to be born each night...then we moved her to a private place and left her mostly alone. Put some shredded paper in her little cove (as she had been trying to dig holes and move leaves, whenever she went outside, she did this with first delivery too.) so she could nuzzle paper or something around to feel she was preparing a "nest" - anyway it helped in some form or another - she did finally deliver that night...whether it made a difference or not we may never know....

The vet, while I didn't directly accuse or question did these puppies have to die, we did discuss the process and his reply was that we don't know what went on in the womb and the dead pup born last on the way to vet Sat AM was definitely a problem in the womb - he felt affecting the pups around it and maybe even the whole process.

I agree, it just seems to me I should have been directed to get her in to be checked out after 4 hours passed, not 10 hrs. when I called and he suggested she was probably done, without seeing her. He had never taken an xray so we didn't know how many to expect. His exam on the earlier Monday said she was "full" and had a subnormal temp, plus milk was in.....all indicators whelping was upon us......

His staff was annoyed that I called - that I didn't know what to do - like it was wrong or insulting to ask was it too long to have all that time between birthing the first four and the last five.....I think it was and I think damage was demonstrated.

There was reference that this dog needs to be left alone, too much attention has stressed her and she just needs to be left alone to take care of her pups.....

I was supposed to "know" or correctly interpret the balance of "leaving the mama dog 'alone'" and if there is an emergency with one of the pups, "immediate assistance" will be required....Like I'm supposed to leave her alone, but IF something is wrong you better be right there or its your fault if a pup drowns or has an umbelical chord around its neck. I do feel that the fifth pup born was assisted by my breathing into its nostrils/mouth as there was a slight pop and her breathing was stronger and easier after.

I appreciate that you responded and I realize there are numerous things that may have been wrong. I just feel 30# XXXXX XXXXX only 4 puppies. At least he should have wanted to see her before the end of the day...One or two of those three may have lived......OR could oxytocin/calciuim been administered to complete contractions etc.....some kind of a drip. Even if needed ceserean.....I was so heartbroken to lose the 3 puppies.

Any thought would be appreciated. If there is a medical explanation for this very specific bright dark green liquid - I'd like to know what that might be.
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
I gave two long explanations to Dr. Vamvakias questions. He had no input only questions for me. I had hoped some vet might read or see narratives and have some ideas that would help me process this event. It went a direction, I feel in my gut that may have been prevented and I would have 2-3 alive. If anyone has some input, I would greately appreciate it.
Expert:  Dr. Vamvakias replied 11 years ago.

 Jeanne,


Sorry about the delay.  There are a couple explanations for this...


1. This dog was too old to be bred. The breeding should not have happened and I think that is a leading factor to this dogs struggle/loss of pups.


2. Uterine exhaustion- after the first 4 came, I think that the uterus was already in a tetany type situation where it was failing to move the puppies down correctly and quick enough.


3. One of the last one or two puppies could have died within the last week or so of pregnancy and the death and decomposing affected the other close puppies as well as the uterus.


4. The green could be the material of the placenta unoxygenated...or fecal material...or blood by products.... It is hard to tell with out seeing it. Often when I go in and do c-sections and peel out the puppy and placenta, the attachment is bright green..so what you saw could have been placental fragments.


5.  Things that should have happened. Your dog should have had a xray before labor to count the puppies. That would be something you would ask for.  It is very hard to tell when a dog is having trouble during delivery. Many times we do count on the owners knowledge and relationship with the dog to help us out.  Dogs can take a long time to have puppies...


Many times in our efforts to keep $$ down, we don't intervene when we should with labor.  I do think that your dogs primary problem was her age and the possible health of those last 1-2 puppies.


Loss of puppies from failure to thrive or stillborne is not uncommon, but I am sorry that you have had to experience it.


Let me know what I didn't address.


Dr.Vamvakias


 

 
Expert:  NancyH replied 11 years ago.
Jeanne,
I am not a vet but I'll see if I can give you some answers based on what I've learned as a breeder. I know its heartbreaking to lose anticipated pups.
To start with I think Dr Vamvakias was correct in the statement that a prenatal x-ray might have helped you know better what was going on in this case and in that the dog was a bit old for a litter to be whelped safely.
About that last you stated the dog had one litter at age two and was now 6 and having her second and last litter. This means that inbetween those two litters she had between 6 and 8 heat cycles where she was not bred. Plus she got to 'middle aged' status which in many dogs just like in we humans it means she was likely a bit over optimum weight.
Dogs have heat cycles based on progesterone rather than estrogen. When they are not bred to have a litter the uterus undergoes some degeneration with each heat cycle with the surface area becoming less able to hold placentas readily or so I understood the reproductive specialist veterinarian Dr Hutchinson to say in his seminar.
Overweight dogs also have problems in whelping and from what you said about how much weight your girl gained I suspect she was more fat than fit when it came time to whelp. Lower muscle tone also makes delivery harder for a dog.
Here is what I might have done differently had it been my dog
Daily gentle directed exercise to promote muscle tone
Careful attention to nutrition all along the way through the pregnancy
A prenatal x-ray about a week before pups were expected
An absolute insistance on veterinary attention when there was more than 2 hours between puppy arrivals or extended periods of heavy labor that lasted more than 20 minutes with no puppy arriving
I would have checked the dam's temp during a break in the whelping
A morning after vet exam to make sure there were no complications
Even doing any and all of that you can not say if more pups would have survived. The older the dam the more likelihood there might be defective pups with congenital problems in the litter as her eggs were older and had been more subjected to all the influences of our environment.
Thing to remember about veterinarians is they don't get a lot of training in breeding and whelping of dogs in school and unless they have a practice that dictates better knowlege or a personal interest in knowing more they might not be as expert as you would like them to be. Vets vary in interests and skills - picking out one to suit your particular needs can be a hard process.
Now all that said you have some healthy pups out of this litter and your dear mama dog is alive and caring for them - thats a really big bonus you should be happy about. The reasons dogs may have big litters include that if they were living 'wild' there would only be one or maybe two that would live to grow up. Because we care for them often far more live to adulthood. But as a breeder loss is one of the things you have to learn to handle. Instead of regretting the ones you lost pour your love and attention into doing all you can for the living ones. File away the experience for yourself or to help others if they decide to breed. You cannot go back in time and save those pups and they might not have been viable no matter what you did. In all my years of breeding I've come to learn that mother nature often really does know best. With any luck the pups that made it will thrive for you so enjoy every minute of having them.
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Reply to Nancy Holmes's Post: Dr. Vamvakias - thank you so much for your last reply. It does help to have information/knowledge about possibilities. I do think having an xray would've been optimum to know what to expect number wise and possibly the health size, etc of the pups. When I knew all the pups were not delivered the next day, I should have insisted on bringing her in, as it had been several hours and she still looked pregnant. I could feel the puppies. The Wed. before she delivered Fri. AM, milk is in, but puppies had not really dropped according to vet.

In response to the second input from breeder. I also thank you for your words of knowledge, experience and wisdom. Especially about going on - my dilemma and upset was to have a sound base information wise, vs. just emotional to switch veteranarians. I am very uncomfortable with how things were handled and how his staff made me feel like I was "too attentive....."
Belle, my mama dog, was in excellent health, and not fat at all, she is firm, strong, and stout. She normally weighs 72# XXXXX the fact that she weighed 30 pounds more a week before delivery was a shock to all of us. Her postnatal weight looks quite down to near normal already, except for milk. I am sure more exercise during pregnancy couldn't have hurt and made it possibly easier for her to be more active. She is a lovely dog, we are grateful for this litter and had not even considered her "old", but our vet suggested she should not have any more puppies for her welfare, so we knew she was older than obviously 2 yrs. I take it then that dogs should birth between 2-4 years for optiumum circumstances for puppies and mother. Thank you again for some input and information I can apply to my experience.
Customer: replied 11 years ago.
Dr. Vamvakias - I replied to you, but I'm not sure it went to you vs. Ms. Holmes a breeder, but in case it didn't get to you - I wanted to thank you and appreciate your knowledge information and input to assist me in evaluating our experience. Your information made sense. I kept wanting an xray, but I did not ask for one and didn't know why it wasn't suggested or required actually. My vet seemed kind of non-chalant (sp) about it and said not needed.....
He did say that had she not whelped by Friday of that week we would do a c-section on Sat AM - thank God she did start delivery Fri AM. I also knew I was uncomfortable about the amount of time that passed between Fri morning and evening when whelping started second time, seeing pups born so weak and barely breathing.....I am so grateful two of the the five lived based on knowledge of what may have been going on. I will never know had the vet requested to see her a few hours after that 4th pup had been born to make sure all was well, instead of "whelping can take 24 hours, if the mama dog is not in 'distress' its fine" I still believe we may have had a different outcome...and vets aren't perfect and I know his staff was having some reaction to my two visits that week and my questions. Thank you again.
Expert:  Dr. Vamvakias replied 11 years ago.

 Jeanne,


You are welcome and I am so sorry that this has been a difficult process for you. Most large breed dogs should never be bred beyond 5yrs of age, obviously smaller dogs can go a few years further just because of the difference in aging and life span.


I don't know what to tell you about your feelings with your vet.  We often forget to offer everything, and then let the owner decide the options. I can only say in my experience only about 15% of pet owners treat their animals in accordance to what I would deem quality medical coverage.  Too many times they take the "wait and see" or if we run a test and not find the exact problem...they think we don't know anything. People often forget the thousands of dollars human physicians use to run tons of tests when people are sick...yet vets are supposed to do a $15 test and know everything.  I know I am rambling, but unfortunately we steer our practice to cater to the 85% of "the others" and we lose site of the 15% that truly matter.  My apologies on behalf of all the vets who cut corners when they don't need to.


Best wishes.


Dr.Vamvakias

Expert:  NancyH replied 11 years ago.
Thank you - I was hoping that my experience would be of some help to you.
I think the difference in breeding ages can be compared to the difference between a woman having children when she is in her early 20's or one waiting until she is in her late 40's - it can be done but the risks are higher for mother and offspring.
Personally as a breeder 6 is my cut off age for a last litter from a dam and then only if my vet and I agree she is in shape for it. I wait until 2 for a first litter as much health testing can only be done after a dog reaches the age of 2 and I want only to produce healthy pups - too heartbreaking for me or another owner otherwise.
If mom has a lot of milk and only two pups to drink it keep a weather eye out for mastitis. I hope the pups grow up healthy and strong and that the dam stays in great shape throughout!

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