Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's Hard To Be A Teenage Mom: Bella's Story

Meet our newest rescue, Bella. She's our most recent (because we get them all the time) poster child for reasons to spay/neuter your pets. Bella is 11 months old, a baby herself, and was pregnant. Whether her owners tried to breed her or not was a little unclear, but they had not done any of the required preparations to get themselves and Bella ready for the new arrivals. What many people don't realize is that breeding dogs and having puppies is not always easy and is rarely a good way to make money, etc. Reputable breeders select mates for their dogs based on a slew of veterinary exams and tests, making sure to decrease the likelyhood of passing on negative traits (like hip dysplasia) while doing what they can to improve on the genetics of the parents (by selecting a mate with traits the other dog lacks, etc). Even after choosing the right dog, it's important to take the pregnant momma dog into the veterinarian regularly to make sure that everything is going normally. By the time she is ready to whelp (or give birth), owners should have a sense of how many puppies are inside and how they are doing. In Bella's case, none of this had been done. She had arrived on a Wednesday night an emergency hospital after being transferred from a local hospital that was concerned about the delivery.

When Bella arrived, she had two live puppies and was trying to have more. Her owners didn't have any money, but applied for and received some CareCredit, a loan for veterinary services. Since they didn't have much, the veterinarians tried to save money and do just the bare necessities. Since Bella was tired from pushing and not getting puppies out, they treated her with oxytocin and calcium to help her get things moving. She finally got one more live puppy out and started feeding her little ones. Since the owners didn't have the money for an x-ray or ultrasound, the veterinarians couldn't tell if she was finished whelping or not. Since she seemed to be doing better, they sent her home.

Twenty-four hours later, Bella was back. The local vet that she had visited on Wednesday afternoon called on Thursday evening to ask how the puppies were doing, and when they were told that poor Bella was still in labor, they insisted the owners take her back to the emergency room. By the time that Bella got there, she was looking pretty worse for wear. Clearly, a puppy was stuck, and it wasn't getting out without surgery. That puppy was clearly dead (having been stuck in the birth canal for likely 24 hours) but the veterinarians were still able to hear fetal heartbeats, very fast and faint, indicating that the puppies remaining inside were dying from all the stress. To make things worse, Bella was showing signs of being septic, which means that the infection in her uterus (caused by the prolonged delivery) had probably ruptured and gone into her abdomen, making her very sick and getting worse. Things were not looking good for Bella or her puppies. Dogs in dystocia (the term for difficult births) for this long have a very poor prognosis, and every minute counts as the infection moves through her body and makes her sicker and sicker. Unfortunately, Bella's owners couldn't get more CareCredit, and they couldn't come up with the money to save her (at least $1000 and probably more at this point). The veterinarian gave them the option to euthanize her or to sign her over to the hospital, saying they would try to find a rescue group to take her, do the surgery, and save her life. In the meantime, they called us to ask if we would be willing to take her, recognizing that at 9pm on a weeknight it may not be easy to find someone willing to do the surgery immediately, which she definitely needed.

Before she was officially signed over, we went into action. Because every minute counts in a case like this, we wanted to be ready in case the owners decided to turn her over to our group. Our veterinarian was called and returned to her veterinary clinic to do the emergency surgery, getting everything set up in the clinic. Some of our volunteers were called, since we would need people to stimulate the puppies when they came out, just in case any of them could be saved. Two of us went to the emergency hospital to wait, so that if Bella was signed over, we could immediately take her and run out the door, getting her to surgery ASAP. The decision wasn't easy for Bella's owners; while they didn't want her to die, they also couldn't understand someone else being willing to try to save their dog and not give her back. It was frustrating for everyone involved as the veterinarian tried not to rush the owners unfairly, but all the while knowing that the puppies and Bella were dying. Finally, Bella's owners signed the paperwork, and we rushed out the door with her. They had not decided what they were doing with the three puppies, so we left them in the hospital, hoping we could come back to pick them up so that they could be raised by their mother.

Within a half hour, Bella was in surgery. She did pretty well, but it was quickly obvious that things were as bad as we had suspected. When we opened her up we found that her uterus had ruptured and her entire abdomen was septic (infected). We pulled out the puppies one by one (there were four still inside), and tried to save the two that looked the healthiest. Despite our best efforts, these two little ones never took a breath and never had a heartbeat. Bella was a trooper through surgery and woke up (after being administered lots of pain medication, fluids, and antibiotics) a little while later, only to cuddle with us for the next hour as we made sure that she was stable enough to leave in the hospital.

Bella's owners opted to take home the three live puppies, to try to bottle raise them at home. The nurses at the emergency room taught them how to feed the puppies, how to stimulate them to go to the bathroom, and explained how hard and often they would have to be doing it. The owners were optimistic, so we're hopeful that these three little ones will survive, and that their owners will have learned a very sad lesson, and take care to spay and neuter them so this doesn't happen again.

Bella is recovering well; after spending a night in the hospital, she went into foster care where she's slowly recovering from her surgery. After two days, she's likely out of the woods and only needs a little time to feel herself... Stay tuned for updates!

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