A Difficult Labour

Everyone we asked seem to have a different idea of when Havoc would be due. Trouble was the literature says "63 days from ovulation" or "63 days from the hormonal spike" regardless of when dogs were bred. BUT Havoc and Gryff were bred two days after she had ovulated. So was she due on January 17 or Jan 19?

She refused to eat anything on January 15, and showed some nesting signs, digging etc, so we knew that it would be sometime soon. We had a practice on Jan 16 for the demo for the Pet Expo, so I had to be there. Not wanting Havoc to be on her own we packed her into the vehicle and took her along to hang out. When we got home that evening Havoc started digging a bit, and panting, and looking generally miserable.

Okay, must be Jan 17, here we go! We waited, and waited, and waited. She would sit up occasionally, like something was going to happen, but nothing did. She would have bouts of panting lying with her head up and looking distant - that one is in the books, looking distant - classic sign, tight abdomen, and every time she drank she threw up. But after an hour of looking stressed she would lie back down and look more relaxed. This went on all of Saturday night, Sunday, and Sunday night. Everyone says first stage of labour should be maximum about 24 hours. But by Monday morning Havoc was starting to relax and sleep more and more. Hmmmmm. no visible contractions. Maybe we were hallucinating and it should be Jan 19? I started to force feed her a pasty supplement to try to keep her strength up, but it was definitely force feeding, as she didn't want ANY of that!

We kept taking her temperature because that should be a sign of impending labour, but her temperature fluctuated up and down throughout each day, so we really couldn't see a discernable pattern. It went from 100.7 to 99.3 and back up again on a not at all regular basis.

Tuesday morning Havoc was again pretty relaxed, but I was still worried that she might have been in labour, and it might have stalled, because she was throwing up all the water that we gave her to drink, she hadn't eaten in 4 days, and she had seemed to be in some sort of distant headspace of and on for 36 hours. So we carted her off the vet for a look.

The vet could hear multiple heartbeats of puppies - all good there, Havoc's heartbeat and temperature were good, and the discharge coming occasionally from her backend was clear with no sign of green or odour - all good there. The vet also did an internal and said all seemed good. So she gave her some subcutaneous fluids to make sure she stayed hydrated and sent us on our way.

At this point I would have loved to have walked her around to try to bring on a contraction or two, but of course, she couldn't walk and her hind legs were immense, so we kept rubbing her down, rubbing her legs to relieve the pressure and waited. I had now been awake, with some small catnap exceptions, since Saturday, watching for any sign of a contraction.

Home, Tuesday afternoon, and Havoc was once again resting in the whelping box, with me once again watching her. At 3:00 pm she had a slightly bloody mucousy discharge. Hmmm, that would be a good thing, or it could be a bad thing. Finally, at 4:22 she had a clear contraction. Yeah! Thankfully I was watching for it, because she didn't give much sign, other than a ripple across her abdomen that did not coincide with breathing.

So my instinct, that the 63 days actually started from conception, and not necessarily from ovulation, seemed to be holding up. Time for some puppies!

Havoc's contractions were quite light, no big moaning or groaning, just a ripple and tightening of the abdomen muscle. This had me worried that she might be a sign that she was too tired to do the job, but I kept looking for the something more, and finally at 4:55 there was the first brown protruding sac. Over the next half an hour it came out about 1 inch, and when I touched it I realized that there was a puppy in there!

Not sure if she was just getting tired, but things seemed to be stalled, so I reached in a bit and helped the puppy come mostly out (didn't want to pull too hard). Then I tried hard to rub him upside down, and clear everything, but the placenta was still not out, so I couldn't move the pup too far away as he was still connected. But at least he was alive and moving and mostly out of the sack (hind feet were still in there with the placenta. I waited a bit longer and then worked on clearing the placenta as well. I am REALLY hesitant to interfere, as I know that can lead to all sort of problems, but the pup was just sitting there for so long that I felt the need to do something. There didn't seem to be any more contractions coming, so I had to just pull the placenta out gradually.

Once it cleared I tied off the cord (not easy with one person and a wiggly puppy) and rubbed the pup down, and it seemed fine. Things were going well! That was about 7:00 pm, and it was a boy who weighed 1 lb 14 oz.

I figured it would be a bit of a wait before the next one as Havoc was pretty tired, but I knew that there were some signs to look for if there was a problem, the biggest one being any of green discharge or the mother seeming to be in any sort of distress, or the next pup taking a long time to come. So I watched and waited, and continued to do a lot of laundry (a dog who doesn`t walk still needs to poop and pee, and we were trying to give Havoc lots of water, and she was no longer throwing up, so there was a lot to clean up)

Herein lay the problem though, just like with the ovulation vs conception issue, there didn't seem to be a consensus on how long was too long. From 2 hours to 6 hours before the next pup was documented in various places. So we waited and kept a close eye on any sort of discharge, and Havoc's attitude. No problems there, clear discharge, and she was relaxed and sleeping.

Every few hours she had a couple of contractions, but they never got really strong. But of course every time I thought about calling a vet she would have some light contractions, so again there was optimism that things were getting going.

By the wee hours of the morning I was still getting pretty worried. But I could still feel kicking in there, and Havoc still looked okay. Our options were to wait a couple more hours, or to take her to emergency. If our emergency vets were okay I would have had her in there in a heartbeat. But emergency vets in Edmonton are rife with problems. If a dog is healthy and goes there for a broken leg or stitches they may come out okay. But sick or weakened dogs dont 'do so well by the time they finally get to leave the waiting room and get in to see someone.

We had had a couple of visits to the emergency vets and had been horrified by the attitude of staff, and the general states of the place (there are two clinics, both I think both have major issues). AND there is currently a really nasty bout of bloody diarrhea sickness going around the city, so chances of a non infectious trip to an emergency waiting room was pretty small. So I looked around for other options. And she still looked fine.

There were three vet clinics that I know, and respect in Edmonton. So I tried those first. Of course things weren't open yet so I left messages. When they started calling me back, the vet clinic that we normally go to had no doctors on until noon. On to the next one, when we finally got through they had no doctors on call eithor, so they were referring people to the Emergency vet. The next one had a doctor on that I hadn`t been impressed with, and that I had heard not so great things about; the doctor that I liked wasn't in at all that day.

So I started on clinics that I didn't know personally but that I had heard good things about. First one, no doctors until noon again. But they recommended another one across the city. I called there (by this time it was close to opening time) and they said come in right away.

It took over an hour to get Havoc in the vehicle and across the city to the vet (she was 80 pounds of weight, mostly in the back end, and I was by myself and had to get her out of the whelping box, through the house, down the stairs, across the snow shovelled walk, and into the van. I carried her on a blanket but it was tough and kept slipping, and I really didn't want to dump her in the snow, so we took it slow. And she just kept looking at me saying "what are you doing and where are we going"?

Finally got her to the vet and he did an internal and said the one thing I had been fearing, pup was stuck in the canal (tried to come out backwards and had no room to readjust) and clearly dead. And he said that the time frame probably meant that all the other pups were dead as well. My heart sank. But I had been sure that I could still feel movement.

The vet and technicians told me that they would be doing a c-section. and left me in the room with Havoc and went various ways, and finally I popped my head out the door and suggested to everyone that since the vet had said that the pups were probably all dead, but that I really thought I could feel some movement, there seemed maybe to be some sense of urgency. After that they become attentive more quickly, and began to get Havoc readied for surgery.

Unfortunately Havoc's veins did not cooperate and it took them 3 tries and 1/2 hour to get the intravenous in (which happened before when we were ovulation testing, so I know it is a Havoc vein issue). But finally she was hooked up and draped, and shaved and ready to go.

This vet clinic as awesome when it came time to getting pups out and they let me remain in the room while they cut her open and began the process of looking for puppies. The vet kept commenting on how many pups where in there, but said it was not looking hopeful. Still, they had 6 people on standby with towels to try to revive pups. He started taking pups out and passing them off, and I give full credit to the rubbers, they tried hard, but the pups were simply too far gone to revive.

Then, the vet cam to the final pup in one uterine horn and he said that one seemed to be in better shape. They started towelling, and hopes raised when that pup started yelping at the rubbing process. 1 alive! Boy. Then the vet started on the second horn and the pups were once again dead. But toward the top of this horn they came across a pup that seemed to want to try to live. There wasn't much, but after vigorous towelling there was a weak sign of life. So they continued to try. Then came the last pup, and once again, good yowling quickly after towelling began. Two alive, one on the edge.

They worked on the weak one for 20 minutes, and put it on oxygen. It would take one or two breaths and they stop, but if it was jostled repeatedly it would finally take one or two breaths again. It was a nice sized girl, and I was saddened to see the trouble she was having. Finally they had her breathing somewhat, and so she went with the other three pups (the naturally birthed one from the day before was also there) under the heat lamp.

Havoc took quite a while to come around, but they had based the anaesthetic on her pre-pregnancy weight, and she hadn't eaten for a few days at that point, so I think she was just well under.

But she finally came around, and we were all put in a clinic room together (Havoc, the pups, and I) so Havoc could continue to revive and get fluids, as her gums were as white as chalk.

The weak pup was having a lot of trouble from the get go, the hind end didn't really seem to work, as the other pups were crawling around the tub under the heat lamp, but she just lay there and tried to breath.

Once Havoc was looking recovered enough I brought the pups out to try to suckle. The weak one would not even try, and kept throwing her head back, but the other new boy boy and girl latched on with great enthusiasm. Good start! Finally, after a couple of hours of trying the weak one just gave up, and was gone. She put in a valiant effort but just couldn`t manage it, so she joined the 9 others who did not survive (12 in the litter, 3 survived that process, but the first one who had been born one died two days later)

I brought them all home later that afternoon. Thank goodness for that vet clinic, because their efforts really helped to save those two last pups, and now there is at least company in the whelping box.