Here is something I discovered recently that apparently happens all the time.
I was watching a mommy whelp. She was having some difficulties, so I stayed with her the entire time. It was my first time watching an entire birthing process, start to finish. There was a point where a pup got stuck, and was stillborn. I had to pull the pup out. It was interesting that the bitch never attempted to clean it up or anything. She also ended up retaining a placenta from another baby, and had an infection and needed surgery, but, the point of this post is about one of her puppies.
Like I said, I had never watched the entire process. Sometimes the bitches whelp overnight and we see her the next morning with 5 puppies and all is well. Sometimes they start during the day, and we just go check on her every 15 minutes or so and let nature take it’s course (unless we need to intervene). I am a firm believer that a dog’s natural instincts are way better than any human intervention most of the time. So, we are very “hands off” during the whelping process, unless there is a reason to get involved.
Anyway, the bitch was whelping, and she delivered a very small pup. At a glance, it looked like the umbilical cord was all twisted and red and weird looking. I didn’t get to see much, as the bitch started cleaning her up and I didn’t want to interfere just to have a look. Anyway, she cleaned up the pup and her belly looked fine, so I didn’t think much of it. But, as the day wore on, this pup nursed, but never seemed to get “full” – she had a look like a deflated balloon.
By the evening, the pup was very weak and the bitch was pushing her over to the side of the whelping box, away from the other puppies. By the next morning, the puppy had passed away.
Two days after whelping, the bitch was very sick, feverish, and was not taking care of her babies at all, so I took her to the vet, where we gave her medicine to induce smooth muscle contractions. She delivered a placenta and we immediately started her on antibiotics and subcutaneous fluids. While in the vet’s office, I mentioned to her about the small pup with the weird looking umbilical cord. I actually said, “It looked like intestines or something.” The vet said it probably was intestines, and that it is actually fairly common for puppies to be born with the intestines on the outside. But, unless you are watching right when the pup is born you’d never know. Why?
Because the mother cleans off the babies, and pulls out the intestines and unless you actually watch it happen, you wouldn’t know. I felt sort-of relieved to know that. We have had a couple of pups that were very small, only lived 12 – 24 hours, and no matter how much we hand fed them, they never looked “full.” Now I know why. They were probably born with their intestines on the outside.
The vet told me that sometimes pups born with their intestines on the outside can live up to 24 hours or so outside the womb. She also said that in her career, she has probably had 100 people bring in newborn pups with the intestines on the outside (and probably that many call but not come in). Of those, she’s done surgery on about 50 of them to clean and re-insert the intestines. Of those 50, only 2 survived.
I found all of this to be very interesting and a really good thing to know. I mean, not that there is much that can be done to remedy the problem, but, I can at least rest a bit easier knowing that there wasn’t anything else I could have done with the ones we have already lost.