The dog in front of me was bouncing off the walls. Her vitals were absolutely normal. Her abdomen was not painful when I palpated it. She was at 63 days gestation (the normal gestation period for a dog). The owner had been taking her temperature at home, and it had dropped, as it should, on Wednesday. One way to predict labor in dogs is to measure body temperature. About 24 hours before labor begins, the body temperature will drop below 100 degrees. This dog's temperature had dropped on Wednesday. No labor ensued. The temperature had gone back up about a day later, and then, nothing. The dog felt great. She'd had no contractions, no sacs or fluid passing from the uterus. Everything looked normal. Except something just wasn't right. I couldn't put my finger on what.
I xrayed her and counted 5 puppies. I ultrasounded her and counted 5 puppies, all with normal heart rates of about 180-200. They were all moving, and everyone looked healthy and vigorous.
Yet, I still just had a feeling.
I talked to the owner. We discussed taking a wait-and-see approach, trying oxytocin (Pitocin) to induce labor, or a c-section. After much debate, the owner elected to go ahead with the c-section.
Imagine my surprise to find that the dog had suffered a partial uterine torsion. Just like humans, the uterus is shaped like a y. The body is at the base, and the y shape is the horns. The puppies are in the horns. In this dog, the left horn had twisted and was underneath the right horn. As I de-rotated the horn, puppies started falling out of the horn. It had ruptured, but due to its position, the other uterine horn was holding all the fluid and the puppies (all ALIVE!) in place.
It was the oddest thing I have seen thus far. I don't know what told me that something wasn't right, but I am so thankful that the owner decided to do a c-section! Otherwise, I would have sent that dog home, and she would eventually have become septic, the puppies likely would have died, and mom could have too. Sometimes, you have to listen to that little voice, after all.
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