Uterine atony and haemhorrhage in a French bulldog bitch at c-section

From time to time, particularly when a special dog might be bred, we are involved in their care. Higher risk pregnancies sometimes need active management to protect the life of the mum and the puppies during delivery.

A pregnancy scan at around day 28 to 33 is important to establish if there might be additional risks. For example; if there’s only one or two pups; there can be a high risk of complications such as dystocia. If the pups are measuring very big; with a narrow pelvic diameter; that can spell trouble. In certain cases, we opt for an elective c-section. We use in-house progesterone measurements to time delivery; and we carry out a c-section nice and calmly just at the right time.

We have really finely tuned c-section protocols that we have developed over the past eight years. We use acupuncture to revive weak puppies, and we love delivering special litters safely. Our whole team has special training in this area; and so we have built a strong reputation for saving puppies and their mums. We don’t usually come across too many problems with the mums; because our anaesthetic and surgical protocols are so standardised and successful.

Very rarely, we can encounter uterine haemhorrhage after delivery which is life threatening. This can occur across all species, including humans. The birthing process can present a host of risks to mums.

After the placenta is delivered, uterine contractions help compress the bleeding vessels in the area where the placenta was attached. If the uterus does not contract strongly enough, a complication called uterine atony, these blood vessels bleed freely and hemorrhage occurs. This is the most common cause of postpartum hemorrhage.

We have no control over that type of bleeding; we just have to manage the situation. But without correct action, the mum would quickly die from low blood pressure and poor oxygenation of vital organs. Experience plays a role here.

On Saturday we had this issue during surgery. It’s important to recognise it, and to act very quickly; particularly in smaller breeds with a small blood volume.

We had a 13kg doggy. The uterus did not contract. She was losing blood. We quickly performed an ovariohysterectomy and weighed the organ. Our calculations showed that she had lost 50 percent of her blood volume in a matter of a few minutes.

The gorgeous newborn pups were ok; but mum was in danger. We called for help; and her wonderful owner swung into action and brought us Camaro, a big strong dog who gave a perfect blood donation. We had to move very quickly. We transfused the mum; and kept her under intensive supervision until she stabilised. Then ; as quickly as the drama had unfolded; all was well.

We discharged mum and pups and they will be fine, thank goodness.

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