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Cesarean section in the bitch: Why mine is different from yours (Proceedings)

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Apr 01, 2010

For the committed dog breeder, what begins with a single pet as a casual hobby evolves into an avocation that is truly life-transforming. Often their every minute and dollar are expended in pursuit of their chosen "dog sport:" AKC or UKC conformation shows, hunting, tracking, agility, water rescue, schutzhund, to name but a few. The average purchase price of a well-bred, registered puppy is well over $1200. Prices for so called "show prospects" can be significantly higher. Stud services vary tremendously in cost but generally start at $500. I recently performed a surgical insemination in which we used a single straw of frozen semen. The bitch owner informed us that he had paid $15,000 for that straw of semen. In addition to the stud service fees, the bitch owner also incurs veterinary service fees for breeding management, semen collection and processing, in addition to FedEX or UPS shipping fees, and travel expenses,etc. Consequently, the dog breeder requires and expects the best possible outcome for each litter.

Breeder perspective

This section might just as well be entitled, "Please don't shoot your breeder client." Almost without exception, when we see a breeder client for the first time each has their own tale of woe regarding a "nightmare" experience with a caesarian section delivery. The one that is at the top of the list of lasting impressions was related to me by a breeder of springer spaniels. Ten puppies were imaged on her bitch, Emily's, term gestation radiograph. When her Emily failed to progress during labor, she ended up at an EVC for an emergency c-section delivery. One doctor and one technician were on duty at the facility. What follows is an excerpt from her written account of the experience.

"Because Emily was still stable (but exhausted and distressed), there was a lengthy delay in getting her into surgery. As they took her away from me, the doctor said "You don't expect these puppies to be alive do you?" After another hour of waiting, I headed down the hall to the surgical area to see what was going on or holding up the show. The door to this room has a side window next to it. I was shocked at what I saw through that window as I came down the hallway. The tech was putting puppies into the big slop surgical bucket on the floor! I couldn't see that they had even pulled the sack off their faces, no forceps used on the cord or for the placenta. I could only see the handing of the puppies to the tech for her to plop in the bucket on the floor. I tried to open the door as I have to say I was furious. It was locked so I knocked on the window and said "WHAT ARE YOU DOING! GIVE ME MY PUPPIES NOW!"

The point is that many breeder clients perceive that they have been judged negatively by veterinarians for being dog breeders. They also perceive that many veterinarians do not have any idea of the investment they have made in the breeding. Often they do not trust the attending veterinarian, and often this lack of trust is justifiable from their previous experiences with our colleagues.

If you commit to providing services to a breeder client, the following tips may be helpful:

     • Be patient. You know you know what you are doing, but they need to be confident that you do know what you are doing. Take the time to answer their questions and "pass the test" without getting your feathers ruffled.
     • Be available. If you commit to performing an elective caesarian section delivery or providing intervention in the event of a dystocia, then make good on your commitment.
     • Be willing to learn from your breeder clients. I tell my clients that I know canine reproduction, but that I also rely upon them to inform me of predispositions that we may encounter relative to breed or familial lines. Once the breeder client realizes that you respect their knowledge and experience, then they will respect you.
     • Involve the breeder client as much as you can. Your patient is much more than their family pet. The breeder client rarely will leave the building when their dog is undergoing surgery, particularly a Caesarian section. Embrace their desire to help. Notably, breeder clients are often adept at puppy resuscitation.