Monday, May 30, 2011
Once upon a time, when the world was young, I had a ranch practice in northern Montana. It was a wonderful time and place for a young man. Streams were filled with trout, pheasants were in every field, ducks in all the ponds, and every rancher had lovely daughters. But delivering calves was my livelihood. Laboring cows taught me a lesson germane to today’s small animal practice. If a fetus is not positioned in the birth canal it will not be born, nor will the dam strain to deliver it. The problem is uterine inertia for the uterus will not constrict and start the fetus into the pelvis. In most cases intravenous administration of calcium will correct the problem. The uterus can then constrict placing the fetus where it can be expelled normally. But not always!
Jessica, a four pound Maltese female had delivered one pup. Then everything stopped! For an hour she did not deliver any more pups. Didn’t even try! And yet her belly was still distended. She remained pregnant. I could palpate a pup out of position in the anterior abdomen. This seemed to be typical uterine interia so I injected calcium and sent her home. Often these cases will deliver a pup during the car ride home but not this time, nor during the ensuing hour. She had to be returned for a caesarian section. One has to get fetuses out of the abdomen or they will die, start to decompose in the abdomen, and the rotten material will kill the dam. On reexamination the pup had not been moved. It was no nearer to the pelvis then when the dog was initially examined. During surgery I found the wall of the uterus surrounding the remaining pup had ruptured spilling the pup into the abdominal cavity and making it impossible for the pup to be properly positioned. Why the rupture occurred I don’t know. Perhaps it was due to incoordination of uterine contractions. Both pup and mom survived surgery.
Rarely did I find a cow with uterine rupture and the calf lying free in the abdominal cavity. If one did surgery in time the cow might live but usually the calf was dead.
"Photo Attributed to S. Fulljames via flickr.com