If you ever plan on breeding your girl...or if you know someone who might...take a couple of minutes and read about Ice. If it helps anyone...it will make our loss a bit more bearable.
Ice was a beautiful bitch. She was smaller but still to standard. She had tons of personality, very intelligent, and was a very good friend. She was from our first litter. She was doing well in the show ring but even at 2 years was very much a puppy. She just had a puppy quality about her. We were also doing tracking with her and she excelled at it! A Natural!
We had very specific breeding plans for Ice. When we had gotten our first two Mastiffs, Steele and Lacey. We had hoped that they would be compatible...He would have what she needed and she would have what he needed, etc. We decided that they were not compatible and instead decided to breed Lacey out with the intention of breeding Steele to one of her puppies. We chose the stud dog for Lacey with this in mind. First and foremost, however, was trying to produce correct puppies with good temperaments and great health. If it worked that the puppy was compatible with Steele, great!
We were still pretty new to this whole showing/breeding thing. We were following a lot of advice from our fellow Mastiff owners, etc. It was suggested that breeding Ice would mature her. So, when she was old enough, had completed her health testing and came into heat we decided to go ahead and breed her. We were also told that it was perfectly fine to show them pregnant up until they really start to show. Well, we had already entered 2 big shows and didn't want to possibly break the majors so we went ahead and showed her those two weekends. The breeding was successful and we started making all the plans for the upcoming litter. We did a pregnancy test to confirm pregnancy and also did an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed 7 + puppies. We were very excited! This is the breeding we had waited soooooo long for! All was going well. No signs of any problems. At 7 weeks disaster struck. She lost the puppies. It was determined that she had gotten an infection.
We got the infection cleared up. Got Ice over the stress...she was very upset...carried little stuffed animals around for weeks! We were told that we really needed to breed her the very next heat. Because of last time...before we did the breeding...we did deep cultures, blood work, etc. We ran every test known to man to make sure our girl was healthy and nothing was wrong that could affect her being able to safely have these puppies. (One of the tests run was the von Willdebrands test which she passed with flying colors.)
We did the breeding. Again...all was text book perfect. This time...NO SHOWS! We did the pregnancy test (Relaxin) and were very pregnant. We didn't ultrasound this time. We were going to x-ray and wanted to stress her as little as possible. We got to x-ray time and all was well. The x-ray showed 7 or 8 puppies.
Because of how far we are from our absolutely wonderful vet...we had opted for a planned c-section. We went in for progesterone testing daily starting when her temp dropped. Time for the c-section came. Off to the vets we go...we already had our 'bags' packed. The tote box for the puppies with all of the supplies. Ice had gained 50lbs! She was huge. This is a bitch that was only 140lbs.
When they opened her up we discovered that it was a very good thing we opted for the c-section before she went into actual labor. The first puppy in line to be born had died unto 2 weeks prior and the uterine horn had sealed around the puppy. There was no way any of the other puppies could be delivered naturally. She was very full of fluid. That is where most of the weight came from. 8 puppies were delivered successfully. But there was substantial bleeding. The toxins produced by the dead puppy were affecting the clotting factors of the blood. They couldn't get the bleeding to stop. All of the little tiny blood vessels in the uterus were just pumping blood into the body cavity, etc. As a last resort we opted for an emergency spay. The reasoning is that it was becoming impossible to tie off each little tiny blood vessel and hopefully they could get the bleeding to stop if all they had to tie off were the stumps. We used every bit of plasma in the clinic trying to increase the clotting factors in her blood. After she was spayed the bleeding seemed to be stopping. They ran constant counts. It looked like things were going to be ok. My husband had run home for 2 blood donor dogs incase they were needed. (We live 45min away each way.) Ice was improving. Her blood work was showing the counts slowly elevating. We had decided that the best place for her that night was going to be the emergency clinic where they could monitor her to make sure she didn't start bleeding internally and if she did they would have more plasma, etc to treat her with as we had already wiped the clinic out of their complete supply. Ice was stable and our vet got a call with an emergency with her elderly mother. We told her to go ahead. We were just waiting for one more blood test and then we would transport Ice to the emergency clinic.
During all of this the puppies were doing fine. There was one boy that was quite a bit smaller than the others and was a bit weaker. But everyone else was doing great. They had been fed a few times by now and they were sleeping in their heated box.
The first feeding they had was done by the techs. They took blood from one of our donor dogs (Ice's mother) and spun it down. Then they took the plasma and mixed it with the formula and injected it right into their stomachs. This is the equivalent of colostrum. They can only do it this way for the first so many hours. Learn something new every day!
Ice's final blood work came back and she was slowly improving. We decided to go ahead and get her to the emergency clinic so we could get the puppies home.
The emergency clinic is about 10 minutes drive. When we get there...Ice crashes in the parking lot. They rush her into the clinic on a gurney. We start filling out the paperwork...asking what extent do we want them to go to save her, etc. We told them that we had donor dogs in the car. (They had been contacted by the Vet's office and already had her records and were expecting her.)
Here is where it gets very difficult.
When we go in for our c-sections we usually pay the bill the next day or two. The vet doesn't typically have the charges all in the computer right away and we want to get the puppies and mom home, etc. We didn't even bring the check book.
Well, the emergency clinic would not start ANYTHING more than basic CPR on Ice until we paid 1/2 the estimated bill up front. Now, remember when I said that we live 45 minutes one way from there? My husband had to run home and grab the check book, come back, and write them a check before they would do anything! We begged them to start the transfusion! We had the donor dogs right there. I was staying at the hospital with the puppies...we weren't going to skip out on them...just start saving our girl! They did nothing more than give her basic CPR and lactated ringers. They said that there was an ATM in the lobby if we wanted to get cash. HELLO!! What ATM will let you withdraw $2400 in one night? (Oh and by the way it is now 9PM...banks are closed.) And we didn't do credit cards.
They had put me and the puppies in one of the large exam rooms. I could hear the monitor go off every few minutes as Ice quit breathing and had to be revived. This went on for over an hour. It finally got to the point that the only way she could stay breathing is if they were doing compressions. And because my husband wasn't back yet with the check book...they would do nothing more. The donor dogs were just hanging out in the truck! They finally let me go back and see her. I had to let her go. It was the hardest decision I have ever made. At this point we didn't know what the lack of oxygen had done to her, etc. We didn't even know if they would be able to bring her back at this point. And still they wouldn't start anything.
Allen got there 20 minutes later. Before we could leave we had to still pay 1/2 of the original estimated cost to save her. If there was any unused portion they would mail us a check.
The final cost for the emergency clinic experience? The loss of our bitch and $2000.
We have learned a couple of things from this...We always take blood donor dogs with us just in case. We ALWAYS have the check book with us. And I wouldn't take a dying lizard to this particular emergency clinic. Our vet was devastated. She felt very responsible as she was the one that sent us there. We know she sent us there for the state of the art facilities, etc. Now she knows that the policies that they have can affect the quality of the care given.
We did loose the one little boy puppy on day 2 but have 7 very healthy babies to carry on for their mom. We see a lot of her in the puppies...little quirks here and there.
It was VERY hard for me at first to really love the puppies...I was just numb. I blamed myself for what happened. After all if I had not bred her she wouldn't have died. I didn't blame the puppies...I was just too numb to really enjoy the first few days. Then the numbness wore off and I realized that these were the only part of Ice left. It was truly a special litter.
I am a firm believer in things happen for a reason. We may not always understand that reason but there is one. I began to look for the good that could possibly come from Ice's experience. Only a few weeks after it happened...I was home with the puppies. I got a call from a gentleman that had a 5 1/2 year old bitch that he wanted to breed. He loved her and since she was getting older wanted to have one of her puppies to carry on. I told him Ice's story and said that if he was prepared to loose her...go ahead and do the breeding. If not...contact the breeder (I knew his breeder) and get a puppy related to his girl. If he thought that he might want to breed that puppy in the future he could start earlier and do all the right things from the beginning such as showing, testing, etc. He called me back a few months later to thank me and tell me he just brought his girl home from the vet's office after being spayed and was on the waiting list for a puppy from his breeder.
One litter down...how many more could Ice's story prevent? I know of 3 other situations similar to the one above. Although it doesn't bring Ice back...at least I know something good is coming from it.
Bottom line...if you make the decision to breed your bitch...choose the very best stud dog for her. Don't settle for the one that is closest or cheapest or whatever. Don't have a litter for the kids. Don't have a litter because you believe it will make your girl a better pet. Do it with the thought in mind that you are taking a great risk.
Is it worth it? Is it worth the ultimate price?
Please take the time to read Ice's Story!