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Extra Special Delivery: FTF’s Doggie Doula Helps Rescue Moms Give Birth

The call came in at 5:30 PM from Courtney and Zach D. Margot, a 1.5-year-old pregnant Australian cattle dog mix the couple had been fostering for 2 weeks, was in active labor. Assistance from the FTF whelping team was needed ASAP. Just as she had done more than 60 times in the past 19 years, Tonya M., Fetching’s Doggie Doula, rushed over to help.

Tonya’s role as a midwife to pooches begins as soon as FTF learns a rescue is pregnant. Often, this news comes as a surprise, discovered during the dog’s intake veterinary checkup. An X-ray or ultrasound is performed to estimate the due date and number of puppies. Then Tonya is notified and put in contact with the foster family caring for the expectant mom. Since most people who foster a pregnant dog are doing it for the first time, Tonya’s first tasks are to educate the family about what to expect before, during, and after delivery; answer their questions; and ease their concerns about this new experience.

So why is a doggie doula even necessary? After all, dogs give birth without help all the time. Tonya agrees that healthy canine moms-to-be typically have problem-free deliveries, and this was the case for Margot. Tonya, Courtney, and Zach served as coaches during the birthing process, providing calming support and encouragement while Margot did all the work. Two hours after Tonya’s arrival, the first pup, a male, was born. Margot freed him from the amniotic sac and bit through the umbilical cord, then the puppy was placed on a nipple to nurse. This process was repeated twice more over the next 2.5 hours, as 2 female pups were born. Margot took the births in stride and contently let her hungry little babies suckle.

Sadly, not all deliveries are as simple and straightforward as Margot’s. Pregnant rescue dogs are often malnourished, unvaccinated, and sometimes have underlying medical issues—all of which heighten the risk for both moms and their pups. In this situation, the expertise of a Doggie Doula is critical, and this was certainly true for Kerry.

One-year-old Kerry came to FTF from a hoarding situation in Tennessee, where 18 small-breed dogs were living in squalor in an abandoned house. At just 17 pounds, Kerry was quite underweight, so it came as a shock when the vet reported that the little terrier mix was pregnant—with 4 puppies!—and due at any time. Because of the increased likelihood for complications during delivery, including the possibility that Kerry was impregnated by a much larger dog and might have oversized (for her) puppies, Tonya brought the sweet girl into her home to foster and deliver.

On January 9th, Tonya knew that birth was imminent. The previous day, Kerry was exhibiting nesting behaviors and had refused all food. Now, her temperature had dropped to 98 degrees (normal is around 101-102 degrees). About 7 hours later, Kerry’s contractions began. Her first pup, a male, was quite large and became stuck in the birth canal, requiring Tonya’s assistance in getting him out and resuscitation to start him breathing. Three more pups, another boy and 2 girls, were delivered without incident over the next 2.5 hours.

One of the female puppies struggled to latch onto Kerry’s nipples, so Tonya decided to bottle-feed her. But after 3 weeks of round-the-clock bottle-feeding, the pup was not gaining as much weight as her siblings. Tonya brought her in for a veterinary evaluation, and the diagnosis was devastating. The puppy had multiple birth defects affecting her hard and soft palate, which made feeding and swallowing difficult, and a very serious heart murmur. It was decided that euthanasia was the kindest option.

Tonya takes solace knowing that the little pup experienced much love during her brief life. And she emphasizes that while fostering rescued moms-to-be and their pups can have some heartbreaks, “the rewards are everlasting, and the kisses received, and the beautiful first moments experienced with the mama dog and puppies make it worthwhile.”

Both Margot and Kerry have proven to be excellent mothers, and their pups are thriving. Soon all will be available for adoption, so check the FTF website, if you’re interested. And if you think you’d like to foster a mom-to-be and her pups, please contact our puppy team by filling out a foster application here.

Written By: Michele G.

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