This week: Putting a little fear in our small furry friends
It was the end of a typical busy Saturday afternoon and I was sitting in my chair willing the clock on the wall to go that little bit faster. I was exhausted and was looking forward to a nice warm bath, a hot cup of tea and to bask in the undemanding love of my pets. At long last the queue outside in the waiting room had been dealt with and the animals in hospital had their treatment and were quietly resting in their cages. I had a breather. Five minutes to go.
Ring, ring, ring ... I saw the look on my nurse's face and knew Murphy's Law was the only constant in life. She hesitantly answered the phone: 'Dr Eric's, how may I help you?' Her facial features drooped from listening to the answer and I knew it was going to be one of those last minute emergencies that was going to take all night.
My nurse turned and said: 'You had better answer this one.' She passed me the phone.
I put on the most professional voice I could given how tired I was, and dutifully said: 'It's Dr Eric here what's wrong?' I recognised the voice and I knew it really was going to be a long night. It was Mrs Wong calling about her cocker spaniel that was supposed to be due any day now. Two weeks previously we had done a radiograph of her dog, Mui Mui, and noted that she was heavily pregnant with three thriving puppies in her womb.
She said: 'Doctor Lai, it's Mui Mui, she broke water about two hours ago and gave birth to her first live puppy soon after, but it has been two hours and Mui Mui looks exhausted and has simple laid down and given up!' I had no choice as it was a real emergency and told her to bring the dog in promptly.
I told the nurse she would have to cancel her movie appointment as it was going to take a while. Mrs Wong lived in the New Territories. Thirty minutes later, there was a screech of tyres outside the clinic and then the clank of the front door as the world's most distraught lady rushed in carrying her pregnant dog under her right armpit and a basket containing the newly born puppy in her left hand. I rushed her straight in to the consulting room. My nurse took her puppy basket from her and the client placed Mui Mui on the prepared warm towel on my clinic table. I quickly noted that Mui Mui was looking very weak and was not trying to push anymore. I quickly placed an intravenous catheter and gave a painkiller to relief the poor thing a bit. I put on my gloves and gingerly checked Mui Mui to see if the next puppy's head was waiting to come out.
It was important because if I used stimulants to help push the puppy out and the puppy was out of position, I could place the puppies and their mother in danger. I relaxed a little and gave a stimulant injection of (the hormone) called oxytocin and added a little calcium to the drip to help stimulate contractions.
We placed the dog in a comfy cage with plenty of towels for nesting material and dimmed the lights. I guided Mrs Wong to the waiting room and we waited.
Twenty minutes later, nothing. I sighed. We put Mui Mui back on the table. I said to Mui Mui, and indirectly to Mrs Wong, 'Mui Mui, we are going to have to perform a caesarean on you, to save your puppies.' I didn't expect an answer from the dog of course. So I told my nurse to prepare the anaesthetic and I got Mrs Wong to hold on to Mui Mui while I dramatically drew the anaesthetic into a syringe.
I don't know if it was my imagination or just delirium but I swear that Mui Mui's eyes widened at the sight of the syringe; or was it just a reflection of Mrs Wong's eyes. Promptly, she gave birth to her second puppy of the evening.
My well-trained nurse started to rub the puppy with a warm towel, which stimulated mother's licking, and the little guy gasped as it took its first breath as Mrs Wong went from distraught to the happiest person alive.
It wasn't over yet. There was still the matter of the third puppy. I was going to put Mui Mui back in the cage to have a long think about giving birth to her final pup, when I decided to do something different. Very different.
Given the recent success of the threat of surgery, I placed my fingers under Mui Mui's chin and pushed her head up and looked her straight into the eye and said in no uncertain terms: 'If you don't push and push hard, I am going to open you up and pull it out from your insides. So you have two options, we can do it the easy way or the hard way.'
It was my nurse's turn to gasp; I thought she was gasping about my daring insane little speech in front of the client. No. It turns out that Mui Mui gave birth to the last puppy at the end of my speech.
I laughed, and said: 'Smart girl, the easy way.'
All three puppies thrived and came back for their first vaccinations at six weeks of age and it made me feel really content to be a vet.