UF veterinarians save pregnant dog with pancreatitis – and her puppies

Patches, center, with her three puppies. (Photo courtesy of Flowerwood Dachshunds)

Dachshund breeder Dale Flowers has weathered many a journey with her dogs, shepherding them through pregnancies, even letting them sleep in her bed at night just weeks before their due date. But the medical odyssey she recently went through with Patches, named for her unique dappled marking, was unlike any other.

Thanks to recent treatment at UF’s Pet Emergency Treatment Services in Ocala and follow-up at the Small Animal Hospital in Gainesville, a very-pregnant Patches survived a near-fatal bout with pancreatitis. And not only did she survive; she gave birth within days of her discharge to three puppies, two of which survived and are healthy.

“Patches and the pups are doing fine,” Flowers said, adding that the puppies will turn 7.5 weeks old on May 2. She had reservations on both for adoption.

“I am very pleased with Patches’ progress and thank UF again for saving her and her babies,” Flowers said.

But the happy ending to Patches’ saga could have easily gone the other way. UF veterinarians came very close to spaying Patches due to the severity of her illness, which would have meant sacrificing the babies to save her life, with uncertain impact on Patches. Veterinarians wrestled with the best way to proceed, involving specialists from three different services, said Dr. Leo Londono, a resident in emergency and critical care.

Londono first saw Patches when she was admitted at the PETS after-hours emergency clinic and continued to work with the dog after her transfer to Gainesville for specialty treatment.

“We don’t see a lot of cases involving pregnant females that get sick, and we’re not always sure of the best way to proceed,” Londono said. “If the dog is painful, you can’t give too many pain medications, as this could affect the puppies. We weren’t sure if going to surgery was the right decision either, as anesthesia could have made her pancreatitis worse.”

Ultimately, veterinarians’ decision to administer aggressive therapy and give Patches more time to respond to it, resulted in Patches’ and her puppies’ survival. In addition, the relationship between the two UF veterinary clinics involved in her care allowed for a seamless transfer to Gainesville and the full house of experts available at the main Small Animal Hospital.

“This case really illustrates well how smoothly the two clinics work together,” said Dr. Carsten Bandt, chief of the hospital’s Emergency and Critical Care Service.”We were able to drive Patches to Gainesville and provide continuous care for her, as we do for the most critically ill patients who initially come to us through PETS.

Patches ordeal started on Jan. 30, when Flowers found her prized 5-year-old dog on the ground and obviously in pain. Patches was hyperventilating and would not eat, Flowers said. When her condition didn’t improve after a few days of treatment, Flowers’ local veterinarian, Dr. Ashley Boyd, referred the dog to UF.

“Dr. Boyd said she might die if she were not admitted,” said Flowers, who has had Patches since she was an 8-week-old puppy. She described Patches as being very affectionate — a cuddler who loves to sleep in the crook of her arm and snuggle. She said Patches’ most recent litter was her fourth, and that her puppies had always been sought after in the past.

Veterinary specialists from UF’s emergency and critical care, small animal surgery and theriogenology services were involved in Patches case, illustrating UF’s multidisciplinary approach to problem solving and case management, Londono said.

“We learned a lot from Patches case,” he said. “The owner was very concerned about Patches, so if we had to sacrifice the puppies to save her life, we would have, but at the same time we didn’t want to rush into a decision when we didn’t have to. But sitting and watching and waiting wasn’t going to be enough either, so we decided to be more aggressive in our therapy and in the end that was the right thing to do.”

Flowers said the ordeal was an emotional roller coaster and one she hoped to never have to go through again.

“UF’s care of Patches was very good,” she said. “Everyone from the front desk to teams in the ICU knew Patches and had nice things to say about her. I received daily reports, sometimes twice daily, from Dr. Londono and I greatly appreciated that.”