Anyone who has cast even a passing eye over the news this week will know of the terrible floods happening in Australia. Over the weekend, the floods became more than just a news item to us at Kitaco in NZ, however, when, trapped by rising flood waters, one of our Kitaco girls living in Queensland went into labour, needed veterinary intervention, and there was no way to get out, no vets who could get in and no chance of any external help.
In early 2021, we sent 2 girls to Violette at Atistaldi Kennels for her breeding program, and of course, as we do with all our owners, be they pet or show breeder, have stayed in regular contact since then. Violette is new to Chihuahuas, but she has a long career as a breeder of champion Bengals, so she is hardly a novice at whelping.
The first sign of trouble happened around 2:00 pm (Aussie time) when Pearl pushed out a placenta and a sac with no puppy inside. Placental separation is quickly fatal for a pup, so when Violette texted Tracey to tell her (they’d been in touch since Pearl’s first sign of labour), Tracey ordered her straight to her vet for an emergency C-section.
Violette rang her vet to let them know she was on her way, only to learn that both nearby vet clinics had been forced to evacuate because of rising floodwaters. Not only that, her property was now also largely underwater, the paddocks flooded, and there was water lapping at her doorstep. She was completely cut off. Even if she could find a vet who could help, she couldn’t get to them and they couldn’t get to her. (In the photo above, which Violette took from her house, you can just see the top of her gate poking out from the raging torrent.)
With no aid available other than Tracey on the end of the phone in New Zealand, for the next 12 hours Violette and her husband, following Tracey’s texted instructions, fought to save Pearl and her litter.
The first pup was already dead and stuck. It was time to get creative and find ways of helping the labour without any chance of a vet being on hand or access to any medication like oxytocin to help things along, Via text, Tracey asked if they had any calcium on hand. Turns out they had some calcium powder they use for the geckos they also breed. Tracey figured that might work, calculated a dosage and told Violette how to administer the calcium to force contractions and then sent instructions on how to safely get the dead puppy out. By the time they managed to get first pup clear, the second was already in severe distress and although they were able to get it out faster than the first one, by now, Pearl had been in labour for 8 or more hours. Sadly, the stress was too much for the second pup, too, and although they were able to deliver him intact, he was stillborn.
The third pup – a tiny 52g girl - was born alive, not long after, but even in a perfect world with everything going according to plan, any pup would struggle to survive at that weight.
Scans had revealed 3 pups onboard, so things were – we all believed - done and dusted. Pearl was tired, but seemed OK after her harrowing ordeal, and given how easily she could have been lost along with her puppies, everyone was just relieved that she was still with us, even if we knew the remaining pup was unlikely to survive.
But then, around 2:00 am, with Violette, her husband and Tracey, all exhausted and heartbroken over the loss of the first two pups and the probable loss of the tiny, lone survivor, Pearl unexpectedly started pushing again.
With all she been through, Pearl managed one final, heroic effort and delivered a healthy 120g boy who, even after 12 hours of being stuck behind the others, and all the distress of the prolonged labour, was hale and hearty and ready to feed off mum, the moment he got near her.
As expected, the little girl did not make it through the next 24 hours, but the boy – a gorgeous, deep red fellow with white Irish markings – is thriving. Pearl seems to be fine. She is an attentive mum, has lots of milk and is very proud of her handsome boy.
As for the floods, well, they seem to have peaked. Violette and her family are no longer trapped, and everyone has managed a good night’s sleep.
Violette plans to call the pup Ray of Sunshine, which seems appropriate. We’re just glad Pearl is still with us, has a beautiful baby to nurture and care for (she was so proud and happy afterwards, despite everything), and relieved that if she had to be anywhere in this crisis, she was with such a dedicated family who refused to give up and got her through her terrible ordeal with courage, patience and remote assistance from a vet, thousands of kilometres away in another country.
We sure know how to pick our Kitaco owners. Also, I think we can claim fairly exceptional “after sales service” here at Kitaco, although we’d all be very happy never to have to go through anything like this again. Ever.