This section was launched in 2000 when Veterinary Medicine became "big business" and vets were forced to become corporate managers, dispensing profitable but potentially deadly drugs, risking malpractice suits while trying to balance pet insurance paperwork. Not an easy pill to swallow!!! If you have a story to tell, email editor
by L.K. Miller TheDogPlace.org April 2010
Graphically documented case of veterinary malpractice involving unnecessary x-rays, ultrasound, lab tests, antibiotics, and a premature c-section that killed a healthy litter. We present this case because high profit, high risk procedures are COMMON PRACTICE in many canine reproduction practices.
I called a local veterinary reproduction “specialist” clinic consisting of a “husband-wife team” in the beginning of June 2009 regarding my pregnant champion-producing bitch. My bitch's prior litter was expelled and lost prematurely so I wanted to make sure she was receiving the best, specialized care possible, hence calling their office.
After giving the vet all of the pertinent information, he suggested that I bring my bitch into the office on June 11, 2009 for an ultrasound at 8:30am. From my breeding records, that would have been (approximately) day 38 from the first breeding. On June 11th, my 18 year old daughter and I brought my bitch in to their office and saw “wife” vet. During the ultrasound, “wife” vet and a vet tech told us that there were at least 9 puppies. She gave my bitch a Brucellosis test and put her on Cefa-drops 15ml (1ml 2x a day). She commented that she was very happy to see my bitch in such fit, healthy condition. She suggested that we make another appointment for her to see my bitch in 2 weeks for another ultrasound to check the puppies.
On June 23, 2009 my daughter and I brought my bitch in for another ultrasound but “husband” vet suggested that an x-ray was in order. I reminded him that it was too early for an x-ray (calcification cannot be detected prior to day 54) but he wanted to do it anyway. Upon viewing the x-ray , “husband” vet reported that he did not see any puppies, and that he believed my bitch had pyometria. He then suggested that an ultrasound was in order to make sure there were in fact puppies and no pyometria. During this ultrasound, he and a vet tech AGAIN reported and counted “at least 8 puppies” and he said that all were doing well.
He suggested that my bitch may in fact have ovulated much later than expected, and that her due date would probably be around July 11th or 12th and not July 6th as previously estimated by my breeding record dates. There were no issues with my bitch or pups on this date.
My bitch's temp stayed steady between 101 and 99 and she was not showing any signs of labor and no discharge present but on Friday, July 3rd, we started receiving calls from the vet office, including both husband and wife vets and their assistant. My bitch was not showing any signs of distress or labor so I did not see a reason to bring her back to the vet so soon. By July 6th I was getting 2 calls a day, urging me to bring her in for another ultrasound. Puppies were moving, all was well with my bitch but because of their “urgency”, I agreed to bring my bitch back in for yet another evaluation. Better safe than sorry, right? WRONG!
On July 6th, another ultrasound was performed by “wife” vet, resulting in a good report. Puppy count was made by “wife” vet, stating there were at least 8 puppies and all heartbeats were nice and strong. My bitch was still eating and doing well. She did a brief internal exam and although my bitch was slightly dilated, she stated her uterus was still tight, which indicates no labor. We happily brought my girl home.
On July 7th, I received yet ANOTHER call from “husband” vet, asking me to bring my bitch in AGAIN for another ultrasound and a probable c-section. My bitch's temp was still strong at 100 and had not changed. “Husband” vet strongly suggested that this was “not good” and that she may be losing pups soon. After the visit the day before, I was given NO indication that any c-section would be warranted and I refused to bring her in. These calls were causing a lot of stress on ME which prevented me from sleeping for about a full week. By the time the second call on July 7th came in, I was indeed very upset.
Upon coaxing of both vets, my daughter and I brought my bitch BACK to the vet at 10am on July 8th. I asked for an x-ray but “husband” vet insisted on ANOTHER ultrasound (quickly given by his wife) resulting in what they stated were “lowered heartbeats” of 200 bpm to 189 bpm." “Husband” vet entered the room, stressing that a c-section MUST be done right now or the puppies would not make it.
I repeatedly questioned “husband” vet if he honestly thought that these puppies were of a correct gestational age to be delivered, especially since he was the one who repeatedly told me that she ovulated LATER than I thought, and that her actual due date was most likely July 12th or later. He said YES, the puppies were absolutely ready and would have no problem. My bitch was not showing any signs of distress, but he insisted that the c-section MUST be done right now. He then asked if I would like to be a part of the delivery to “catch all the puppies”. Of course, as a breeder, I agreed.
The result of this “forced” c-section was that there were only four puppies, not eight or nine as they had repeatedly said, and they were about A FULL WEEK PREMATURE. They had no hair on their legs or paws. Their noses were still sealed shut. The “husband” vet then asked ME if this is in fact what a newborn shih tzu puppy should look like!
They were, in essence, still FETUSES. Although pink, they were barely gasping for breath. One puppy had to be put down due to extreme cleft palette, leaving 3 “surviving”.
“Husband” vet kept commenting from the operating table how my bitch's uterus was not going to be able to deliver the puppies – but I pointed out that the uterus would look that way if she was not READY to deliver. I asked for her to be spayed but was told that I would have to bring her back for that procedure. My bitch's gums and tongue were very pale and she had lost a lot of blood so I agreed.
They sent me home in a rainstorm with an anemic bitch and 3 grossly premature puppies. “Wife” vet told me that if they did not nurse in a few hours, to BRING THEM BACK and they would tube feed them. They THEN proceeded to charge me $950, $1375 in total. Within 5 days, the entire litter had died.
I was exhausted, upset and in shock to see how GROSSLY wrong this vet was to order this c-section. Because of their arrogance, repeated miscalculations and contradictions, it cost me a whole litter and almost the life of my bitch. Their staff had successfully manipulated me into multiple procedures that were, in fact USELESS in the deciding factor of performing a c-section on this bitch. This c-section should NOT have taken place without proper, appropriate testing (progesterone, x ray).
I am not a vet. I came to the office of self proclaimed “specialists” to present the appropriate options for the situation, not harass and manipulate their clients. Their mistakes have proven to be very costly in every way possible.
Thankfully my bitch, after a long rehabilitation, has recovered and is now in a loving pet home.
I have filed a complaint with the New York State Veterinary Board.