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Small Bugs, Huge Problems

344 – May, 2013

by Pilar Kuhn

Last fall we knew that something got the better of our bitch when we did an x-ray one week before we expected a litter and I accused aliens of stealing her babies. She had absorbed her litter and we were devastated. But why had this happened? It’s not an uncommon occurrence for a bitch to absorb a puppy nor an entire litter. Folks not involved with breeding seem surprised to learn this happens, but it does happen and almost every breeder I know has at least one “reabsorbed litter” story to tell. But what causes this disheartening act of nature? Sometimes it’s a total mystery. And sometimes it’s no mystery at all. It can be the smallest of things that bug our bitches, deny us puppies, and create huge problems.

Because of the first reabsorbed litter, we decided to do a culture before attempting her next breeding and what we discovered wasn’t pretty. I envisioned it akin to a microscopic “Nightmare On Elm Street”. We could kick ourselves so many times for the “should of, could of, would of” afterthoughts about the previous breeding. Our bitch had not one, not two, but three different bacterial infections to clear up before she could carry a pregnancy to full term. It was now clearly evident why we didn’t have puppies last fall.

There are many bacterial infections that can cause a bitch to lose her litter and the one that most owners know of is Brucellosis. A devastating infection, Brucellosis can cause sterility in both dogs and bitches. Both our bitch and the stud dog tested negative for Brucellosis, so we knew the two animals were in the clear and this was not our bacterial problem. What we did have to battle was a staph infection, a beta hemolytic strep (BHS) infection, and a citrobacter koseri infection. Any one of these could create a challenging environment for a healthy pregnancy. We were dealing with all three of them and it was time for an antibiotic cocktail.

Discussing with vets why these various infections were so harmful to litters, I’d like to share some highlights of what we learned. Staphylococcus exists on dogs all the time, especially on the skin. Most cultures will reveal a small amount of staph in the urinary tract at any given time, but elevated levels left untreated can cause testicular issues in dogs and can contribute to the reabsorbing of litters in bitches. Baytril is a common antibiotic prescribed to cure a staph infection.

The two other bacterial infections we had to deal with are much more damaging to a pregnancy. Citrobacter koseri, a nasty bacteria, can cause brain infections and meningitis in human children. For developing dog fetuses, there is no way they can develop normally when citrobacter koseri exists in a bitch’s uterus. Baytril also treats this infection.

Beta hemolytic strep in humans can cause a woman to go into labor much earlier than desired, putting the baby at risk of pre-mature birth or, even worse, death. The presence of BHS in a bitch does not allow embryos to fully develop and once again results in the reabsorbing of the embryos. We treated our bitch with ampicillin.

It was evident that all three infections could be cleared up with the right antibiotics given enough time. In our situation, time was not on our side. The culture took longer than usual to process because of the multiple bacteria and we got the results two days before she came in season again. We hoped for the best but ultrasounds at four, five, and six weeks post-breeding confirmed our bitch was pregnant, but with abnormal embryos. We embarked on a medical adventure no one should have to endure. Thankfully we will have the opportunity to breed her again.

The best way to know what microscopic killers your bitch is fighting before you breed her is to do a culture. A few hundred dollars of expense on the front end of a breeding may save you larger expenses and extreme disappointments on the back end of a failed pregnancy. It may also give you more peace of mind knowing your girl is healthy. Ultimately, what may be bugging your bitch will really bug you and your wallet.

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Posted by on May 17 2013. Filed under Current Articles, Health & Training. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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