Vets 'Don’t Know Nothin' 'Bout Birthin' No Babies!'
Ah, Prissy’s immortal line from Gone With the Wind … preceding Melanie’s fateful night at the hands of an inexperienced and rivalrous midwife (Miss Scarlet). That’s when she utters the speech I so often mimic when I have no earthly idea what I’m doing. Which in my profession often happens when it comes to whelping and queening issues.
Whelping and queening? What the heck is that, you ask?
For those of you who never had cause to explore the wild world of companion animal reproduction, let me enlighten you: Whelping is the word we use for the canine birthing process; queening for the feline varietal. And interestingly enough, veterinary knowledge of both have been atrophying over the past couple of decades.
Why? When veterinarians overwhelmingly began to recommend sterilization, it became increasingly unpopular to work with breeders, regardless of their quality. Though bare bones backyard breeders, puppy-millers and other less-than-reputable pet sources still flourish, they do so in part because they avail themselves of no vet care. The vet industry responds in kind and peproduction now takes a backseat to subjects like dentistry and cancer care.
Which only makes sense. Still, it means that today's clients get treated to whelphelp.com instead of one-on-one veterinary advice.
OK, so I’m being a little hard on myself. I did, after all, spend almost 45 minutes with clients who’d adopted a pregnant dog from a purebreed rescue. It wasn’t what they’d expected. In fact, they’d assumed they were feeding this porker too much as her belly expanded way beyond traditional proportions in the first month of her new life.
But even when an X-ray showed there were eleven pups in the oven, I have to say they handled the crisis with impressive dignity. "Oh well. I hope our neighbors have room for more dogs." At which point they confessed they’d expected the news and pulled out a notepad with — I swear — almost thirty questions related to the whelping process.
"Whoa," I said. "I know lots about C-sections and when your pet needs one, but I have no idea what you actually need to do to usher in a pack of puppies." Whelping box? Dunno. How 'bout some newspapers and towels in an easy-to-clean corner? (Again, being hard on myself, here.)
That’s when my Colombian tech stepped in and saved the day, yet again. Because veterinarians obviously have no practical experience with normal reproductive endeavors. Give me pathology and I can manage. Offer me something normal and I’ll echo Prissy's protest as loud as can be.
Why? Because given the severe pet overpopulation crisis, I’m hoping I will never have to be in a position where I have to practice pet repro again. But then, that’s wishful thinking. I live in "Pet Overpopulation Central," after all. Too bad that fact, coupled with a culturally strong averson to abortion, makes this place "Shelter Euthanasia Central," too.
It’s no wonder veterinarians like me prefer to stay out of the reproduction game altogether. Can you blame us?
Dr. Patty Khuly