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24 hours of emergency surgeries: Part 1 - Holly and her deceased babies

Back in December we welcomed Holly to our rescue – Holly was another one of our saves from the puppy mills. She was a breeding momma who had stopped producing, so our friend Grace was able to convince the farmer to let her take her, to give her a chance at a better life. One of our wonderful foster homes, Amy, took her in to help her learn how to be a pet instead of a product.

She was very shy, but slowly started to warm up and glimmers of her playful and sweet personality started to show through! After she had been with her for about a week, she noticed some bloody discharge, and since we had no idea when she previously had puppies or had a heat cycle, we started her on some antibiotics. It improved, but about 2 weeks later, it got worse again. So, we brought her in to check it out more seriously. We started with some x-rays, and boy were we shocked to find that she had what appeared to be babies in there. We did not have much hope, given her history and the timeline, but did a brief ultrasound to confirm that they were definitely deceased. This poor momma had been living with babies that had passed away for probably a very long time, as the owner had not been able to even tell us when her last heat cycle was, or how long ago she had previously had puppies.

Thank goodness she was feeling ok through all of this – you would have never known what was happening inside her abdomen based upon how she acted! She was happy and eating and drinking, and acting completely normally, except for some discharge that would come and go! It pains me to think how long this was going on, and that I worry at some point, she was likely very sick before she came to us, and no one even noticed. I’m very thankful she hung in there though, and that we were able to save her.

She spent the night and we prepped for surgery that next day. I approached it as I would any routine spay or c-section, and I cannot stress enough, how unprepared I was for what I found inside her abdomen. I will do my best to explain without making it too graphic, but sweet lord….her abdomen was a MESS. There were adhesions everywhere – this is often what happens when there is severe inflammation, and the body creates inflammatory tissue that sticks to the areas that are inflamed to help to try to seal it off. Holly had the most adhesions in her abdomen that I have ever seen before in any abdomen I have ever opened. Everything, and I mean everything, was stuck to one another. The adhesions were so severe, I had to spend almost an hour painstakingly breaking them down before I could even get a better picture of what happened.

My best guess, is that she previously had a c-section, and that it either wasn’t done properly, or didn’t heal properly, and then when she got pregnant again and the babies grew it put pressure on the incision site in her uterus and it ruptured. This means that one of the babies passed part of the way out of the uterus and into the abdomen, but amazingly, her body walled it off to protect itself. This meant that her babies passed away, unfortunately, but her body saved itself by forming so many aggressive adhesions. Slowly, I broke down all the adhesions until I could remove her uterus and flush out her abdomen. She did amazing through her surgery, and recovered beautifully. We kept her in the hospital for the night to provide her with some fluids and pain medications, and antibiotics, and she did wonderful! For being so small, she is extremely brave and strong! And honestly, this was one of the craziest surgeries I have ever done, and I still can’t believe that she was normal with all that was happening in there.

She recovered beautifully and continued to blossom and come out of her shell with her foster mom. At her 2 week recheck, she was pretty much back to normal, except for a terrible wound in her ear….which is another crazy story in and of itself. But for our purposes, she recovered from her surgery and never has to worry about having babies ever again! She has been adopted by a wonderful family who adores her, and got her happily ever after.

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