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Category archive: Featured

Oh Babies: When Pregnancy Becomes an Emergency

The act of birth is a scary yet miraculous event, but it can come with unexpected turns and twists. Unlike humans who give birth in the hospital environment, dogs and cats prefer to give birth in the home environment away from scary noises and sights. This means when your pregnant pet starts showing signs of labor they don’t have to be rushed in to the hospital. Giving them access to a quiet and dark room with lots of bedding, or a large box/crate to stay in, will help them on their path towards normal birth. Still, sometimes things go wrong, and a dystocia can occur. Dystocia is defined as the inability to expel fetuses through the birth canal during parturition (birth). And that’s what happened to Sheba, a 1 year old boxer, the second weekend of September.

Sheba had been pregnant for a little over two months (a normal pregnancy lasts 65 days in a dogs and cats). She started having contractions on Sunday night but by Monday night she still had not produced a puppy, and she started to have green vaginal discharge. She came to VESCNM on Tuesday morning. X-rays revealed at least 6 puppies, and Sheba and her puppies were obviously in trouble.

The two most common causes of dystocia in both dogs and cats are either bloodwork abnormalities in the mother leading to weakness in contractions (both low calcium and low blood sugar can cause this) or abnormalities in the fetuses where they are either too large to pass normally or are in the birth canal incorrectly causing them to get stuck. If a mother has low calcium or blood sugar, sometimes these can be supplemented and the mother will go on to have her puppies or kittens naturally. The suspicion with Sheba was that one of the puppies was aligned wrong in the birth canal and the decision was made to go to surgery.

Caesarean section (C-section) is the emergency surgery performed to remove the puppies or kittens from the mother in a dystocia that cannot be treated with medications. While this surgery has a low risk for the mother, it does pose more of a risk for the puppies or kittens. Normally when a baby is passed naturally through the birth canal that act of stress stimulates changes in the body telling the baby to breathe and react normally. When a C-section happens, the baby does not undergo that normal stressor telling their body to breathe normally, and their body is already sedated by the drugs used to induce anesthesia in the mom.

During a C-section when the puppies or kittens are removed they normally are not breathing on their own, and might have a low heart rate. That’s when the hospital team comes in to play, and gentle stimulation of the babies as well as providing oxygen and clearing airways is done to try to stimulate and revive the puppies. Unfortunately one of Sheba’s puppies (the one in the birth canal) was born dead, but the remaining 5 were still with us when they arrived with the revival team. After 30 minutes of hard work all 5 puppies were crying and moving, waiting for their mom to give them milk. Just another 30 minutes later mom was awake, now spayed so this can’t happen again, and ready to take over for her puppies. We are also happy to report that now, 2 weeks after surgery, all puppies and mom are still doing great.

What we really want the take away points from sharing Sheba’s story to be are when to be alarmed that your mother pet might be having a dystocia. Dogs and cats can be a little bit different, and don’t hesitate to call VESCNM or your local veterinarian to ask questions during the labor process, but typically pregnancy emergencies include:

-when your pet is having strong contractions for >2 hours with no passing of a puppy or kitten

-when there is bright red blood or dark green discharge before birth of the puppies or kittens

-when the mother is acting like she is in obvious pain (crying out a lot)

-when your pet goes longer than 6 hours between contractions and you know there are more puppies or kittens to be birthed (sometimes this might mean taking a trip to the ER to get an Xray to see how many puppies or kittens might be remaining)

Luna: A Cat Given a Second Chance to Breathe

We all know the myth that cats have nine lives, but some cats seemed to start off with a shorter straw. Luna, a 2 year old gorgeous but homeless black cat, was one of those cats that started off with the odds stacked against her. First Luna had to find a home out of the shelter, but after landing a great place with her new owner Chris Vincent it was noticed that she was often breathing rapidly. X-rays with her regular veterinarian revealed the next hurdle Luna had to face: a diaphragmatic hernia.The diaphragm is the large muscle that separates an animal’s chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. It also is a very important muscle used in breathing. A diaphragmatic hernia is a hole in the diaphragm that allows the contents of the abdomen (stomach, liver, spleen, and other organs) to get up in to the chest cavity. These extra organs put more pressure on the lungs and make it harder for a patient to breathe and fully expand their lungs.

The most common cause of a diaphragmatic hernia is trauma. When an animal sustains trauma by being hit by a car, attacked by a dog, or falling from a height the diaphragm muscle can tear, often requiring emergency surgery to repair the diaphragm. But some animals are just born with a defect in the diaphragm, meaning the muscle never formed right in development. Sometimes animals live their whole life without a problem from this, but when the defect causes trouble breathing intervention is often required.

This is an example of an x-ray of a cat with a diaphragmatic hernia: the intestines are abnormally placed over the heart and lungs.

Unless Luna learns to talk we will never know if she was born with the hernia or had it caused by a prior trauma, but with her chronic trouble breathing Luna needed an intervention. Of course, the surgery does not come without risks. Moving the abdominal contents back in to the abdomen, giving the lungs more room to re-expand, and tinkering in the area around major blood vessels and the heart can be tricky. Most patients do well with the surgery, but it is also not unheard of for them to die post-operatively despite the veterinary team’s best effort.

Luna went to surgery with Dr. Tallant on a Friday afternoon and appeared to be doing well throughout most of the procedure. Then as the diaphragm was being sutured back in to place her blood pressure dropped. She was taken out of the OR and brought to VESCNM’s critical care unit where she needed one on one care with a technician to manage her blood pressure and other vital signs, as well as provide her supplemental oxygen to help her breathe. Dr. Tallant and the emergency and critical care team called in extra staff to be side by side with Luna to help her through this rocky recovery. When patients do poorly after surgery sometimes they can develop multiple organ failure. All efforts were poured in to Luna to prevent that from happening.

After 24 hours of one on one intensive care, Luna’s blood pressure started to improve, and the various medications the doctors had her on to help maintain her blood pressure were weaned off. Thirty-six hours after surgery Luna didn’t need a technician sitting with her one on one, and she started to eat. Three and a half days after surgery Luna went home a happy, healthy cat. While she still has to recover as her lungs re-expand in her roomier chest cavity, she is doing well at home. We expect her to have a long, happy, easy-breathing life even if she used up a couple of her nine lives making that happen. VESCNM and all the staff that poured their hearts in to helping her recover look forward to getting updates and pictures of her in her new home, finally getting the chance at life she deserves.

What To Do If Your Dog Becomes a “Rattle-Snack”

Summer brings fun in the sun for two-legged and four-legged family members alike, but with summer and increased outdoor time comes increased risks to all in the family. In particular, summer time in New Mexico brings out the legless, specifically snakes. The increased heat allows their metabolism to work better, and it is their prime time to be out and about.

 Read more ›

Fourth of July Hazards

It’s that time of year again folks! The Fourth of July, filled with barbecues, fireworks, and festivities, is super fun for the whole family! Except the family pet. This holiday has lots of hazards you might encounter. Dogs that get in to food from barbecues can get obstructions or pancreatitis. And fireworks can be quite scary for dogs. Below is a link with information on safety tips for the Fourth of July. Have fun this holiday, and stay staff!

(Photo courtesy of Pet360.com)


Dash: Ventricular Arrhythmias and Sudden Death

The Dion’s ten year old Boston Terrier Dash became acutely lethargic one night in early May, and his behavior was alarming enough to prompt him being brought to VESCNM’s ER. Once there, baseline testing included labwork and x-rays were unremarkable, but he was admitted for observation and support. He was given some basic intestinal support in the hospital after he developed diarrhea, but then at four in the morning his nurses found he was becoming very quiet and lethargic again. Listening to his heart, Dr. Doran found his heart rate was very elevated and irregular. The team got an EKG to assess Dash’s heart which revealed ventricular tachycardia, a potentially life-threatening arrhythmia. Just as treatment was initiated, the worst happened: Dash died.

Lucky for Dash he was surrounded by an emergency veterinary team that was prepared, and they jumped right in to action. CPR was initiated, and when the EKG showed ventricular fibrillation Dash was given defibrillation shocks. After a couple minutes of CPR, Dash was alive again.

Unlike in the movies or on TV shows, it was not all smooth sailing from there. Dash was still having arrhythmias, and was started on continuous monitoring of both blood pressure and his heart rate while medications were started to stop his arrhythmia. Dash responded well, and two days later was discharged with his new heart medication to try to prevent this from ever happening again.

While Dash’s case is rare and atypical, ventricular arrhythmias are not uncommon in certain dog and cat patients. Various heart and systemic illnesses can cause the heart to beat erratically, and ventricular arrhythmias are ones that put the heart at risk for stopping suddenly. They are the reason that airports, schools, and other public places often have defibrillators available to try to save a person if they were to unexpectedly die.

These arrhythmias are the ones that scare veterinarians the most, especially since dogs and cats with them can be acting completely normal one second, and then fall over dead the next. While we can never completely eliminate this risk, depending on the cause we can treat the arrhythmia and lower the risk of it happening, and we can give these patients a good quality of life in the meantime.

Signs of arrhythmias can be intermittent collapse/fainting, severe lethargy or trouble breathing, and exercise intolerance. Breeds at a higher risk compared to others include Boxers, Dobermans, and Bulldogs. Diseases that can predispose your patient to this type of arrhythmia include severe heart disease, cancers, and internal bleeding in dogs, and heart disease or urinary obstructions in cats.

The most important thing to know is that those of us at VESCNM are here 24/7 if you have a question or see concerning signs in your dog or cat. Conditions like these can go south very quickly, and it’s better to be safe and bring your patient in to the ER when you see concerning changes in their behavior or any of the above clinical signs.

We are happy to report that Dash is still doing great at home on his new medication, and we hope that continues to be the case for a long time to come.   

Saturday Sessions

Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Centers of New Mexico will be transitioning from our yearly Weekend with the Specialists conference to Saturday Sessions. This will be an in-house bimonthly continuing education presentation, right here in our ABQ conference room for local veterinarians and technical staff.

Our first Saturday session is scheduled for:

January 14, 2017

Saturday Session 1-14-17 Agenda

Seating is limited to the first 30 attendees. Please email dgoldtooth@vescnm.com to reserve your seat.

An update from VESCNM!

VESCNM has some very exciting news! One of our emergency doctors, Dr. Kendra Freeman is now our Surgical Fellow.

Dr. Freeman is a New Mexico native and joined VESCNM in 2015 as an associate veterinarian in our emergency department. Under the guidance of Peter Schwarz, DVM, DACVS and the specialists at VESCNM.

Dr. Freeman will fulfill requirements to achieve dual certification with the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and achieve board certification in small animal surgery.

Dr. Freeman is excited for this opportunity and looks forward to refining her skills as a small animal surgeon to best serve Albuquerque and neighboring communities.





Welcome to our new, updated website! We hope you will find the new look easy to navigate, as well as informative. We’ve created this website for both of our hospital’s beautiful locations- in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, NM.

For our clients, you can now fill out your intake form ahead of time to make your check in process faster; for veterinarians, you can now submit your referral forms online; and for those who are interested in starting their career with us, applications can be submitted online as well.

Please visit the news/events and social media tabs for ongoing updates at our clinic. You can also “like” us on Facebook, if you wish!

Please enjoy the new site and, as always, feel free to call us with any questions or concerns you may have.  We look forward to hearing from you soon.