Goat birth drama

A pygmy goat’s life was saved by a Caesarean section.

A pygmy goat’s life was saved by a Caesarean section.

This week I removed Gracy’s stitches. Now, you’re probably thinking this is no big deal; after all, I’m a veterinary surgeon and this is what we do.

In front of me was a pygmy goat that could not give birth, a law student, his friend and a kitchen-cum-examination room which needed to be converted into a makeshift operating theatre
- Martin Debattista

Well, surgery was not always regarded as a normal part of our work and I remember a time when any suggestion of surgery to pet owners was met with horror – their expectation being that animals couldn’t possibly survive surgery.

Thankfully, this mindset was common a good 30 years ago when I had just qualified, but pet owners are now very open to recommendations for surgery when it is needed or when it can improve an animal’s quality of life.

Along with this, people’s perceptions of the capabilities of our profession has certainly increased... and rightly so.

The great advances made in the drugs and systems of anaestesia, as well as the personal investment in knowlege and capabilities by our local veterinarians over the years has ensured that surgical procedures have become so much safer. Indeed, dogs and cats are operated on for a multitude of reasons. Neutering, whether male or female, is by far the most common reason for surgery.

We also often need to perform abdominal surgery to remove foreign bodies or abdominal tumours, correct internal or external hernias, do caesarean sections, as well as operate on the urinary system to remove stones.

We get to do plenty of soft-tissue surgeryfollowing trauma, or to remove cysts orperform mastectomies. There is also considerable need for orthopeadic surgery for bone fractures and orthopaedic problems in the knee or hip joints.

Sometimes surgery involves delicate procedures on the eyes or ears and occasionally we need to operate on other animals, such as rabbits or guinea pigs. But my patient this time was a heavily-pregnant pygmy goat.

I knew that she was due to give birth soon; I also I knew that her owner was going to be abroad. But what were the chances that it would all go wrong on a Saturday night?

I received the call for help at 6 p.m. telling me that Gracy the goat was in distress. Something was showing from the back, and the last time she had been checked was several hours before. There really was no alternative but to go and have a look.

By the time I arrived at the residence, it was too dark to be able to examine Gracy in her pen. The best light and table in the house were in the kitchen. The table was duly scrubbed down and up went Gracy.

My misgivings were not unfounded. As I examined Gracy, I could feel two tiny legs, but the head had not followed the limbs. Gracy being such a tiny goat, there was simply no room to manouever the head back into place.

A couple of valiant attempts by Gracy to give birth convinced us that whatever plans we had made for Saturday night should be cancelled or largely delayed. And it was going to have to be a caesarean section.

What I had in front of me was a pygmy goat that could not give birth, as well as a law student, his friend and a kitchen-cum-examination room which needed to be converted into a makeshift operating theatre.

After a quick dash to the clinic to collect all the required medication and instruments, all the while mentally walking through the entire operation to make sure I had not forgot anything, and back to Gracy’s house to prep the counter tops to set aside a functional area for the instruments, I gave Gracy her anaestetic.

The newborn did survive the caesarian section. Yet, had we not gone ahead with the operation, Gracy would have also died.

After the operation Gracy spent the night recovering in a very warm room. What was really touching was that she would relax only when her head was being stroked by a member of the family – the owner’s family, that is, not Gracy’s!

So this week I was delighted to be removing her stitches because these were certainly not stitches that had been put in under the ideal conditions.

I was also happy to remove these stitches because it also meant that Gracy had recovered from her ordeal.

Dr Martin Debattista is a veterinary surgeon.

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