By Dr. Leslie Ross D.V.M. B.Sc.
A most interesting case last month involved a very sweet two-year-old Goldendoodle called Bailey, who at the time of presentation to us mid-December was nursing twelve young pups. She had been meeting their nursing demands very successfully until a short time before she was brought to us because she had started to experience some painful discomfort nursing and was developing some ominously discolored mammary gland swellings.
Before I set the stage to describe her medical problem, I would like to first explain some general characteristics of this popular breed for those unfamiliar with this “designer dog”.
Goldendoodles are not a recognized breed by Canadian breed standards because they are not purebred dogs although they come from the mating of two kinds of purebred dogs, a poodle (Standard or Miniature and a Golden Retriever).
They can give one the visual impression of being a rough- and tumble- kids- type dog in “ sweat pants and hanging out mode”, however, they can also look attractively eye-catching when they are professionally groomed. The Goldendoodle’s coat texture and degree of curliness can vary considerably and it is characteristically less heavily shed from season to season than with many other breed types. Although there can be some exceptions, the commonest Goldendoodle’s personality type is one that is laid back so they generally fit right in with the lifestyle of families with kids. Additionally, they have the athleticism that more than adequately measures up to any needs when occasions of long evening walks and weekend runs are underway.
Bailey was presented to us because she was very uncomfortable nursing her twelve pups and most of her mammary glands, especially her back ones, were very hot, painful swollen and scabby.
Her problem was inflammation and infection of her glands called mastitis. This condition may be caused by numerous factors including ascending infection up the teat canal, direct trauma to the mammary glands, (such as might occur if a nursing dog is jumping in or out of an enclosure causing her pendulous glands to be traumatized), from reduced milk release from the breasts, (such as at weaning time), or from direct spread from the bloodstream.
In Bailey’s case, her condition was very likely associated with a dozen four-week-old pups hungrily and vigorously clamping onto and pulling at her teats all the while clawing away with sharp little claws at her exposed belly causing her teats to become infected.
It was very important to initiate Bailey’s treatments as soon as possible because ulceration of the breasts and even gangrene can occur in severe cases.
(Spoiler alert: as it turned out, although we were able to avoid surgery on many of her glands by implementing the treatments described below, a single gland did, in fact, start to develop some ominous indications of gangrene so surgical resection of half this affected gland became necessary later).
Very shortly after Bailey was brought to us we collected some milk samples from her teats for the lab and started her on medications including one to cause her breasts to shrink, an antibiotic and a medication to help with her pain. Additionally, we applied cold laser therapy to help decrease her pain and facilitate more rapid healing. Bailey was then discharged to the care of her owners that day.
The owners were advised to keep Bailey away as much as possible from the pups, who were already capable of eating softened dog kibble on their own, to avoid them nursing her much at all. Additionally, raw cabbage leaf belly wraps were recommended to help reduce her breast tissue swelling and to facilitate healing.
As mentioned briefly above, only one back gland remained swollen and infected and in fact started to develop an ominous blue appearance so partial resection of this tissue was performed five days after the initial treatments had been started.
Bailey’s surgery went well and she bounced back very quickly.
Future breeding is likely to be planned because of Bailey’s sweet temperament and excellent overall health. There is a moderate element of risk involved that she may develop this condition again but the owners may be able to reduce this risk by ensuring that her belly is kept clipped of hair and regularly cleaned and that they keep the nails very short of any future pup families.
In closing, I would like to point out how so much of the successful outcome of Bailey’s medical problem was dependent on Bailey’s family members devoting hours of dedicated attention to the pups and to her needs at their home between her daily clinic visits.