A service for when breeding gets complicated

Jan Thoemke has years of experience responsibly breeding dogs, but when her 18-month-old Cavalier King Charles, Grace, unexpectantly became pregnant, she turned to Washington State University to ensure the safety of her beloved dog and her litter.

WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital is among the only veterinary facilities in the Pacific Northwest to offer small animal theriogenology services. Led by Dr. Michela Ciccarelli, the team works closely with owners like Thoemke, who owns Rolling Meadows Cavaliers, to provide specialized reproductive medicine and surgery.

“Jan was concerned that Grace would not be able to maintain the pregnancy and deliver due to her small size and age,” Ciccarelli said. “Despite her young age, Gracie was at her adult weight and in great general health to be able to carry the pregnancy to term.”

The plan had always been to breed Grace with her mate, Bentley, however, to limit potential complications, Thoemke wanted to wait until Grace was at least 2 years old and fully matured before she had her first litter.

The pregnancy went smoothly, but Grace went into labor a full two days earlier than expected and in the middle of the night. Despite the early arrival, Grace delivered the first pup without complication. Then the wait began.

“That first puppy came right away after we put her into her whelping box. You like to have the next one come within two hours – but we were going on three hours,” Thoemke said.

As the minutes turned into hours, Thoemke grew concerned. Fortunately, she knew she could reach out to the theriogenology team at any hour for help.

“I was able to text Dr. Ciccarelli and she suggested I take Grace out for a little walk,” Thoemke said. “Sure enough, boom, she had that puppy. That was the ticket.”

Seven hours after going into labor, Grace’s litter of six – an even split of females and males – had been delivered.

Four of the six puppies, snuggling as they nap.

“I really appreciated so much that even during the delivery, even in the middle of the night, I could text WSU and get advice,” Thoemke said. “We live in Spokane, but we were staying at our place in Pullman so we’d be close to the teaching hospital and could bring her in if there were any issues. It was just peace of mind to know that I also could just take her right across town if a problem arose.”

The puppies thrived and made one final trip to WSU for check-ups and their first round of shots at 7 weeks old, before eventually being adopted by new families.

“Dr. Ciccarelli is absolutely the best veterinarian we have worked with,” Thoemke said. “She and WSU supported us through Grace’s pregnancy, delivery and the follow-up with her and the litter of puppies. We can’t thank them enough.”