A senior-aged black lab who was pregnant when she was released to the Boone Area Humane Society over the weekend has lost all 21 of the puppies she was carrying.
The mother dog is in stable condition after a dangerous pregnancy, and community members have raised nearly $20,000 for her care.
It is estimated the dog was in labor for approximately 24 hours before being taken to the shelter around 10 a.m. on Saturday. She was immediately taken from there to the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine for care.
“She came in the back of a pickup truck, unresponsive,” Boone Area Humane Society director Vanessa Heenan said. “Her abdominal area was swollen, her nipples were enlarged; you could tell she’d nursed pups recently, at least in the past.”
The dog was stabilized and examined, with an ultrasound confirming she was pregnant. She quickly went into labor, giving birth to two puppies: one stillborn, the other dying minutes later. ISU vet med staff then prepped the dog for an emergency cesarean section. At that point, Heenan said the shelter was told the bill would be around $8,000.
“After realizing her blood values were down, and that she was septic, that’s when the price estimate went up to $18,000-20,000,” Heenan said. “So we reached out to the public immediately, just because our funds have been depleted with COVID.”
Since taking to social media, the shelter has raised more than $17,000.
The mother dog is estimated to be between 7 and 8 years old — past the recommended age of breeding. Heenan said she doesn’t believe the dog was a victim of a puppy mill or was taking hormones.
“I think she’s had a lot of litters and her uterus has been expanded,” Heenan said. “It also could have been that she was inseminated by multiple male dogs, so this could be two separate litters.”
All born prematurely, some of the puppies were placed in the care of foster homes for personalized treatment. The final puppy died at 4 a.m. on Monday, Heenan said.
Heenan said half the puppies were stillborn. Despite receiving blood transfusions, the others were too underdeveloped to survive.
“Having 21 puppies is extremely high, especially considering this mama dog wasn’t under the care of a veterinarian,” said Mindi Callison, founder of the Ames-based group Bailing Out Benji. “A responsible breeder would have had a scheduled C-section and would have had the mom and pups under veterinary watch.”
Heenan said the shelter knows who the dog’s owner is, but is not releasing the person’s name at this time.
“We are in communication with the city of Boone attorney on how he wants to proceed,” she said. “We believe medical neglect is a very serious crime. We’ll have to see how it fits in with current laws and if we have enough evidence to press charges.”
The shelter said in a Sunday Facebook post that it will do what it can to file charges, “but with Iowa’s weak animal protection laws it’s is always an uphill battle.”
The mother dog is able to lick baby food and is breathing on her own, Heenan said. Her blood pressure has stabilized and she is expected to remain in the care of ISU for a week.
To donate, visit bahs.us or the Boone Area Humane Society’s Facebook page. Any funds raised beyond the care of this dog will go toward a fund to pay expenses of other emergency situations. Donors can also contribute to the bill by calling the ISU College of Vet Medicine at 515-294-4900.