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Saving our Miracle Litter

June 24, 2019

“It was intensive nursing and care that saved these puppies, not medicine.” – Dr Phil Thomas, Queensland Veterinary Specialists.

When ‘Nora’ went into labour a week early, she was rushed to Queensland Veterinary Specialists North Lakes. Registered reproduction professional Phil Thomas was there waiting, but he concedes he was “extremely pessimistic” about the chance of Nora’s pups surviving.

“It was just extremely early,” he remembered. “Puppies can survive if they are one, two, or even three days early, but a week early is a dramatically long time.”

Phil’s pessimism was justified – drawing on his 30-plus years’ experience in veterinary science.

Phil graduated from the University of Queensland, School of Veterinary Science in 1984 with first class honours and worked in rural practice for three years, before moving to the United States of America where we completed a residency in Theriogenology at the University of Florida and completed a PhD at Cornell University.

“I am familiar with only one litter who were delivered that early who survived. There were only two puppies and that was maybe 10 years ago,” he said.

“I genuinely thought they would all die.”

Holding a specialist (or equivalent) status in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, ‘Nora’ and her pups proved one of his biggest challenges yet.

“Nora came in and we diagnosed her with an ultrasound,” he said. “(Guide Dogs Queensland veterinarian) Dion Humbler deserves five gold stars for noticing early on that there was a problem. Most vets don’t notice at all.

“The problem that ‘Nora’ and her babies had is called premature placental detachment. The placenta is the connection between mum and babies and that is a Velcro-like connection in the dog and that connection is necessary to get from mum to baby – nutrition and oxygen.

“Once detached the babies will die. We don’t know how long the puppies have between disruption and death but we know that it is short.

“By the time we looked and diagnosed ‘Nora’, the detachment was underway and two pups did not survive.”

It was at this moment, Phil and our vet Dion knew how dire the outcome could be. But, they weren’t prepared to give up.

“If we had done nothing, we can presume the babies would all have died from detachment,” Phil recalled.

“Dion asked us to go to surgery and try and deliver the babies to at least save one or two.”

What happened next, has rightfully been dubbed a miracle.

‘Nora’ and seven of her pups pulled through.


Dion emphasised how grateful Guide Dogs Queensland was to Phil and his team for providing such invaluable service and support.

“The veterinary care provided by Queensland Veterinary Specialists was incredible. We can’t thank them enough for all their hard work and dedication in ensuring the survival of these puppies,” Dion said.

To thank Phil and the Queensland Veterinary Specialists team for their incredible efforts, Guide Dogs Queensland invited them to be reunited with the pups they saved. This was an emotional reunion – almost two months after ‘Nora’ and her pups returned to Guide Dogs Queensland at Bald Hills.

Thanks to the dedication from both Queensland Veterinary Specialist and Guide Dogs, these pups now have the opportunity to go on to change lives.

Thanks to a generous grant from Hand Heart Pocket, construction will soon be underway for a vet clinic on site at the Guide Dogs Queensland Bald Hills Training Centre.

“The new vet clinic on site will enable us to provide care for puppies like ‘Nora’s’ on site at Bald Hills,” Dion said.


If you missed our first two Miracle Litter posts you can read them here:



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