Texas A&M Veterinary Hospital Saves Pregnant Golden Retriever, 13 Puppies
Posted June 11, 2018
Tired from surgery, her hospital stay, and having 13 puppies,
Bree Ann Rose was happy to return home with Mom, Angela Brenengen
(right); Dad, Tim; and Brenengen’s nephew Norman Giles. With the
family are Dr. Laurie Torkildsen and fourth-year veterinary student
When Angela Brenengen’s 5-year-old Golden Retriever Bree Anna Rose
stopped eating for a day or two, it was easy to attribute it to
Bree’s pregnancy; after all, this was Bree’s third litter of
puppies, and it is common for dogs to forsake food in the days
leading up to delivery.
But what they thought was typical labor became anything but when
Bree started acting strangely and then began seizing.
Brenengen and her family sprang into action, calling the Texas
A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH), part of the
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).
Though it was Memorial Day, VMTH staff members told Brenengen to
make the 40-minute drive from Normangee.
“After she had the seizure, she picked up her head; she was
awake and looked at me, but after that, she went out,” Brenengen
said. “By the time we got here, literally when they opened the
door, she started trying to fall out (of the vehicle). She was not
with us the whole trip, and not when we got here, and not for days.
She never woke up.”
When third-year critical care resident Dr. Laurie Torkildsen
joined the case, Bree’s condition was dire.
“Her blood glucose levels were very, very low, which we can see
in late term pregnancy, but not often; that’s what had caused the
seizure,” Torkildsen said. “We were able to resuscitate her, but
she was very, very critical. We also wanted to make sure puppies
were OK; we were able to measure their heart rates, and they were
OK, but we needed to wait until the next day to deliver. We didn't
think she'd be able to have the babies on her own and survive.”
The next morning, as the doctors ran tests to
determine the optimal time for a cesarean, they found that while
Bree was better, she wasn’t yet out of the woods.
“She had some bleeding in her GI tract that we couldn't explain;
we did a few tests to look for a reason, but we couldn't find one,”
Torkildsen said. “Then, her puppies started to go into distress and
we had to take her to emergency surgery.”
In the delivery room, doctors got another surprise—instead of
the six to seven puppies that are typical for a Golden Retriever,
Bree delivered 13 puppies, and though some of the puppies had to be
resuscitated, the team was able to save them all.
“We put the puppies on Bree to get one feeding, because the
first feeding is where they get all of the protection from mom, all
of the antibodies that will protect them from things in the
environment until they're old enough to get vaccinated,” Torkildsen
said. “They got their one feeding and then they went home, because
we didn't think Bree was healthy enough to nurse all of them.”
Back at home, Brenengen and her family were coming to terms with
the shock of having 13 puppies and the exhaustion of bottle feeding
them all; Torkildsen compared caring for 13 puppies to caring for a
“They’re keeping us busy,” Brenengen said, with a smile. “It
takes an hour to feed the puppies; then you have to clean up—bleach
towels, make new bedding, wash bottles, get all of the supplies you
used, and then get ready for the next feeding.
Bree bonds with her puppies.
“The puppies get baths twice a day and weighed once a day. They eat
every two hours, day and night,” she said. “We got a little system
down and even my little grandbabies, who are 2 and 3, are helping.
The 2 year old grabs the pads to hold the puppies in our laps;
that's her job, to hand them to us.
“My mom, Darla Giles, has been a lifesaver. She has been taking
care of these puppies with all of her love, patience, heart, and
countless hours. I am very blessed to have her caring for these
puppies; the puppies are blessed, as well,” said Brenengen, adding
that her nephew Norman Giles, her daughter Ciara, and her husband
have all offered support and put in long hours throughout the
process. “It takes an entire family to raise 13 puppies!”
While their hands are full, they are also extremely grateful to
the doctors at Texas A&M.
“It was a holiday, and there wasn't a lot else open either, but
we needed help and we needed someone in a hurry. I was very
impressed by the quick response we had when we brought Bree to the
hospital. We were greeted by a staff of three and a gurney; Bree
was in excellent, caring, and experienced hands from the time we
pulled in,” Brenengen said. “You can tell that they love what they
“It's been a remarkable experience. It's nothing short of a
miracle,” she said. “I never expected for Bree to live, much less
for the puppies to live. We were more than excited to take her
home. I didn't think this day would happen. We are so very
Initially, Torkildsen said the doctors on Bree’s
case weren’t sure if she would survive the first night, either.
While they have been unable to pinpoint a direct cause for
Bree’s condition, they’ve ultimately decided that the comatose
state was caused by the drop in blood glucose, which was most
likely caused by the 13 puppies. After she delivered, Bree lost
almost 15 pounds, or approximately one-fifth of her body
“It still doesn't quite explain everything, but we've done a
bunch of tests to rule out other causes of the signs she had, and
we haven't been able to find one; you can sort of explain it all by
being pregnant with so many babies, although it's not quite super
clear cut,” Torkildsen said. “We are just glad that she has gotten
That Bree and all of her puppies survived is the best possible
outcome, especially considering all of the unusual elements
involved in Bree’s case. Without each of the many VMTH services,
clinicians, and students who were a part of the team, that happy
ending may not have been possible, according to Torkildsen.
“Everyone worked really closely together,” Torkildsen said. “Our
radiology team came in on the holiday, because her case was so
weird, to do a full abdominal ultrasound on her; they were really
helpful in determining that the babies were healthy. Our anesthesia
team worked really hard on her, also, and so did our fourth-year
student, Ali (Carriker). The surgical team, including resident Dr.
Brittany Ciepluch and professor Dr. Lisa Howe, was instrumental in
the success of the case.
“Everyone did a great job,” she said. “It was truly a team
For more information about the Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences,
please visit our website at vetmed.tamu.edu or join us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Contact Information: Megan Palsa, Executive Director of
Communications, Media & Public Relations, Texas A&M College
of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science; firstname.lastname@example.org;
979-862-4216; 979-421-3121 (cell)
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