As we continue to drudge through the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to remember that science isn’t all gloom and doom. There’s a bit of good news coming out of Oklahoma this week. Skipper, a border collie and Australian shepherd mix, was born with six legs before being transported to a local veterinarian’s office. The delivery astonished medical and scientific professionals alike.
The Neel Veterinary Hospital shared the historic birth on its Facebook page on February 21, posting, “This is a miracle named Skipper. Literally. She has survived longer than we suspect any other canine has (at just 4 days old – published research does not indicate one has been born alive) with her combination of congenital conditions. You might notice she looks a little different – 6 legs!”
It’s just the kind of story we need in 2021.
In the middle of last week’s raging snowstorm, a tiny miracle was unfolding in Oklahoma. Skipper’s owners didn’t know what to think when she was born. They quickly brought her to a local vet’s office to have her examined by a professional.
Dr. Tina Neel, owner of the Neel Veterinary Hospital, recently spoke about the event with CNN. She confirmed that Skipper was born naturally in a litter with eight brothers and sisters.
“Our doctors knew that we needed further imaging to determine a diagnosis, so we donated the service of an abdominal ultrasound,” Dr. Neel added.
The providers quickly discovered what was wrong with poor Skipper.
“The ultrasound, along with radiographs, showed that she had two types of congenital disorders, called monocephalus dipygus and monocephalus rachipagus dibrachius tetrapus, which means she has one head and chest cavity but two pelvic regions, two lower urinary tracts, two reproductive regions, two tails and six legs, among other things,” Dr. Neel said.
She clarified in terms of what must’ve happened to Skipper in the womb, suggesting that she was likely part of a set of twins, but “when the fertilized egg tried to split, it didn’t fully separate.”
“So only the back half of her body was able to duplicate,” Neel said. “She also has signs of Spina Bifida along her spine.”
Giving Her a Chance
The good news is that Skipper is alive and well, still just a week old.
“She is [a] strong girl! She loves to nurse and is able to scoot around just like a regular puppy,” Neel said. “We think that she may have some things to overcome, but she is determined right now and thriving. Our veterinarians and her family don’t see any reason not to give her the best chance [of] a great life.”
She’s getting by on her own for now, but it’s not clear what life will look like once Skipper gets older.
“Positively, her organs appear to be in great shape, she is peeing and pooping, and is very strong! She nurses well and is growing appropriately so far. All of her legs move and respond to stimulus just like a normal puppy. It’s possible she may need physical therapy and assistance with mobility as she gets older,” the clinic added on Facebook.
Skipper will stay under observation for several weeks as Dr. Neel and her team continue to monitor her condition. “We will continue to research her conditions, monitor her development during re-checks and help keep Skipper pain-free and comfortable for the rest of life.”
The story quickly went viral on social media with comments pouring in from around the world.
This isn’t the first time a puppy was born with more limbs than expected. The National Institute of Health investigated a case of monocephalus rachipagus tribrachius tetrapus in a puppy born in Argentina in 2016 who had five legs. It was the first report of monocephalus rachipagus tribrachius tetrapus in a dog. The NIH states that congenital defects and conjoined twinning remain rare in the animal world. It’s more likely to affect cattle than other domestic animals. However, developmental defects are reported to affect approximately 6.0% of pups.
We’re all hoping for the best as Skipper learns to get by with six legs.