World's First Identical Twin Puppies Have Just Been Discovered

A team of veterinary reproductive specialists in South Africa recently confirmed the birth of identical twin puppies from a single placenta. It’s the first documented instance of a dog giving birth to two genetically identical puppies.

Kurt de Cramer, a veterinarian at South Africa’s Rant en Dal Animal Hospital in Mogale City was performing a Cesarean section on an Irish wolfhound mother who was having difficulty delivering her pups. The seasoned animal doctor has performed some 900 C-sections on dogs over his 26 years in practice, but something was different about this delivery. From BBC Earth:

When he started the procedure, de Cramer noticed that the wolfhound had an unusual bulging by her uterus.

At first, he thought the lump was excess fluid surrounding a foetus. De Cramer painstakingly extracted this foetus from the bulge by making an incision into the dog’s uterus.

That was when the real shock came. He found not one, but two foetuses. They were both attached with umbilical cords to the same placenta.

He was shocked, to say the least, knowing that such a thing has never been documented before.

“When I realised that the puppies were of the same gender and that they had very similar markings, I also immediately suspected that they might be identical twins having originated from the splitting of an embryo,” says de Cramer.

He delivered the twins and then went on to deliver five more brothers and sisters, each with it’s own placenta. When everyone was safely out of the mother’s uterus and Dr. de Cramer had a minute to catch his breath, he called in a team of veterinary reproductive specialists to confirm that the pups were indeed identical twins sharing a placenta. They visually confirmed that the two were monozygotic [identical] twins but to be absolutely sure, they obtained blood samples from the pups when they were two weeks old. The results confirmed that the mother had given birth to genetically identical puppies. The team reported their findings in the journal Reproduction in Domestic Animals.

While this is the first recorded case of identical twin puppies in scientific literature, researchers say it’s not known whether it’s happened before or even if it’s a common occurrence.

Female dogs, known as bitches, often have several pups in each litter. Many of the pups often look strikingly similar, and DNA tests are not typically performed.

It is hard to know, says [Carolynne] Joone. “We are so lucky that this bitch ended up having a C-section,” she explains, because otherwise it is unlikely her owners would have noticed. “Yes, there would have been one less placenta than there were pups, but as the bitch often eats the placentas the owner probably would have simply shrugged this off.”

Joone added that because it’s taken so long to find a monozygotic pair, if there have been others “they are probably rare.”