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Oz: Your pet's pregnancy labour and delivery can be complicated
Spaying your female pet is very common, however, some pet owners are interested in breeding their pet.
Gathering basic information can help you get ready for this process.
Pregnancy in pets lasts in average 63 days.
Labour and delivery of animals is called whelping. It is recommended to prepare a “whelping box” for the mother to deliver in.
The box should be padded with blankets. The box sides should be low enough for easy access for the mother, but prevent wandering off of the newborns.
In general, animals prefer to deliver in private in a dark quiet place.
I recommend to let the mother be familiar with the box a few days before the expected delivery.
There are some signs that can help you predict when your pet is going to start the whelping.
First sign is the animal’s body temperature. Normal body temperature is between 99-102.5 F, it typically drops by two or three degrees the 12 to 18 hours before the delivery starts.
The pet will also show behavioural changes such as restlessness, licking her vulva, discomfort and heavy panting.
Along with the restlessness the animal will show nesting signs by digging and nose burrowing in the whelping area.
When the active labour starts the animal will pant heavily and you might notice contractions of her underbelly.
The actual delivery of the puppy/kitten resembles a bowl movement motion.
Normally, whelping is a natural process and won’t require intervention, but sometimes problems may occur, so it’s important to know when to intervene.
Here are some points to monitor. If you have a concern with any of the following you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible:
• The mother should have the first newborn within 24 hours from the time the body temperature has dropped below 99 F.
• The actual delivery of each newborn, which is characterized by strong contractions, should not last more than 30 to 60 minutes.
• In case of trouble in the delivery, a veterinary intervention may be required. This condition is called dystocia, which most commonly happens due to abnormal position of the baby which doesn’t allow a normal delivery and the baby gets stuck, jeopardizing its own and the mother’s life.
Dystocia can also happen due to the mother’s exhaustion and inability to push out the unborn babies.
• There are a few signs that should mean a red flag that the mom might be in trouble and needs an assistance.
The period between each newborn delivery should not exceed fourhours. If a period longer than four hours has lapsed in between the newborn deliveries, it is likely a sign of dystocia.
• Certain breeds are more prone to having problems whelping, especially animals with a wide face and narrow pelvis, such as boxers, pugs and Persian cats. In those cases a cesarean section might be required.
• If the mother is pushing vigorously for over 60 minutes without delivering the baby, is another indication that she may need help.
• In a successful deliver, the puppy/kitten may be delivered while still in the amniotic sac, normally the mother tears the sac and licks the newborn vigorously to trigger breathing.
• The placenta may be delivered along with the newborn or shortly afterwards. Typically the mother eats the placenta and the amniotic sac, and tears the umbilical cord by herself.
• The newborns are born with an instinct that guides them to find the nipples and start nursing shortly after the delivery.
If the newborn wanders off away from the mother, you should place it closer to the mother’s abdomen to encourage nursing.
Occasionally the mother does not show interest in one or more of the newborns, if the newborn is born in the amniotic sac you should tear the sac immediately and rub the animal vigorously to trigger its breathing reflex.
You can tie the umbilical cord with a thin string such as dental floss. Clean the puppy and place in near the mother’s nipples.
• If your female pet is pregnant, it is highly recommended to take her to be checked by a veterinarian prior to the delivery.
Ultrasound exam or x-ray can help evaluating the number of newborns expected. Also, the position of the babies is important to help foresee problems in the delivery.
This important data will help you assess if the mother is in trouble while whelping.
• In the first few days after the delivery, you should expect a dark greenish blackish discharge from the mother’s genitals. This is normal process and might take four weeks to cease.
The amount of the discharge should decrease with time. If the amount of the discharge does not decrease and becomes foul smelling there might be a uterine infection. If that is the case take your pet to see your vet.
• It is essential to feed the mother good quality puppy/kitten food so ensure she will get enough nutrients for her and the newborn’s needs.
A common complication is calcium deficiency, typically characterized by neurological symptoms such as twitching, nervousness and convulsions. This condition is life threatening and requires immediate veterinary attention.
• Another common possible complication is mastitis—inflammation of one or more mammary glands.
With this condition, the affected gland will be enlarged, warm and very painful. The body temperature will typically be elevated. Immediate veterinary attention is required.
While this topic is very wide ranging, my column today is just a brief review on the delivery process and postpartum period care of the mother.
Despite being a natural process, pregnancy and delivery should not be taken lightly.
If your female pet is pregnant, or if you are considering breeding your pet in the near future, consult your veterinarian, and get information and guidance on your specific pet, to provide her with the best care in this sensitive time in her life.