Thursday, July 22, 2010


Have you ever bred a bitch that aborted her puppies? This is called a spontaneous abortion. A bitch may also resorb her puppies. There may be a number of reasons a bitch will do this. They may be fetal defects, abnormalities or damage to the uterus, ovarian failure to maintain progesterone levels, infections, trauma, too strenuous exercise or malnourishment. Usually you won’t even know that she has resorbed a litter because no signs are seen and it happens early on in the pregnancy. On the other hand if she aborts a litter, a vaginal discharge, contractions or expulsion of the fetuses may be seen. Sometimes she may eat the fetuses and you won’t even know she had an abortion. Interesting to note, sometimes a bitch will only abort part of a litter and carry the rest to term. If you suspect that she has aborted her puppies, it is wise to have an ultrasound done to determine if there are any heartbeats which would mean she still is carrying some puppies. If she is aborting her puppies, very little can be done in the way of treatment. Restrictive exercise and the administration of antibiotics is normally the way to go if an infection is the cause. Tests can be given to check her progesterone levels. She should be examined for infections in the uterus and for retained fetuses or placentas.

Normally German Shepherd bitches deliver their puppies without any problems. However there are those that do have difficult deliveries. Some of these difficulties may be due to any number of reasons including large fetus size, small pelvic size in the dame, the fetus is not positioned correctly, and uterine inertia. I’ve experienced a bitch that had uterine inertia with every litter she had. Her contractions would stop and you would think that she was finished whelping. She wasn’t and because it was my first time dealing with this, I lost some puppies. Because she would do this with each of her litters, I knew what to expect and she never lost another puppy again. Many a night (and always in a major snow storm) we would find our way on a path to my vets office.

There’s a name for difficult deliveries. It’s called Dystocia. Usually Dystocia is based on what the owner observes with his bitch. For instance: if a bitch goes 30-60 minuets having strong contractions and doesn’t deliver a puppy. If she goes more than 4-6 hours between puppies and you can tell that there are more puppies in the uterus. Something else to look out for is a failure of the bitch to start delivery within 24 hours of her temperature dropping below 99 F. If the bitch is crying and licking the vulvar area excessively during whelping this could be a sign that she’s in trouble. If she carries her puppies longer than 70 days from the first breeding or greater than 60 days from the first day of diestrus (the stage of the estrus cycle which occurs after the animal goes out of heat (also called Diestrous).

If a call to your vet is necessary, he will probably tell you to bring the bitch into his office. A physical exam including abdominal palpation and a vaginal exam are necessary. X-rays are done to determine the number of fetuses, their position, and their size compared to the bitch's pelvic size. If the puppies appear to be able to fit through the birth canal and are not mal-positioned, she may be given time to deliver on her own. Oxytocin may be given if indicated. She may also need fluid therapy with calcium or glucose in it if eclampsia or hypoglycemia is present. If the puppies are large, or a great number are present, the decision to perform a c-section may be made.

Eclampsia is an acute, life-threatening disease caused by a decrease in the amount of calcium in the bloodstream. You will see this mostly in the early stages of pregnancy rather than later. The reason this occurs is the loss of calcium from milk production, poor uptake of calcium by the intestines, or poor nutrition. Symptoms usually include a change in behavior, restlessness, nervousness, panting, pacing, whining, decrease in maternal instincts and tetany (a condition of physiological calcium imbalance marked by tonic spasm of muscles and often associated with deficient parathyroid secretion). The symptoms of tetany may include irritability, drooling, stiffness in gait, loss of coordination and pain in walking). Within minuets to hours, eclampsia may progress to muscle spasms, inability to stand, fever, increase in heart rate and seizure like activity without loss of consciousness. Death may result from respiratory depression or hyperthermia (increase body temperature) resulting in cerebral edema. There is not time to waste if your bitch is showing these stressful conditions. Get her to your vet immediately. Your vet will supply calcium directly into the vein while monitoring for heart rate or rhythm abnormalities and temperature changes. Oral supplements are started after the initial episode is over and the puppies are supplemented with bottle feeding and started on solid food as soon as possible.
(To be continued)….

From the book: VET CONFIDENTIAL: AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO PROTECTING YOUR PET'S HEALTH....“Veterinary medicine has made profound advances in the past decade, and Vet Confidential provides pet owners the tools to benefit from those advances. Dr. Murray’s essential guide to veterinary care is comprehensive yet easy to navigate. Short of going to vet school, I can’t think of a better way to safeguard your pet’s health than by reading this book.”
–Dr. Susan G. Hackner, chair, Department of Critical Care and Emergency Medicine, The Animal Medical Center

My rating: Knowing the signs of a bitch in distress: (4), Educating yourself about breeding: (4)

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