Babies can be a blessed event, but not if things aren’t going well. Gestation in dogs and cats lasts about 63 days. Normally the mother’s temperature drops about one degree the day before having babies. Discharge from the vulva will be seen when the time has come for delivery. Mothers need lots of privacy and should not be the center of attention, this will only slow things down. Contractions can be seen on the mother’s side and if she has had contractions for 45 minutes without producing a puppy, something is stuck and she needs to come in. Half of puppies and kittens are born breech, so that is not an abnormal presentation. Sometimes several hours can pass between babies. If mom doesn’t clean the babies up well, you can remove them from the placental sac and give them a good rub down. The umbilical chord can be tied with thread or fishing line and cut, and the placenta can be thrown away. If a baby gets stuck, you can apply gentle traction with contractions to help things along but if you aren’t successful, an immediate veterinary visit is in order. If all goes well, mom and puppies should be seen on the day after delivery for a clean out shot and check over.
There are many issues that “complicate” delivery. Delivering one baby can be exhausting (ask any mother), but trying to deliver 6 is tiring to even think about. Some mothers have simply exhausted their ability to push any longer. For these patients, rehydrating fluids with a little dextrose (glucose - sugar) and calcium to “re-prime” the muscles of the uterus along with oxytocin (“Pitocin” drip) is all that is needed to get things moving again.
Successful stimulation of contractions, does not however guarantee the delivery of a baby. And delivery of one baby does not guarantee that all will be successfully delivered. Babies that get stuck halfway out of the birth canal may benefit by an episiotomy. Babies that get stuck prior to, or within the birth canal are left with few options other than a cesarean surgery (C-section).
While not always completely accurate, radiographs also help give a general idea of the number of babies that should be expected and confirm that they are likely far enough along to survive delivery. Pre-anesthetic blood work helps determine if there are any underlying conditions that may complicate the anesthesia or surgery for the mother or the babies. Ultrasound can be used to determine if the babies are alive prior to surgery (though even if they are not, it only increase the need to have them removed).
General anesthesia is usually required along with IV fluids to help maintain mother’s blood pressure while laying on her back for surgery with the weight of all the babies on her aorta (primary artery running down the body). An incision large enough to exteriorize the entire uterus is made in the abdominal wall and the uterus is lifted out of the body, off the aorta. Once out, the uterus is cut open and babies removed. After removal, the babies are taken to a resuscitation area to be cleaned and stimulated to start breathing on their own. Mom’s uterus can either be sewn up (to allow for future breeding) or removed, (ovariohysterectomy or “spay”), to prevent future pregnancies. After, being sewn up, mom is returned to the ICU recovery area and started on post operative pain medicine. Once awake, the puppies will be returned to her for imprinting and nursing care that only she can provide.
We recommend a pre-breading checkup as well as Pre-Natal vists at 3 weeks and 6 weeks post breading.
Hopefully, “delivering” this information will help keep get you informed for an upcoming blessed event.