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Whelping Complications

Whelping Complications


Whelping Problems


Whelping Complications can occur during the process of a dog giving birth to puppies. Most dogs are capable of whelping on their own without any problem. However, you need to keep a close eye on  your dog throughout her pregnancy and labour. Having a clear idea of what is normal for a dog in labour is going to help you identify signs of trouble early. In this article, we look at some pre and post-whelping complications.

Pre-Whelping Complications

The vast majority of births go quite smoothly. Nevertheless, there are some common problems you should watch out for as they can be potentially life-threatening to the bitch and/or to the puppies.

1.      Uterine Inertia

Uterine inertia is a whelping complication where the pregnant dog is not able to birth the babies because the uterine muscle is unable to contract and push the pups.

The key symptom is the inability to start the birthing process at the end of the normal pregnancy period. Usually, the dog is alert and bright and doesn’t appear to be in distress. In certain cases, the dog might deliver one or two pups normally, after which labour stops even though there are still more pups in the uterus.

There can be multiple causes of uterine inertia, such as obesity, hormonal imbalances, lack of exercise, overweight puppies, faulty foetal positioning within the vaginal canal, obstruction in the vaginal canal, etc. Nevertheless, regardless of the cause, make sure to get in touch with your vet if you feel your dog is experiencing uterine inertia.

2.      Dystocia

Dystocia is a medical term used to describe a difficult birthing experience. There can be multiple causes of dystocia, such as:

  • The size and shape of the pelvic canal. If your dog has a narrow pelvis, it might have trouble delivering puppies. This is particularly true if the dog has a large head relative to the size of the pelvis.
  • Certain breeds, including French bulldogs, French boxers, and British bulldogs, might be predisposed to dystocia.
  • Size of the puppies. If the puppy is too big, it won’t fit in the birth canal. This is usually the case when there’s only one puppy in the litter.
  • Position of the puppies. Puppies are typically born either head or rear legs first. If the puppy is born bottom or sideways first, it can get stuck.

In case of dystocia, you need to call the vet if your dog has been pregnant for more than 63 days or if she has gone through Stage 1 labour for 24 hours without producing a puppy. You should also contact a vet if there’s a bloody or foul-smelling vaginal discharge, the pregnant dog is vomiting excessively or is incredibly lethargic, or goes into a prolonged resting phase that continues for more than 4 hours when there are more puppies to be delivered.

There is little you can do to prevent dystocia. However, having a good knowledge of what to expect from the birthing process and detecting problems early – leading to swift veterinary intervention – is going to give the mother the best chance of delivering healthy pups.

Post Whelping Complications

Most post-whelping problems occur in the first couple of hours after whelping. In some cases, this means that the dog is not able to feed her puppies, and you will have to hand feed them using a formula. It’s important that the pups get colostrum to make sure they have a healthy and strong immune system.

1.      Sac Problems

Some first-time moms might need help removing the birth sac from their pups. If it is not broken, they will not be able to breathe. Let your dog remove it herself. However, if they don’t, you might have to tear a hole and remove it. Ask your veterinary doctor for help if you are not sure what to do.

2.      Umbilical Cord Issues

Sometimes, new dog moms need help removing their pup’s umbilical cords. This doesn’t need to be done right away. However, if left for too long, they can lead to problems. Speak to your vet about how to cut and tie cords. If not done properly, it can lead to infection.

3.      Eclampsia

Eclampsia is caused by low blood calcium levels in dogs. Lactating dogs are particularly vulnerable to blood calcium depletion as their body cannot keep up with the increased calcium demand.

Eclampsia isn’t always caused by large litter. In fact, smaller dog breeds are at higher risk than larger dog breeds. The pups themselves aren’t impacted as the mother’s milk seems to be normal during this period.

Fortunately, eclampsia is fairly easy to spot. Affected dogs might appear nervous and restless, wobble or look disoriented, have a fever, develop muscle tremors, have an increased respiration rate, or experience seizures.

If you notice signs of eclampsia in your dog, contact your vet immediately and stop the pups from nursing for at least 24 hours.

4.      Metritis

Metritis means inflammation of the uterus and is typically associated with infection. Uterine infections can be deadly if they aren’t treated quickly. Metritis sometimes follows after a difficult or long labour.

Symptoms of metritis might include weakness, fever, dehydration, depression, lower milk production, foul-smelling vaginal discharge, and dull eyes.

5.      Mastitis

Mastitis is a condition where the dog’s mammary gland gets inflamed and infected. It’s usually caused by three types of bacteria, including Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and E. coli. This condition is mostly seen in dogs in the first 10 to 14 days after delivery.

Mastitis can impact the mammary glands, which become firm, swollen, hot, and might hurt when touched. Moreover, the glands might turn black or rupture, resulting in the discharge of foul-smelling pus.

Mastitis is quite easy to treat. However, it can be fatal if left untreated.

Last Few Words on Whelping Complications

Keep in mind that some breeds are predisposed to various problems during pregnancy. Speak to your vet about your dog and read up on what to expect for your dog’s breed. Keep an eye out for your dog’s behaviours, and call the vet if you have any concerns.

You should also prepare for whelping using whelping products by Petnap to make the entire experience smooth and comfortable for your dog.