MSD Manual

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Professional Version

Postpartum Care in Dogs and Cats


Autumn P. Davidson

, DVM, MS, DACVIM, Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis

Reviewed/Revised Aug 2020 | Modified Oct 2022

Palpation and, if necessary, ultrasonography or radiography should be used to determine that all puppies or kittens have been delivered. The routine postpartum administration of oxytocin or antibiotics is unnecessary in healthy dams with nursing neonates, unless placental retention is a concern. Placentas can be rapidly consumed, be passed unnoticed, or pass normally within 24 hours. The dam’s body temperature and the character of the postpartum discharge (lochia) and milk should be monitored. Normally, lochia is dark red to black with no odor, and is heavy for the first few days after parturition. It is not necessary that the dam consume the placentas. Disinfection of the neonatal umbilicus with tincture of iodine helps prevent bacterial contamination.

The neonate should be weighed accurately as soon as it is dry and then twice daily for the first week. Any weight loss or failure to gain 10% of body weight/day beyond the first 24 hours indicates a potential problem and should be given immediate attention (eg, supplemental feeding, assisted nursing, evaluation for sepsis). (See also the discussion on management of the neonate in dogs and cats Management of the Neonate in Dogs and Cats The neonatal period in dogs and cats encompasses the first 21 days of life. Neonatal mortality rates of 9%–26% have been reported; they are highest in the first week of life. Common causes of... read more Management of the Neonate in Dogs and Cats .)

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