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Postpartum Care in Dogs and Cats


Autumn P. Davidson

, DVM, MS, DACVIM, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis

Last full review/revision Aug 2020 | Content last modified Sep 2020

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 Overview of Management of the Neonate in Small Animals Average reported canine and feline neonatal mortality rates (greatest during the first week of life) vary, ranging from 9%-26%. Prudent veterinary intervention in the prenatal, parturient, and... read more .)

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Test your knowledge

Management of the Neonate
Large animal neonates are born immunocompetent but lack antibodies. In their first few hours of life, neonates must suckle good quality colostrum from the dam to obtain maternal antibodies (immunoglobulins). Which of the following factors might compromise the quality of colostrum?
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