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Vet Talks: Helping Dogs and Cats Give Birth Naturally – Lessons From Rescuing

Vet Talks 4 min read
Vet Talks: Helping Dogs and Cats Give Birth Naturally – Lessons From Rescuing

In the neighborhood, my passion for animals was common knowledge. I would often find animals in need left in front of my house or at my clinic. Sadly, these animals would often be abandoned or chronically ill pets. Often they would be unhealthy, starving, helpless, and on some occasions pregnant with litter. During my veterinary practice, I had many opportunities to help mothers of different animal species give birth. Sometimes we just supported the miracle of birth, other times we would need to intervene with a caesarian procedure. Of all the animals that I helped give birth to, one is really close to my heart – Hiana.

I remember Hiana like she was my dog. Hiana was abandoned in front of the clinic where I worked in Brazil. When we saw her pregnant and starving, we didn’t need to think twice. She was unhealthy, undernourished, dehydrated, anemic, and she was very close to going into labor.

We believed that Hiana was around 8 months of age. In other words, she was just a little puppy herself having more puppies. We decided to give little Hiana all the support necessary to help her have her puppies naturally.

Hiana gave birth to a mixed litter of healthy and unhealthy puppies. Two puppies survived and we found them homes. A lovely family adopted the young mommy too.

An important part of rescuing mother dogs and cats is finding families for their litter. Hiana’s litter of two was easy to find homes for.

Do not expect them to make noise to let you know that the babies are about to arrive. You have to watch out for signs.

As a vet, I have more experience with caesarian births. As a rescuer, however, we often see animals and want to support natural birth. For all those caring animal guardians, I want to give you some tips to help a mother dog or cat give birth naturally. When possible it’s important to seek professional veterinary guidance, however, these tips will help guide you.

Firstly, it’s important to remember that animals act very differently from people during childbirth. Do not expect them to make noise to let you know that the babies are about to arrive. You have to watch out for signs.

Hiana Dr Amanda NHV helping dogs give birth
This is little Hiana.

Some of the signs that suggest an animal is about to give birth

1 – Digging up a bed

Although not all dogs and cats act in the same way, this behavior is very common in almost all of them. They do that because digging the ground will allow them to have a warm and welcoming place for their puppies or kittens without the risk of the babies escaping.

2 – Expelling milk from the breasts

It is very common for mother animal to expel milk through her breasts, indicating that she is around to give birth.

3 – Loss of appetite

The puppies or kittens will be moving a lot inside the mother and will cause nausea, which can make her lose her appetite. You can give her NHV Yucca to help relieve inflammation, pain, and the loss of appetite.

4 – Vomiting

Vomiting can also be generated by the movements of the babies. There’s nothing to worry about, just let the mama dog or cat rest. You can cuddle her. She should not feel alone.

5 – She will be relaxed

When a dog is close to give birth, she will lie down, be very quiet, and may gasp, but not very deeply. Having water nearby is important, as hydration is crucial at this stage.

When you identify all the signs that a mother dog or cat is going to give birth, it’s time to give her a helping hand. But how to do that?

A few weeks before, prepare a cozy and pleasant place where she can rest easy. If you have other pets at home, be careful not to allow them to access this place. Determine the place when you notice the signs I previously mentioned. During her labor, you should not interfere unless it is necessary. The mother will expel the babies- you should not worry if they come out from the tail or head, as both positions are normal. The mother will clean the placenta and chew the umbilical cord. If for some reason the mother could not break the bag that is enveloping each baby, you should intervene. You can break it gently and place the baby close to the mother.

Puppies are born every 30 minutes or so and kittens are born 10-15 minutes apart within 1-2 hours. If that time has passed and no more babies arrive, but you’re sure there are more, you should call the vet.

Watch the babies

Unfortunately, it is very common for some of the puppies or kittens in the litter to die a few minutes or hours after they were born. If you notice that one of the babies does not breathe, wipe his mouth and rub his body gently to see if it can keep him alive. If it is not possible, remove him from the litter so that the mother does not eat the baby, and the other babies do not smell it.

When all is over, pay attention that the mother dog or cat does not reject any of the babies and feeds each one equally. Keep providing good nutrients to the new mom so she will be strong, and she can take care of her babies.

Dr. Amanda Nascimento DVM, MVSc, PhD

Dr. Amanda Nascimento DVM, MVSc, PhD

Dr. Amanda completed her undergraduate degree in veterinary medicine in 2010 and graduate studies in veterinary pathology (MVSc. 2012 and PhD 2016) at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of São Paulo. She completed her post-doctoral training at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine – University of Saskatchewan in 2018. Dr. Nascimento will be hosting her own blog series and sharing her knowledge with our extended NHV family.

Published: June 11, 2018

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