Many pregnant cats and dogs give birth to litter after litter of healthy babies without any health complications or worries whatsoever. But there are times when a healthy delivery is difficult, or even impossible, and during those times, both the babies and their mother might be in danger. A complicated labor calls for emergency veterinary attention.
Labor takes different forms for different animals. Dogs may take anywhere from three to thirty-six hours to deliver an entire litter of puppies, while cats usually give birth to their entire litter within six hours. Understanding the normal timing of this process is a crucial aspect of recognizing a possible case of dystocia (difficult labor). If your cat is taking more than seven hours to finish giving birth to her kittens, then you could be looking at a situation that calls for emergency veterinary care. If your dog takes more than one hour to deliver her first puppy, or if the puppies are arriving at intervals of more than four hours apart, this is another sign that you need to bring your pup into an emergency animal hospital.
Signs of Labor Related Problems
Even if the babies are all born on schedule, there are other signs of labor-related problems you should be aware of, including:
- indications that one or more of the placentas has not been expelled
- foul-smelling discharge from the vagina (a sign of infection)
- fever of 103 or higher (in cats)
- contractions that go on for more than 24 hours without a birth
- vomiting or lethargy from the mother (in dogs)
Don’t hesitate to bring your pet to True Care for Pets if it looks like she’s experiencing difficult labor or serious post-delivery complications. Our veterinarians will evaluate the situation quickly but accurately, and take prompt action as needed. We can employ intravenous fluids and substances such as calcium and oxytocin to help facilitate delivery. We can also provide emergency treatment for acute infections, bleeding, and other complications.
In some situations where we decide that a natural delivery is too hazardous to attempt, a C-section may be necessary. This may be the case for a breech birth, in which the fetus is positioned at the wrong angle for an easy vaginal delivery. It’s also common for dog breeds that combine large heads with narrow hips, notably bulldogs, French bulldogs, and Boston terriers. We perform these surgeries with our customary care, efficiency, and attention to detail, from monitoring your pet’s vital signs to administering just the right amount of anesthesia.
Frequently Asked Questions about Pet Labor
Is my pet’s labor on time?
For most dogs and cats, pregnancy lasts 63 days. It’s common for it to be a little shorter in smaller breed dogs, and a little longer in large breed dogs. 59-67 days of pregnancy is considered normal in cats. Outside of this range, you should consult a veterinarian.
Can I tell if my pet’s about to go into labor?
Dogs will experience a drop in body temperature one or two days before they go into labor. However, because body temperature is individual, you must have several readings from before this time for an accurate comparison. Cats typically stop eating 24-48 hours before giving birth.
What is normal when labor is starting?
Both dogs and cats may vomit during the early stages of labor. Dogs tend to pant, pace, and shiver, while cats tend to cry, nest, and groom excessively. Don’t try to move your pet once labor has started.
How fast will the puppies/kittens arrive?
Each pet is an individual, but in dogs it typically takes six-twelve hours from the first signs of labor to the first puppy. Feline labor is a little faster, and once mom starts having contractions, a kitten should appear within the hour. The interval between puppies is usually 45-60 minutes, with 10-20 minutes of hard straining per pup, but it’s not uncommon for dogs to take a break of up to four hours in the middle of labor – but note that your dog should not be straining hard during this period.
Cats usually labor a little more quickly. Kittens should appear at 30-60 minute intervals, but the whole labor process should take six hours or less. If the cat has contractions for more than an hour at any point in the labor without a kitten appearing, take her to an emergency veterinary hospital.
What should I expect during the delivery?
Both puppies and kittens are born in an amniotic sac. The mother usually tears this sac open and licks her babies to stimulate breathing, but if she doesn’t do this, you will have to. A towel can be used to rub the sac away from the puppy or kitten and mimic their mother’s licking.
Most dogs and cats will cut the umbilical cord themselves, but if your pet doesn’t, you can tie dental floss about an inch away from the baby’s belly and cut it yourself. Dogs and cats also usually eat the placentas, but it’s okay if she does not. However, you should count the placentas because a retained placenta can cause complications. There should be one placenta per puppy or kitten.
If you have any questions about proper labor care for your pregnant pet, contact our emergency vet hospital today.