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Abortion and Pregnancy Loss in Dogs

What are abortion and pregnancy loss in dogs?

Abortion is the delivery of one or more fetuses that cannot live outside the uterus. The fetus may be alive or dead at the time of deliver; if alive, it dies shortly after birth. Pregnancy loss includes all
causes of termination of pregnancy, such as death of embryos, reabsorption of fetuses, abortion at any stage of pregnancy, and stillbirth. Embryos are developing puppies early in the pregnancy,
before they have a recognizable form. A fetus is the unborn puppy that has developed to the point
of being recognizable as a puppy.

What causes abortion or pregnancy loss in dogs?


Abortion or pregnancy loss may be caused by problems with the fetus or the bitch. The bitch is the mother dog. The causes of abortion in dogs include:

How is abortion or pregnancy loss diagnosed in dogs?

Abortion or pregnancy loss is recognized by failure of the mother dog (bitch) to have her puppies
on time, a decrease in her abdominal size, or the delivery of recognizable fetuses or placenta. The
bitch may have vomiting and diarrhea, poor appetite, depression, dehydration, or fever. She also
may have vulvar discharge, abdominal straining, and discomfort. The vulvar discharge may be
bloody or may contain pus. Pregnancy loss is confirmed, if necessary, by disappearance of fetuses formerly identified by the veterinarian feeling the developing puppies (palpation), radiographs (X-rays), or ultrasound (visualization of developing puppies by ultrasonic waves). Radiographs help identify fetal structures in later stages of pregnancy. Ultrasound is useful in identifying uterine size and contents and allowing assessment of the fluid in the uterus and the remains of fetuses. It also can indicate the presence of fetal heartbeats, indicating live puppies in the uterus. The veterinarian may perform serologic tests for Brucella canis, canine herpesvirus, and Toxoplasma to rule out these infectious causes. If no infectious agents are identified, thyroid hormone and progesterone concentrations are measured to rule out hormonal problems. Other diagnostic procedures may include vaginoscopy (inserting a lighted scope into the vagina and examining the vagina), bacterial cultures of the female reproductive tract, and examination and bacterial culture of fetal and placental tissue.

How is abortion or pregnancy loss treated in dogs?

Affected dogs should be confined and isolated while the cause of the abortion or pregnancy loss is determined. Antibiotics are indicated if a bacterial infection is suspected or confirmed. The bitch
may be given fluids to correct dehydration. An attempt can be made to salvage the remaining live
fetuses in bitches that have had partial abortions. Uterine evacuation after abortion can be
accomplished by ovariohysterectomy or, if breeding is important, the administration of
prostaglandin. Vulvar discharge should be evaluated daily; resolution of disease is indicated by a
decreasing amount of discharge and by an increasing amount of mucus in the discharge.
Brucella canis is highly infectious to other dogs. If Brucella canis has been identified and confirmed as the cause of the abortion, the first recommendation is to consider euthanasia of the bitch to prevent spread of the disease. Treatment of dogs with brucellosis frequently is unsuccessful. If euthanasia is not an option, the second recommendation is to perform an ovariohysterectomy (spay) followed by long-term administration of antibiotics.

What is the prognosis for dogs having an abortion or pregnancy loss?

The prognosis (outcome) for dogs having an abortion or pregnancy loss depends on the underlying cause. Ovariohysterectomy (spay) and other specific treatments of the cause often lead to a good prognosis in dogs with noninfectious causes of abortion. With infectious causes, the prognosis depends on the infectious agent, severity of infection, and aggressiveness of treatment.

Abortion and Pregnancy Loss in Cats

What are abortion and pregnancy loss in cats?

Abortion is the delivery of one or more fetuses that cannot live outside the uterus. The fetus may be alive or dead at the time of delivery; if alive, it dies shortly after birth. Pregnancy loss includes all causes of termination of pregnancy, such as death of embryos, reabsorption of fetuses, abortion at any stage of pregnancy, mummification of fetuses, stillbirth, and death of newborn kittens. Embryos are developing kittens early in the pregnancy, before they have a recognizable form. A fetus is the unborn kitten that has developed to the point of being recognizable as a kitten.

What causes abortion or pregnancy loss in cats?

Abortion or pregnancy loss may be caused by problems with the fetus or the queen. The queen is
the mother cat. The causes of abortion or pregnancy loss include infectious and noninfectious
underlying problems. These can be divided into three categories: infectious causes, noninfectious
causes involving the reproductive system, and noninfectious causes outside of the reproductive
system (nonreproductive).


Infectious causes include:


Noninfectious causes involving the reproductive system include:

Noninfectious causes outside of the reproductive system (nonreproductive) include:

How is abortion or pregnancy loss diagnosed in cats?

Abortion or pregnancy loss is recognized by failure of the mother cat (queen) to have her kittens on time, a decrease in her abdominal size, or the delivery of recognizable fetuses or placenta. The
queen may have vomiting and diarrhea, poor appetite, depression, dehydration, or fever. She also
may have vulvar discharge, abdominal straining, and discomfort. The vulvar discharge may be
bloody or may contain pus. The queen may lick and clean herself; therefore, the discharge may not be obvious. Pregnancy loss is confirmed, if necessary, by disappearance of fetuses formerly identified by the veterinarian feeling the developing kittens (palpation), radiographs (X-rays), or ultrasound (visualization of developing kittens by recording ultrasonic waves). These methods also are important in determining noninfectious reproductive causes of abortion. If the veterinarian suspects an infectious agent, various tests can be performed to identify the viruses and bacteria that are associated with abortion. Poor breeding practices require extensive review of the queen's history.

How is abortion or pregnancy loss treated in cats?

Mother cats (queens) that are aborting, or are likely to do so, should be hospitalized. If an infectious agent is suspected, the queen should be isolated to prevent her from infecting other cats. Strict sanitation should be practiced in any case. The queen may be given antibiotics and fluids to correct dehydration. If ultrasound examination demonstrates no live fetuses in the uterus, the veterinarian may recommend ovariohysterectomy (spay) if the queen is not a valuable breeding cat. If future breeding is important, the dead fetal kittens can be delivered surgically or a drug (prostaglandin) can be administered to attempt to evacuate the uterus.

What is the prognosis for cats having an abortion or pregnancy loss?

The prognosis (outcome) for cats having an abortion or pregnancy loss depends on the underlying
cause. Ovariohysterectomy (spay) often leads to a good prognosis in cats with noninfectious
causes of abortion. With infectious causes, the prognosis depends on the infectious agent, severity
of infection, and aggressiveness of treatment.

The majority of the information in this page is has been taken from VetMedCenter.com. For further information about this useful source of informtion follow the link or look, on the internet, at www.vetmedcenter.com.