While Find A Vet strongly advocates spaying or neutering your pets, we understand that accidental pregnancies do occur, and sometimes a rescued dog may be pregnant. For these reasons, we are providing this information to help pet parents avoid unnecessary complications that could harm both the mother and offspring.
Last week we described the symptoms that could indicate your dog is pregnant. If your vet confirms that your dog is indeed expecting puppies, you should be aware of what to do to prevent and treat a miscarriage (also referred to as a spontaneous abortion).
What Causes a Miscarriage?
One of the more common reasons a dog miscarries is because she has brucellosis, a highly contagious disease that is widespread among kenneled dogs. It is caused by the bacterium Brucella canis.
If your dog has brucellosis, she may miscarry around the seventh to ninth week of her pregnancy, according to the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. If she does manage to give birth, her puppies may die from the infection due to their weak immune systems.
Although brucellosis is treatable with antibiotics, it is not curable. Do not breed any dog – male or female – who has ever been infected.
There is a very slight chance that brucellosis can spread to humans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone with a weakened immune system should not touch dogs with this disease. If your dog is infected, be sure to take extra precautions, such as keeping her environment clean and putting on gloves before coming into contact with any of her body fluids.
A fungal infection in the uterus
Neospora Caninum, a parasite found in dogs that can be transmitted “if the dog ingests contaminated water, food, feces or infected animal flesh,” writes petMD.com
A viral infection, such as canine herpes or distemper
Hormonal problems, such as hypothyroidism or deficient progesterone
A fetus that is positioned abnormally or very large
Genetic or developmental defects
A vitamin deficiency
Drugs such as dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory medication
What are the Symptoms of a Miscarriage?
Dogs who miscarry, especially if it’s caused by brucellosis, often appear to be healthy and show no symptoms.
“If your dog has experienced a miscarriage, the most common thing you may notice is abnormal vaginal bleeding,” writes petMD.com. “In some cases, an expelled fetus may be found.”
If you notice any of the following signs, have your dog examined by a vet:
Bloody discharge –Vaginal discharges are normal during the pregnancy, even if they are tinged with pink, according to Hilltop Animal Hospital. However, the hospital advises that you take your dog to the vet immediately if there is blood or pus in her discharge.
Back and rear leg pain or weakness
How is the Cause of a Miscarriage Diagnosed?
If your vet determines that your dog has miscarried, the following tests may be performed to find the reason:
Blood tests may be performed to check for a bacterial infection. However, since Brucella canis doesn’t typically show up in blood work, petMD.com notes that a titer test may be done: “Your veterinarian will take blood samples to grow the organism on culture media in the laboratory. Similarly, cultures of vaginal fluids or semen can also be used for isolation of the causative organism.”
A biopsy of the lymph nodes may be taken to detect bacteria in those areas.
”One of the most important but often overlooked diagnostic procedures is the examination of the aborted fetuses and their associated membranes,” writes the University of Missouri, which adds that your dog may eat the fetus before you have a chance to find it. If you do retrieve a fetus, bring it to the vet (be sure to wear gloves while handling it, since it could be infected with B. Canis).
An ultrasound may be used to detect any tissue remaining in your dog’s uterus. “This is because the dog’s uterus will occasionally be unable to expel all the pregnancy matter effectively on its own (e.g., placental tissue), leading to infection or internal hemorrhaging,” notes petMD.com.
“Be aware that it is possible for the dam to abort one or more puppies and still maintain and deliver healthy, full-term puppies later,” writes PetPlace.com.
How is a Miscarriage Treated?
If your dog has had a miscarriage, she will probably be in pain, and she may have some vaginal bleeding and discharge. Depending on the severity, your vet may recommend hospitalization.
“Intravenous fluids may be required to help stabilize a severely ill animal,” writes the University of Missouri. “Blood, urine and culture samples should be taken immediately. Antibiotics should be administered if the blood cell analysis and/or rectal temperature are consistent with the presence of infection.”
Once your dog is back home, you should keep a close eye on her while she recovers.
“Many cases exist where some long-term bacterial issues arise,” petMD.com notes. “Pet owners should carefully observe the behavior of their dog to ensure no serious problems develop as a result.”
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Having a Miscarriage?
Healthy dogs are less likely to experience problems during pregnancy, so be sure to feed your dog a nutritious diet and take her for regular walks.
“Supplemental vitamins should not be necessary, provided a nutritionally complete commercial dog food is fed during pregnancy,” writes the University of Missouri. “The amount of food fed should be increased gradually throughout pregnancy to accommodate fetal growth. Pregnant females should gain about 30 percent of their nonpregnant weight by the end of pregnancy.”
To avoid exposure to disease, Mar Vista Animal Hospital advises that you keep your dog away from other dogs for three weeks before and three weeks after she gives birth. You should not take your dogs for walks in public during this time period.
PHOTO: Gopal Aggarwal
Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.