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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Postpartum Care in Small Animals

By Autumn P. Davidson, DVM, MS, DACVIM, Clinical Professor, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis

Palpation and, if necessary, radiography should be used to determine that all puppies or kittens have been delivered. The routine postpartum administration of oxytoxin or antibiotics is unnecessary in healthy dams with nursing neonates, unless the placenta has been retained. The dam’s body temperature and the character of the postpartum discharge or lochia and milk should be monitored. Normally, the lochia is dark red to black 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 beyond the first 24 hr indicates a potential problem and should be given immediate attention (eg, supplemental feeding, assisted nursing, evaluation for sepsis). Neonates should gain 10% of their body weight daily.