My Dog Had a Miscarriage - Signs and Symptoms
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During a dog's pregnancy, their body will undergo many visible changes. Inside the mother, chemical reactions caused by a change in hormone levels create the ideal conditions for the puppy embryos to develop. Gestation needs certain factors to be carried out and result in healthy puppies, with the health of the mother and quality of diet being two of the most important. Even with these aspects taken care of, it is possible for the dog to have a miscarriage.
If you think your dog has had a miscarriage, you may have noticed worrying signs and symptoms. At AnimalWised, we explain the signs of possible miscarriage in dogs, as well as explain whether or not the dog is likely to have fertility problems.
Types of miscarriage in dogs
While we refer to a canine miscarriage as the termination of a pregnancy, but there are more than one type. Knowing the different types of ways a canine fetus does not come to term can help us know more about what has happened to our dog. The types of miscarriage include:
- Abortion: unlike how we apply it to human medicine, an abortion in dogs does not necessarily mean the fetus has been purposefully removed. This occurs when the embryo has developed into a fetus, but doe snot come to full term and is not capable of independent life.
- Fetal reabsorption: this occurs when the fetus is able to be reabsorbed into the body, something which can only occur during the first half of the pregnancy. This is often due to bacterial or viral infections which cause the dog to miscarry.
- Stillbirth: when the fetuses have reached full term and are able to live independently, but are born dead. The puppies may be premature, but they should otherwise be alive. The causes are varied, but they can be idiopathic. Also, the mother often eats her puppies if they are stillborn.
Causes of miscarriage in dogs
A dog's pregnancy should last an average of 63 days, but it is possible for it to be a little longer or later. If the puppies come 5 days before or do not arrive 5 days after the 63 day average, it is likely there is a problem. If the puppies are miscarried, the time at which this occurs will usually suggest the reason behind it. The most common causes of miscarriage in dogs are:
- Hormonal imbalance: the hormone levels of the dog need to be in careful balance to ensure the puppies develop properly. If the mother has a thyroid issue, her ovaries do not produce enough progesterone or any other reason for a hormone imbalance may result in a miscarriage.
- Bacteria: bacterial infection can harm the well-being of any dog, whether or not they are pregnant. It will depend on the type of bacteria and extent of the infection. A bacteria called Brucella canis can lead to miscarriage and is highly contagious.
- Fungal infection: similarly certain fungi can affect the progress of a pregnancy.
- Viral infection: for a viral infection, the affect the mother's immune system can harm the fetuses. They may be deprived of nutrition and are more susceptible to secondary infections, both of which can lead to miscarriage.
- Malnutrition: if the dog has been abandoned or is not provided with enough food, it can result in miscarriage. This is why an adequate controlled diet for a pregnant dog is so important.
- Parasites: it is possible for the mother dog to have a mild parasitical infestation without it affecting the puppies. It will depend on the type of parasite. Some, such as the Neospora caninum (a type of coccidia in dogs), can result in miscarriage.
- Trauma: if the mother suffers an accident or is inflicted with physical trauma, it is possible she will lose her puppies.
These are the main factors leading to a miscarriage in dogs. Although the mother passes on nutrients through her placenta, she can also convey parasites and infection in the same way. We always need to be observant of any signs or symptoms of disease in case it could be something which affects the pregnancy. Always take the dog to a veterinarian if unsure.
How common is miscarriage in dogs?
The first thing we need to know is that it is impossible to say just how common a miscarriage is in dogs. One reason for this is that we do not collect enough data on the subject. Although some dogs may be taken to a veterinarian, many dogs may have a miscarriage which goes unreported.
Another aspect is due to what happens when a dog has a miscarriage. Not all of the miscarriages in dogs will show symptoms. This is because canine miscarriages which occur early on in the pregnancy will absorb the fetuses back into the uterus. There may be some bloody discharge around the dog's vaginal area, but you may not even notice it if the miscarriage occurs early.
Many dog owners may have a dog which they did not even know they became pregnant. In this case, the dog may have had a miscarriage without us even knowing there were embryos to miscarry.
We do know that an abortion, i.e. when the dog expels the embryo before they reach full term, but after they become a fetus, is less likely than other types of miscarriage. Reabsorption seems to be more common.
Signs of a dog miscarriage
As we have stated, it is not always the case that you will witness the dog have a miscarriage. Reabsorption may not have any observable symptoms, especially very early on in the pregnancy. For stillbirth, the expulsion of the dead fetus will be the most obvious sign. However, since the dog may eat the fetus, it is possible you will not know the litter is smaller than it would have been.
In general, the signs and symptoms of canine miscarriage are:
- Abdominal pain
- Abnormal behavior
- Abnormal discharge (dark green, brown or black pus)
- Bloody discharge
- Reduced energy levels
- Weight loss
Even if one fetus is aborted, the other puppies in the litter may not have any problems and be born healthy. This is what is known as a partial miscarriage. Partial miscarriages are more common than the whole litter being aborted. If your pregnant dog stops eating or you think they are having some other problems, you should take them to the veterinarian. They can determine whether there is a problem or a possible miscarriage.
Sometimes complications in a dog's pregnancy mean the fetuses will need to be terminated before they come to term. This will be done if it is affects the mother's health sufficiently.
How to prevent miscarriage in dogs
Firstly, it is important to know it is not always posible to prevent canine miscarriage. For example, the dog may have a viral infection, but be asymptomatic. This means the dog is unable to bring the puppies to term, but otherwise seems healthy. There are also many other factors which are beyond our control and we should not feel guilty if we have not contributed to the problem.
However, we should do what we can to ensure the pregnancy comes to term without problem. To do this, we should:
- Provide a proper balanced diet for the pregnant mother. The mother may not eat much in the days leading up to pregnancy, but we should always ensure they have quality food if they need it.
- Observe for symptoms. Beyond the signs of a miscarriage, we should look for any symptoms of illness or disease in the dog. Take them to the veterinarian at the sign of any trouble.
- Take the dog to the veterinarian at the beginning of the pregnancy and for regular checkups thereafter.
- Ensure the mother has a stress-free environment and do not overexercise them.
Following these steps can help prevent miscarriage in dogs, but we should also remember there are many factors involved, not all of which are under our control. Once the dog has complete the pregnancy, you may want to know more about how to care for puppies. You can learn more about this in the video below:
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Had a Miscarriage - Signs and Symptoms, we recommend you visit our Pregnancy problems category.
- Farstad, W. K. (2008). Pregnancy Loss and Abortion in Dogs, British Small Animal Veterinary Congress 2008.