Pregnant pets don’t need a lot of extra fussing. However, the day of delivery can be a little nerve-wracking for everyone: the mother cat or dog, and the concerned pet owner.
Here are some ways to help your pet through labor. You’ve already done a lot by preparing a litter box (and providing extra nutrition and attention) but you should still be on standby in case anything goes wrong. Here’s what to expect when your pet is expecting, and how to help her every step of the way.
Signs that your pet is in labor
Cats tend to get very restless and will wander aimlessly around the house or scratch their beds. Dogs will lie on their sides for a long time and start ‘nesting’ by tearing up newspapers, sofa pillows, etc. Many pets lose their appetite. When labor begins animals will begin to pant, usually in time with the contractions.
How to help your pet through labor
It’s best to have just one or two people in the room during your pet’s labor. And if all goes well, you can leave your pet to do her business, checking in occasionally. Just leave her a bowl of fresh water.
Generally it takes about 15 minutes for each kitten or puppy to be born. So, a litter of kittens will take about 2 hours. Dogs will have an interval of a few minutes to 2 hours between pups. Most puppies and kittens will be born headfirst though breech (buttocks first) are not uncommon. Have plenty of towels on hand in case the babies come faster than your pet can clean them.
Dealing with membranes and umbilical cords
The transparent membrane around the newborn will usually erupt during labor but if that doesn’t happen your pet will remove it and then cut the cord with her teeth. If she doesn’t do that, then carefully cut the sack with sharp scissors. Tie off the umbilical cord with sewing thread or non waxed dental floss about an inch from the body of the newborn. Then, cut the cord on your pet’s side and dab with antiseptic like iodine.
Check the newborns’ breathing
Check if each puppy or kitten is breathing properly. If not, use an infant’s rubber nasal aspirator to remove any mucus that may be blocking its nose and mouth. Hold it in your hand, nose down, and gently swing him through a downward arc, lightly tapping it on its back till it breathes. You can also rub it vigorously with a towel.
Count the placentas
After each birth your pet should expel a placenta or afterbirth, which she will eat (don’t stop her—it’s full of nutrients). If it isn’t passed it can block the birth canal and prevent the next baby from coming out. So count the placentas and call the vet if you suspect that there’s a problem. If the last placenta doesn’t come out, your pet could develop an infection.
Observe your pet’s behavior
Sometimes an animal will injure her pups or kittens, out of overexcitement or to kill an abnormal offspring. Try to stop her—take the offspring away (at least for the moment) and then calm her down.
Post-delivery pet care
Remove soiled papers or material from the litter box and let the mother and her new family rest. Your pet’s appetite and activity will return in about 24 hours. Watch out for signs of exhaustion and prolonged and unusual discharge from the birth canal.
By the time the babies reach 2 or 3 weeks old their need for milk will increase so mmuch that your pet will need as much as 3 times of her usual ration of food. Let her eat all she wants like nursing. Your vet can prescribe the proper kind of pet food.
You can also expect a few ‘accidents’ since lactation can wreak havoc on your pet’s digestive system. So get out the pooper scooper and try not to get too frustrated—this will resolve itself in a few weeks.
You should also check if all the puppies and kittens get an equal amount of milk, especially if it’s a large litter. You can try giving the weaker ones more attention (like removing the other siblings during feeding times so it can get a ‘head start’ before its brothers and sisters join him). Your vet can also suggest supplemental milk mixtures. Most babies will be ready to be weaned at about 6 weeks.
Photo from on-lineretrievers.com