Goals of Treating Pregnancy Miscarriage
There is really no way to “treat” an abortion, because once it has happened, it is over and done with. When a bitch aborts her litter, it usually is sudden, spontaneous and irreversible. Unfortunately, owners usually don’t even know that an abortion has happened, especially when it occurs early in a pregnancy, because the mother typically will lick and ingest the expelled placental and fetal tissues as part of her normal grooming behavior. The only realistic goal of treating a miscarriage is to determine why the prospective mother lost her litter, and to take steps to prevent her from having abortions in the future, assuming that she is found to be otherwise healthy and useful in a well-managed breeding program.
The normal gestation period for dogs is 63 days, and most bitches conceive several days after they ovulate. This is a pretty short period of time, especially when you consider the number of puppies that can be conceived, develop and become viable during that short, two-month window. As mentioned above, there is no real way to “treat” an abortion. Abortions usually either go undetected or are identified only after the fact. The best we that can be done is to try to prevent miscarriages from happening in the first place.
Many breeders conduct periodic abdominal ultrasounds after about 25 days of gestation to confirm whether their bitch is pregnant, and thereafter to monitor the viability of the puppies. Blood samples can also be taken and evaluated to assess the level of circulating progesterone. A bitch must have adequate levels of progesterone in her blood to sustain a pregnancy. If the dam’s serum progesterone level is too low, progesterone supplements can be given to help maintain her pregnancy to term. However, progesterone supplementation must be stopped for the birth process, called “parturition,” to occur. There can be some potentially adverse side effects from supplementing progesterone during pregnancy, however. For example, administering progesterone before fetal sexual differentiation has occurred can contribute to abnormal masculinization of female puppies.
Once an abortion has occurred, the bitch may require supportive care, including administration of intravenous fluids to reestablish normal hydration. She may also need a course of antibiotics, especially if she has a fever or if a bacterial infection is suspected. She should be monitored for signs of mammary gland inflammation or infection and for evidence of a uterine infection. She may become lethargic and depressed, and will need extra special attention from her owner.
Once a bitch aborts one or more of her puppies, the prognosis is poor for saving the other puppies in that litter. Fortunately, unless the abortion was caused by Brucella canis or canine herpesvirus, the dam usually will still be able to successfully conceive and whelp other litters in the future. Bitches that develop Brucellosis have a guarded chance of having successful live litters. Brucella canis is extremely difficult to eliminate once the bacteria have established their colonies in the dog’s reproductive tract. If the bitch develops a uterine infection (pyometra), she will be predisposed to having recurring uterine infections during subsequent heat cycles, which can also make it more difficult for her to carry a litter to term.