Dystocia is defined as difficulty in delivering fetuses through the birth canal. Causes of dystocia can range from fetal factors such as large fetus’, or abnormal positioning, to maternal factors such as narrowed birth canal, lack of contractions, or exhaustion for prolonged contractions. Dystocia can effect both dogs and cats, but is more common is small breed dogs.
Clinical signs of dystocia include labor lasting more than 4 hours with no production of the fetus, green vaginal discharge, and / or more than 1 hour between births. If any of these signs are noted, it is recommended that you seek medical attention immediately. Owners can monitor for for signs of parturition by monitoring the rectal temperature (declining below 100 degrees 24 hours prior to labor) and signs of nesting.
Diagnosis of dystocia is based on physical exam findings / history, radiographs to evaluate fetal size and position, and/or ultrasound to evaluate fetal viability and distress.
Treatment for dystocia varies depending on condition of the mother and babies and prognosis for natural birth without surgical intervention. Oxytocin can be administered to assist in uterine contractions, but should only be administered if the mother and fetus’ are stable. Alternatively surgery (c-section) can be performed. An ovariohysterectomy (spay) can be performed at the same time as the c-section if future breeding is not wanted or recommended.