Signs Of A Dead Puppy Inside Mother’s Womb

Just like in humans, dogs can experience a variety of complications that develop throughout their pregnancy. Having a pregnant dog in your family means you will need to be on the lookout for these complications, making it so important to be aware of any serious pregnancy signs or symptoms. 

One of these potential complications they can experience is the loss of a pregnancy or puppy while they are in the womb.

Not only is this devastating in itself, but it can be a major threat to the mother’s health as well. If a dead puppy is not passed by the body and it remains in the mother’s uterus, this can lead to a life threatening infection that requires immediate veterinary attention.

We want to help you support your pregnant dog if they ever lose any puppies in the womb, so let’s get into the most common signs of a dead puppy that is still inside of the mother.

Let’s also help you better understand what you should do if this ever happens to your pregnant dog. 

Signs Of A Dead Puppy Inside Of Mothers Womb

Can Puppies Die In Their Mother’s Womb?

Unfortunately yes, puppies can die while they are still growing inside of their mother’s womb. While this is a complication we hope our pregnant dogs never experience, it’s important to realize that it is a possibility you will need to be on the lookout for.

Dogs can lose their puppies in the womb due to issues ranging from miscarriages to difficulty during the birthing process, and this may not always result in the dog passing the dead puppy naturally.

Due to this possibility, all pet parents with pregnant dogs will need to be aware of the signs of a dead puppy retained in the uterus.

What Are The Common Causes Of Puppy Death In Pregnant Dogs?

Before we discuss the signs and symptoms of puppy death while in the uterus, let’s first discuss the most common causes of pregnancy loss in dogs.

Miscarriage Or Spontaneous Abortion

Unfortunately, dogs can have a miscarriage at any point throughout their pregnancy. Dogs can experience a death of their growing puppies at any point throughout the standard 63 day pregnancy, but those that have a miscarriage after the 45 day mark are more at risk of retaining the dead puppies.

Most miscarriages in dogs are a result of bacterial or viral infections, nutritional deficiencies, poor health throughout the pregnancy, hormonal imbalances, and even fetal defects. While many dogs that miscarry early on in the pregnancy will either birth the puppies early or their bodies will absorb the fetuses, sometimes the uterus will retain them.

Traumatic Event During Pregnancy

Sometimes a traumatic event during a dog’s pregnancy can lead to the loss of their puppies.

This can include everything from a toxicity to a severe injury, leading to the sudden loss of their growing puppies in the uterus. The potential for pregnancy loss in dogs when any traumatic event occurs is why you should always have your pregnant dog assessed by a vet if they experience any illness or threat to their health.

Complications During Labor

One of the most common reasons why a pregnant female dog will retain her puppies is if she encounters complications during labor.

Difficulty giving birth in dogs is referred to as a dystocia, and this typically means something is making it impossible for the puppies to pass through the birth canal. This is often due to the mother’s pubic bone being too small for her puppies to pass through naturally, making it impossible for them to move out of the uterus and into the world.

If the mother goes into labor and she cannot pass the puppies within a 12-24 hour period, this can often lead to the death of the puppies. If the body cannot pass the puppies that have died, they will remain in the uterus and break down within the body.

This is a serious complication that can cause a life-threatening uterine infection for the mother.

What Happens If A Dog Does Not Birth Her Dead Puppies?

What happens if the dog is unable to pass her puppies that have died in the uterus? The answer to this question often depends on how far along she is in her pregnancy.

For example, if a dog has a miscarriage early on in the pregnancy, it is much more likely that the body will absorb the fetuses naturally. In this situation, you may not notice any abnormal symptoms, but the dog will no longer be pregnant.

However, if the dog is far along in her pregnancy during miscarriage or she experiences a dystocia during labor, then the risk of fatal complications are much higher. In these situations the puppies may not be passed naturally by the mother, so the fetuses can begin to break down inside of the uterus.

As the tissues die and the fetuses breakdown, this can often lead to an overgrowth of dangerous bacteria inside of the uterus. Dogs can then develop a deadly uterine infection known as a pyometra, and the main treatment option will involve a surgical procedure that removes the uterus.

The infection in their uterus can even enter the bloodstream, so immediate treatment is essential for these dogs.

It’s also important to mention that in some cases of dead puppies in the uterus, the fetuses may become mummified. This means that a protective membrane will form around the puppy and encase it within the uterus, causing the fetus to harden and remain walled off.

This process itself is usually not a threat to the dog’s health, but it can still increase their risk of uterine infection. It is not ideal for a female dog to have mummified puppies in their uterus.

Signs Of Dead Puppies In the Womb

Now that you are aware of what happens when puppies die inside of their mother’s uterus, we can now list the many potential symptoms you might see in these situations.

Due to how serious these complications can be, you always want to keep an eye out for these signs if you have a pregnant pup in your home.

The most common signs of dead puppies in the womb include:

  • Discharge coming from the vulva that can range in color from brown, black, green, or dark green
  • Discharge from the vulva that is foul smelling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy or listlessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased thirst due to the toxin buildup in their body
  • Increased urination due to their excessive thirst
  • Vomiting
  • Fever, but not always
  • Increased panting, often due to discomfort
  • Weakness and even collapse

If you notice any of the above symptoms in your pregnant dog, we suggest having them seen immediately by your veterinarian.

How To Treat A Pregnant Dog With Dead Puppies In Their Womb 

Treating A Pregnant Dog With Dead Puppies Inside

The standard treatment for dead puppies in a dog’s uterus will vary based on the situation.

To make sure you are aware of each potential treatment option, we will break down the list of possibilities on the table. However, keep in mind that your vet is the only one that understands the details of your dog’s case, so they will suggest the most appropriate plan of action for your pup.

1.) Stimulate The Birthing Process

If your dog has lost her puppies and your vet thinks she can still give birth to them naturally, then your vet can stimulate the birthing process through injections of oxytocin. This will cause the uterine walls to contract and initiate labor in your dog, and hopefully your pregnant pup can then birth the fetuses naturally.

If she is able to pass her stillborn puppies naturally, the vet may still prescribe antibiotics if they fear a brewing infection.

2.) Aggressive Antibiotic Therapy

Antibiotics will often be used alongside other treatment options when it pertains to retained puppies in the uterus. The presence of the dead puppies can increase the risk of infection in the uterus, so whether your dog passes them with assistance or requires removal of the uterus, your vet will likely prescribe antibiotics.

3.) Surgical Removal Of The Uterus

If the pregnant dog is unable to pass the puppies that have died inside of her uterus, especially if they have developed a uterine infection, then most vets will suggest removing the uterus.

This will involve putting your dog under sedation and essentially spaying them, which will ultimately remove the reproductive organs and any infection that is trapped inside of it.

4.) Hospitalization To Address Critical Illness

If the pregnant dog has developed a uterine infection or is experiencing any medical complications due to their retained puppies, then your vet might suggest keeping your dog in the hospital.

This will allow your vet to make sure your dog is adequately hydrated, can receive antibiotics and pain control regularly, and allow them to monitor for any additional complications.

Prognosis For Retained Puppies In Pregnant Dogs

If your pregnant dog has suffered the loss of her puppies and has required medical treatment because of it, you might be wondering what her prognosis is moving forward. Thankfully, as long as she receives care from the moment abnormal symptoms are noticed, most dogs will make a full recovery.

The standard recovery time will vary based on the type of treatment she requires and whether or not a uterine infection was present, but treatment is often successful when it is sought early on.

The prognosis is much more guarded if the dog is critically ill by the time veterinary treatment is offered.

Unfortunately, our dogs are not immune to puppy death during their pregnancy or during the birthing process. We encourage you to keep an eye out for any abnormal symptoms throughout your dog’s pregnancy, and to always reach out to your vet if your dog encounters complications when they are in labor.

If you have a pregnant dog and you want to know when they are due, use our dog pregnancy calculator to help you calculate an estimate date of arrival. It may also be helpful to know what dog pregnancy symptoms week by week you should be watching for.

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