As with most biological processes in life, your dog's pregnancy, even in best-case scenarios, can carry certain inherent risks. One of these risks is miscarriage. A miscarriage is the spontaneous ending of a dog's pregnancy through abortion — when the fetus(es) are expelled from the body as stillbirths — or resorption. Learn the basics of dog miscarriage, including the symptoms, potential common causes, and what to do if you suspect your dog may be experiencing a miscarriage.
The basics of spontaneous canine abortion
If a dog has a spontaneous abortion, a fetus has died prior to the end of the pregnancy and may result in a stillbirth. In such a situation, it's possible for some puppies in the litter to still be born healthy. At other times, spontaneous abortion may occur for all puppies in the litter.
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Miscarriage in dogs may occur with or without any symptoms depending on how far along the pregnancy is. Miscarriages that occur in early pregnancy before around day 40 of gestation generally result in reabsorption of the fetal tissue or embryos, and there may be no symptoms for your dog. After around day 40, if she miscarries, she should be assessed by a veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure that there are no puppies remaining in her uterus. This could lead to a life-threatening infection.
It's also important to note that some symptoms of miscarriage can resemble other serious conditions, like pyometra, especially if there is not a confirmed pregnancy, so a veterinarian's confirmation of pregnancy and/or miscarriage is important.
Causes of spontaneous abortion in dogs
In some cases, a dog's miscarriage might be caused by certain infectious diseases. These can be viral, bacterial, and parasitic and include the quick-spreading bacterium Brucella canis that causes brucellosis infections, the E. coli bacteria that is found in certain uncooked foods, Staphylococcus spp., canine herpesvirus, Toxoplasma, and Neospora caninum.
There are also many noninfectious causes that can contribute to or cause your dog's miscarriage. This includes hormonal fluctuations or hormonal imbalances, such as low progesterone levels, uterine issues, certain environmental toxins, and some medications. Poor care of a dog, such as inadequate nutrition, trauma, or a stressful environment, can also bring on a canine miscarriage.
Vaginal symptoms of pregnancy loss in dogs
Many of the first symptoms of miscarriage you might notice for your dog might be vaginal. Unusual vaginal bleeding is a typical sign of canine miscarriage. This bleeding is usually abundant. Discharge may be thick-textured and contain blood or pus, and the color can range from brown to greenish or even black-tinged. There might also be an unpleasant odor from the abnormal discharge or the vulva.
If your dog is experiencing unusual vaginal bleeding, you might find that she has expelled a fetus. Since many of these symptoms, such as abnormal discharge, can be a sign of a miscarriage or another serious pregnancy complication, you will want to consult with your veterinarian.
Other typical symptoms of dog miscarriage
Symptoms of miscarriage include abnormal-colored vaginal discharge (green, brown, or yellow/white); abdominal pain; lethargy; abnormal behavior, like being sensitive to touch or not wanting to interact; having a fever; and possibly having contractions to pass dead pups.
Other signs that a miscarriage has occurred in a dog include weight loss, dehydration, fidgety behavior, overall malaise, reduced energy levels, diarrhea, vomiting, and shifts in behavior. Dogs often seem sluggish and inactive after experiencing a miscarriage. If you observe any of these symptoms in your pregnant pet, alert your veterinarian immediately.
Typical canine pregnancies last for a full term of about 63 days, although a dog's pregnancy may last several days longer or could be shorter as well. If a pregnant dog hasn't given birth in a timely manner, she could have experienced a miscarriage. She should be taken to a veterinarian for an ultrasound to determine if puppies are present.
Dogs sometimes have miscarriages that are completely devoid of symptoms. This generally signifies that the abortion occurred toward the beginning stages of gestation.
Proper veterinary guidance for dog miscarriage
If you're caring for an expectant dog, your duty is to ensure that she receives proper veterinary advice and care during the entire gestational period but especially if you suspect that your pregnant dog is experiencing any complications, like a miscarriage. It's crucial for a veterinarian to oversee the health and well-being of both the mother dog and the gestating fetuses. If you have any questions about how to care for a pregnant dog, your veterinarian can be a helpful guide. Pregnant dogs have important dietary and health requirements.
If a dog is older, malnourished , or ill with ailments like Cushing's disease, her odds of having a miscarriage or serious complications are significant. Dogs with these conditions should not be allowed to get pregnant. The best way to prevent accidental pregnancy is to have your dog spayed for her health, well-being, and safety.
The bottom line
Miscarriage in dogs can happen for many reasons, including different kinds of viral and bacterial infections, environmental factors, and a dog's overall health. In early spontaneous abortions, you may not notice many if any symptoms. In later miscarriages, your dog will likely have vaginal discharge and other symptoms that could include localized pain, vomiting, sluggishness, fidgetiness, and overall discomfort. If you suspect your dog is having a miscarriage, you should seek veterinary care immediately.