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Danielle, Animal Care Expert
Category: Pet
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Experience:  10+ years experience with rodents and rabbits, 7+ years experience with freshwater fish and reptiles
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why doe delivers stillborn babies

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My name is Carol. I am a bunny lover. I have a 9yr old buck & a 7mth old doe. Recently we bred the doe. She got pregnant at 6mths old. We counted the days to birth & she had her litter at exactly 31 days. Unfortunately the first 2 babies didn't survive. We were home when she delivered, however, we didn't see the actual birth. When we checked her cage the first two were on top of each other & the afterbirth was beside them. She left the area. When we picked up the kits, it appeared they still had the sack on them. I am not sure if they were stillborn & she just walked away or she didn't know to lick off the sacks. I wasn't sure if she still had babies in here so I watched her all night, I could tell she wasn't right, her stomach kept doing strange things. Then, the next morning, she delivered a third baby & this one didn't make it, I am pretty sure it was born dead because we found her licking it's head & the sack was gone. I decided to take her to the vet to get checked out. They suspected she had a fourth baby still inside of her. Well, they did an ultrasound & x-ray and confirmed a fourth baby was in her but nowhere near the birth canal. They decided to give her meds to induce her labor. 2 hours later she still did not deliver the kit so they decided she would have to have surgery. I was to pick her up at the end of the day & bring her back the next morning for surgery. Well at about 3:30pm, they checked on her & discovered a head sticking out of the birth canal, they helped get the baby out & of course it was dead. I asked why this happened & they said she could possibly have "dystocia" because it appeared the uterus didn't do it's job. They recommended having her spayed once she recovers. I have done a lot of research & am aware that females can develop uterine cancer so I do want to get her spayed eventually. However, we really want to have an offspring from out buck because he is such a great pet. He is a senior rabbit so I know he won't last much longer. I don't want to jeopardize the life of my doe, but do you think it would harm her to let her try again? I am aware of the over population of rabbits, however, all of the kits would go to family members & I would keep 2 of them. I am very sensitive to rabbits needs so I would be sure they are well taken care of. I read that it is not uncommon for the first litter not to survive. Any expert advice you can give would be appreciated. Thank you.

Carol Miguel [email protected]
Carol, Dystocia is caused by a few different predisposed possibilities including; obesity, the large size of the kits, and a narrow pelvic canal in which makes delivering the kits extremely difficult.

Dystocia is somewhat uncommon in rabbits, HOWEVER, Holland Lops are one of the most common breed of rabbit to develop Dystocia, due to their larger head size.

If it is indeed Dystocia, I would advise getting her spayed as soon as possible, and not breeding her again. Doing so raises the risk of repeating her having stillborn kits, pregnancy difficulty, and creating a large risk of her dying during delivery. It is also extremely painful for the female rabbit, as trying to pass the kits and having difficulty doing so, causes extreme discomfort and pain.

It is somewhat common for kits to be stillborn on a mother's first delivery. This is usually due to breeding too young, and the mother being inexperienced in giving birth. However, this usually does not include such difficulty in delivering the pups, or having one remain inside her. These symptoms point to Dystocia, and it will most likely repeat itself if she is bred again.

Hope this helps!
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Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to Danielle's Post: Do you think this is an indication that she may have uterine cancer? Is there any way to test for the cancer, or would the vet have to open her up to examine the uterus?
Carol, given her extremely young age, the presence of uterine cancer is *extremely* slim to none. I really do not believe that it is an indication of uterine cancer at all, however there is speculation that a doe that has Dystocia is at higher risk of reproductive cancers later in life. This isn't proven, however, but more from experience and speculation of breeders.

As far as testing, they can do an x-ray to see if a mass in present on the uterus. Exploratory surgery will most likely be the next step, if the x-ray comes back positive.

Given that she has shown Dystocia this early on in life, I would have her spayed. If you do want to breed your male, I would get another female, preferrably about a year old, to breed him with.

Hope this helps!
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