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NancyH, Dog Expert:Rescue, Train,Breed,Care
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 31958
Experience:  30+ yrs dog home vet care & nursing, rescue, behavior&training, responsible show breeding, genetics
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what can cause puppies to die during birth

Customer Question

what can cause seemingly perfectly healthy, meaning same size and weight as the live ones, to die during birth? Reviving was unsuccessful and for the most part they just died, had not been dead for very long at all.
Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  NancyH replied 10 years ago.
There is more than one thing that can cause this.
Sometimes they are in the birth canal too long either behind a puppy that is stuck or from the mother not being able to deliver them fast enough.
Sometimes the placenta detaches from the uterine wall leaving the pups without oxygen for too long during the birth process.
Sometimes they breathe in birth fluids which keeps their lungs from being able to get oxygen into their systems.
Sometimes they have a birth defect causing them to not be able to survive without the blood flow from mom via the placenta.
Sometimes they have a disease such as herpes virus that kills them before they are born.
If you lost more than one or two I'd suggest saving the body of one or two pups and refrigerating them (not freezing) for the vet to do a necropsy (like a human autopsy) on the pups to determine cause of death. If you plan to breed the mother again then knowing if this was a problem with her delivery, a problem with a disease, or a genetic problem could be significant for you.
Losing pups is one of the hardest parts about breeding - only thing worse I think is also losing the mother.
Hope this helps you!
NancyH and 4 other Dog Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
I lost 4 puppies in a litter of 11 like this over the past 24 hours, acutally 5 but the 5th one was stuck and the vet pulled that one out for me also, it had been dead for awhile and my vet said he had been stuck because of his front legs were back. It was the first litter for this female and she is 2 and a half years old. I own both male and female. In the 11 litters I have whelped over the past 5 years I have never had this happen. This is the first litter for me with this particular breed, but I have seen differences and similarities between all of my females. I had a gut feeling last Thursday that something was going wrong, only by her actions.I explained to my vet and he told me the warning signs to watch for. None of those things he described happened. The very first puppy was stuck, I met the vet at his office and he pulled him out for me and that puppy lived, I was thinking that this puppy could have held up the entire litter from being born for 2-3 days??I do not know if this could happen or not, but, something was going terribly wrong to have this happen. I watch all my dogs very closely and I know them like they were my own children. I should have listened to my gut and been more pushy with my vet to help, maybe? I don't know, right now I am very confused and I wonder what I did so wrong this time. Thank you for your help, the last puppy that died was born at 1:45 pm today, would that be too late to place in the fridge and take to him tomorrow?
Expert:  NancyH replied 10 years ago.
You should still be able to get a necropsy on that pup but the vet can tell you if the tissue is too degraded to tell you much.
Yes it could be the first pup held up some of the others too long and that led to the separation of placenta for the others you lost.
If you are losing pups some hours after birthing I'd check on temperature where the pups are.
This article on saving fading pups may help you
I'm at the vet's office if there is more than a couple of hours between deliveries and if the dog strains for more than 20 hard minutes of labor with no pup. I learned that the vets really don't always know that much about whelping and problems etc through a similar experience except my dam died and I had to raise the pups by hand. All due to the vet explaining birth was not an emergency. I now do the research myself and am far pushier with what I want out of a vet when I think a delivery is going wrong. Often this is only something you can learn through experience.
Also to file away for another time consider an x-ray after day 54 to see if any pups are too big to deliver normally.
I can also say that losing pups in a big litter is not uncommon. The one dane litter I did there were 14 pups and I lost two because she just didn't get them delivered fast enough so they were born with blue tongues (no oxygen) and I couldn't revive them. Its awfully hard losing newborns or even slightly older pups but the reason dogs have litters is not all are expected buy 'mother nature' to survive. It allows for 'error' without losing a whole breeding season.
Sometimes the pups just didn't have a big enough placenta to get all the nutrition they needed to form right due to crowding in the womb. So perhaps their liver doesn't work right or their heart isn't functioning correctly.
If you haven't read about herpes this site might help you with that info too
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Reply to Nancy Holmes's Post: I get my females x-rayed one week before their due date, and it is very helpful for me. I think you are right about some vets not being up on whelping, don't get me wrong, I really like my vet and I trust him with my dogs, but I noticed, both vets that I have had this weekend(one regular and one on call) speak of horse's births, which is beyond me what they could have in common, other than the obvious, like comparing humans, which there is a subject I do know about with having 5 children, but getting back to my dog, she had been in very active labor for 2 hours without producing a puppy, the vet knew this from early on and waited until the end of the second hour before suggesting to meet me at the office, since it is a holiday weekend and the office was closed. Then my vet always gives me oxytocin in case I need a little help, I rarely have to use it, but I was told to wait at least 3 hours before giving it, I thought that was too long and I would not wait that long, but I did wait 2 hours, until I had two dead puppies in a row, then I gave her a shot within a half an hour to get any live puppies out, this was 10 hours after the first puppy was born and puppies 7 & 8 were stillborn. Puppy 9 was born alive, puppy 10 was the puppy that had been stuck and died and when he x-ray this morning there was 1 puppy still in there, last Friday when I had her x-rayed they seen 10 for sure with a possible 11th one in the back ground, but would not commit to 11 at that time. Well puppy number 11 was still born also, over 24 hours after active labor began.
Are you supposed to collect money everytime I ask a question? or are these continuing issues with the same question included in the first fee? If it is included, I would like to know what you would do about breeding her again, if no information is available on the dead puppy. She is a wonderful mother for her first litter, very protective right now, and watching ever move I make, she watched as I took the dead puppies away and she followed me over to the little box in which I placed them for burial, I felt so sorry for her, I looked into her eyes and I knew she knew but could not understand, kind of like me I guess. She is healthy and a wonderful companion, in January she hurt her foot out in the pen, which by the way is a 2 acre lot fenced in just for the big dogs, so I brought her in and within days she made herself right at home and has been in ever since, only for breeding did I put her back outside, so she will be my inside shadow now forever I guess. She is a Bernese Mt. Dog, and I have fallen in love with this breed, I also so my male and I have high expectations to show my younger 2 females, I don't show this one, her marking aren't quite perfect and she is a bit shy of men, I don't know why because she came to me at 16 weeks of age acting like this and no matter how hard I have tried to gain her trust with my husband, and any man around, she will not let her guard down, so I never put her in the ring, but I love her anyways and if she can produce healthy, beautiful puppies then that is what I will do with her. So I do need to know your opinion on breeding her again.
Anyhow, I sure thank you for all your information, it has helped and it does confirm what I was thinking but I didn't know if it was possible.
Have a wonderful day,
Expert:  NancyH replied 10 years ago.
Its up to you on the money - I do appreciate your original accept :)
I think in this case as you describe it I'd have gone for a c-section to save the maximum number of pups. Sounds like she was just too tired after straining too long.
I think you might consider using a different male if you get a finding of a health issue in the pup. I'd also suggest regular daily directed exercise to make sure her muscles are up to delivering when the time comes to whelp.
This is a great breed when they have the true breed temperament but it can be a heartbreaker with the genetic issues in it.
By 16 weeks a dog's socialization period where its easy for them to adapt to new things is almost over. After that its much harder for them to accept new 'pack members' and so if she was raised by a female or with female only contact men may never measure up to being 'ok' for her.
Nothing to say you can't pick shows with female judges though! Sometimes they are better off their own turf about coping with strangers. Same as with us - finding a stranger in our livingroom is a whole different thing than them being around you on a city street. :)
Make sure your pups have good interactions with your husband as they will learn from her to be wary of men. Mother dogs teach the pups a lot more than we consider they do while nursing them.
If she's a little too protective of pups try 500mg of vitamin C twice a day as that helps balance electrolytes and can reduce her stress.
I also supplement my nursing dams with goats milk - makes for great bone and coat in the pups because it makes the mother's milk super nutritious. may help you locate some if you can't find a 4-H farmer or goat farm with milk for sale near you.
I like my vet a lot too but vets unless they also raise dogs really don't get a lot of education in anything other than doing a c-section its just not their area of expertise. You can read up on dystocia here
There are vets who specialize in canine reproduction or reproduction overall.
The best cure I've found in getting over losses like this is to keep self educating so it never happens again!
Customer: replied 10 years ago.
Thank you again, you have been very helpful, and for socialization, my puppies are raised in the house, with all regular household activities. I also have 2 teenage children at home and 2 grandsons, 1 year and 6 months of age that come to visit on a regular basis, so puppies raised in our home are treated just like they were going to live with us. I love my Sadie dearly, if I find out there is a problem genetically or if my vet suggests not to breed her again I will have her spayed and she will just be my shadow around the house like she has been the past 5 months. She is in very good shape, she runs with the outside dogs and she walks with me a couple of times a week, except for lately because of her weight and the puppies. I felt sorry for her so no walking for her this past month. She always walked with me since she was younger. I will remember your advise on the C-section if I ever decide to breed her again. I will keep a close eye out for any issues and this time I won't sit back and let it go. I will also try the vitamin C and goats milk, I did pick up some evaporated goats milk to have on hand for this anticipated large litter, I could just give her what I have and look for some fresh, we do live in the country and I should be able to find someone who has some near by.
Thank you very much Nancy for all the links and advise, I will keep your information if I ever need help, which I am sure I will, I'll look you up again. I also raise Cavaliers, I have had very good luck with my breeding stock in this breed. Sometimes I think I would rather be around my dogs more than most people.
Have a wonderful day,
Expert:  NancyH replied 10 years ago.
You are very welcome - I swear some days every dog wants me to learn something new medically! :)
Hopefully from now on the litter will be fine.
I usually do the evaporated goats milk 50/50 with water for the dams. They can use the fluids as they are nursing.
And come back any time :) always nice to 'meet' someone else who really loves their dogs in addition to breeding them!