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Premature Labor in Canines
Premature labor is defined as the presence of an organized pattern of uterine contractions that are inappropriate for a specific point in gestation (organized contractions occurring earlier than day 58 post LH surge). If premature labor is not managed immediately, premature deliveries will occur. Threatened premature labor is defined as the presence of uterine contractions/uterine irritability that has not resulted in fetal delivery, but uterine activity is abnormal for that specific point in gestation. Un-managed contractions or uterine irritability will frequently progress into premature deliveries. A second risk of premature contractions/uterine irritability is the damage and subsequent placental separation the premature contractions contribute to, causing fetal compromise/demise. Documentation of excessive uterine contractions with the WhelpWise service is essential to both the correct diagnosis and management of preterm labor.
The cause of premature labor is frequently unknown. Using historical evaluation of clients actively managed for premature labor using the WhelpWise™ system, we find three clear categories; idiopathic, hypoluteal, or the presence of infective pathology. It is not unusual for there to be a combination of these causes.
Symptoms of premature labor are frequently not noted until the presence of “uteroverdin” the dark green/black vaginal discharge or actual deliveries of fetuses are noted. It is not unusual for an animal to have an asymptomatic loss of a litter on a first occurrence of preterm labor. If the cause of preterm labor is hypoluteal, the presence of inappetence and nesting behavior may be noted. If the cause is infective, vaginal discharge or excessive vaginal licking may be noted. Specific diagnostic testing is highly recommended before a “diagnosis” is made.
- Use of uterotonics during gestation such as Red Raspberry and Caulophyllum.
- Hypolutealism (or “low progesterone”).
- Vaginitis/placentitis/pyometra can all be causative factor for preterm labor. It is important to identify pathogens prior to antibiotic therapy as frequently the causative agent is resistant to common antibiotic therapy. It is also possible to co-manage preterm labor with active infective processes such as pyometra safely with close maternal/fetal assessments.
- Breed predisposition; Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Miniature Schnauzer, Bouvier, Newfoundlands, and Mastiffs have shown a higher incidence of premature labor.
Hypolutealism or “low progesterone”
Management of Preterm Labor
For causes of preterm labor/uterine irritability that are not associated with hypolutealism, medical management of uterine activity with medications such as Terbutaline or Calcium Channel Blockers can control premature contractions, and dosing for those medications can be specifically adjusted to control excessive uterine activity with the WhelpWise service.
When to Start Preterm Labor Monitoring
Preterm labor/uterine irritability is impossible to diagnose and manage without the use of the WhelpWise service. In addition to our monitoring equipment you have the added advantage of 20 years of high-risk pregnancy management from our extensive database. Our success rate getting a high-risk litter to term gestation is about 96% for our premature labor clients. WhelpWise has become an important tool for preterm labor management for many successful breeders. In the most extreme cases we have been able to stop bitches that are actively delivering puppies and keep the rest of the litter in until the end of pregnancy.
Early detection of problems greatly increases the chance of successful management. If you think your bitch may have a problem with preterm labor, please contact us immediately upon breeding so we can get her on our schedule. Documentation of excessive uterine contractions with the WhelpWise service is essential to both the correct diagnosis and management of preterm labor.