Dystocia in cats. Causes symptoms and treatment

The act of delivering kittens is generally a natural process for female cats, but there are times when normal delivery is difficult or even impossible. The dystocia , or difficult or abnormal birth of a cat, is a common problem in veterinary practice.

If your cat is about to have a litter of kittens, you should familiarize yourself with the normal birth process. Otherwise, it will be difficult to determine when and if there is a problem.

Summary of the stages of labor for a cat

The  pregnancy of a cat  usually lasts from 63 to 65 days; however, sometimes in some cats the delivery can be shorter or longer (range 58 to 70 days).

The cat’s behavior hardly varies until the last week of pregnancy. During that final week, the search for the appropriate bed or nest becomes fundamental for the cat.

In general, two types of temperament are seen in pregnant cats : the independent one that will look for a place away from human contact, and the dependent one that will try to achieve the proximity and presence of its owner.

Three stages of labor can be established. Summing up a lot:

  • The first stage of laborinvolves the onset of uterine contractions, the relaxation of the cervix, and the rupture of the chorioallantoic sac (rupture of the water). The cat will purr and socialize during the first stage of labor. Purring is believed to be a relaxation technique.
  • The second stage of laboris when the fetuses are expelled by uterine contractions. In cats, the average duration of   normal complete labor is 16 hours, with a variation of 4 to 42 hours (up to three days in some cases may be normal). It is important to consider this variability before intervening.
  • In the third stage, the fetal membranes are expelled. The cat may alternate between stages two and three with the delivery of multiple fetuses. You can give birth to one or two fetuses followed by one or two fetal membranes, or you can give birth to a fetus followed by the accompanying fetal membrane.

Types and causes of feline dystocia

Dystocia have traditionally been classified according to their origin as maternal and fetal dystocia . Depending on the defect that prevents the normal progression of labor, they can be divided into obstructive and non-obstructive .

  1. Obstructive dystocia of maternal origin. The obstruction is due either to the narrowness of the maternal pelvis that prevents the normal progression of the fetus, or to insufficient dilation of the soft tissues of the birth canal. These types of dystocia are almost always resolved by cesarean section.
  2. Obstructive dystocia of fetal origin. This type of dystocia has its origin in the excessive size of the fetus or in its abnormal attitude. They can be resolved by manual or instrumental manipulation, in the second case, or by cesarean section in the first.
  3. Non-obstructive maternal dystocia. This includes all those types of dystocia due to failure of the expulsive mechanisms. Most are of maternal origin, although fetal death causes dystocia of this type by failing to release glucocorticoids that trigger labor. These types of dystocia tend to respond to medical treatment. Well, fetal death causes dystocia of this type by failing to release glucocorticoids that trigger labor. These types of dystocia usually respond to medical treatment.

Possible causes of dystocia would be:

Fetal cause

  • Fetus of considerable size.
  • Death of a kitten.
  • Abnormal presentation, position, or posture of the fetus in the birth canal.

Maternal cause

  • Weak uterine contractions.
  • Abnormality of the vaginal vault, or the vulvar opening.
  • Inflammation of the uterus (usually caused by an infection)
  • Toxemia of  pregnancy (blood poisoning), gestational diabetes.
  • Abnormal pelvic canal due to previous pelvic injury, abnormal conformation, or pelvic immaturity.
  • Congenitally small pelvis .
  • Insufficient cervical dilation .
  • Ineffective abdominal pressure.
  • Uterine cancer, cysts.
  • Poor lubrication.
  • Uterine torsion or rupture.

Symptoms of feline dystocia

  • Prolonged gestation beyond 70 days.
  • A first stage of labor that lasts more than 24 hours.
  • More than four hours from the start of stage two until the delivery of the first offspring.
  • More than 30 minutes of persistent, strong abdominal contractions, without expelling the kittens.
  • Straining for 10 minutes if a fetus or fluid-filled bubble is seen in the birth canal.
  • The cat cries, shows signs of pain, and constantly licks the vulvar area when it contracts.
  • Excessive fever
  • Sudden discharge from the vagina of bright red blood that lasts more than 10 minutes.
  • Thick, black, foul-smelling discharge from the vagina.
  • Labor does not begin within 24 hours of the rectal temperature drop, below 37.2 ° C.

Factors that predispose to dystocia

  • Mature age or too young.
  • Brachycephalicraces and dwarf races.
  • Sudden changes in the environment before the cat goes into labor.
  • History of dystocia.
  • Persianand Himalayan races .

Diagnosis of dystocia in a cat

The vet will need a complete history of the cat’s health, including details of previous pregnancies or reproductive problems.

The vet will palpate (touch) the cat’s vaginal canal and cervix.

In addition, to make a reliable diagnosis, the following can be performed:

  • Benchmarks:biochemical profile, complete blood count and urinalysis,  the  levels of  progesterone in  blood of the cat.
  • X-rays –Essential for determining fetal size, number, position, and location of fetuses.
  • Ultrasound – can provide accurate measurements such as indications of fetal stress, assessment of placental separation, and the character of fetal fluids.

Treatment of dystocia always performed by a veterinarian

Once dystocia is diagnosed, it should be treated on an outpatient basis until all kittens have been delivered and the cat has stabilized. If there are no uterine contractions and there is no evidence of fetal stress, medical treatment will begin.

The cat’s condition may be due to low blood sugar levels, low blood calcium levels , inadequate body production of  oxytocin,  or an inadequate response to normal oxytocin production.

Medications used to promote uterine contractions should not be given when obstructive dystocia is present, as they can accelerate placental separation and cause fetal death, or uterine rupture.

Oxytocin , which is a natural hormone, may be given to stimulate or strengthen contractions.

Calcium stimulates muscle contractions. If your labor has been long, your blood calcium levels may have become deficient. When combined with oxytocin, calcium gluconate can cause contractions that are more efficient than with oxytocin alone.

If the cat is anxious or stressed, anti-anxiety medications may be given.

Manual delivery may be necessary to deliver a fetus lodged in the vaginal vault.

The vet will use finger manipulation to reposition the kitten, as this method provides the least amount of damage to the kitten and the cat. If the vaginal vault is too small for digital manipulations, instruments, such as a sterilization hook   or forceps, can be used to aid in delivery.

Extreme caution must be exercised in these circumstances. Undesirable complications include mutilation of the fetus and  laceration  of the vaginal canal or uterus.

caesarean section will be performed if strong uterine contractions do not occur after calcium and oxytocin or if the kittens are too large to deliver vaginally or if there is uterine rupture / torsion.




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