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What is Retained Placenta?

A retained placenta is a very serious and life-threatening condition for a cat as a retained and unremoved placenta will begin to decompose within the cat’s uterus, causing a dangerous bacterial infection that will likely spread to the cat’s bloodstream and throughout the body. A cat that has been unable to pass a placenta must be treated by a veterinarian immediately.

As the fetuses develop within the uterus of the mother cat, often called a queen, each fetus is surrounded by an individual membranous sack that also contains the placenta. During a normal birthing process, the kittens usually emerge from the birth canal while still attached to the placenta, which the queen will remove and often eat instinctively. On occasion, however, kittens will be born without the placenta, which will pass through the birth canal after the kitten is born. If the kitten is not born with its placenta and the placenta does not follow soon after a kitten born without it, the placenta has been retained within the uterus.

Retained Placenta Average Cost

From 555 quotes ranging from $400 - $1,000

Average Cost

$650

Symptoms of Retained Placenta in Cats

There are many symptoms that can alert a pet owner to a retained placenta. The first, yet least reliable, clue is that the number of kittens that have been born and the number of placentas that have been passed do not match. This can be unreliable because it is not uncommon for a mother cat to eat one or more of the placentas. It is believed that cats do this instinctively to prevent smells that would attract predators. It is difficult to be certain regarding the number of placentas that have passed. Symptoms that should alert a pet owner to the possibility that a placenta may have been retained are as follows:

  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Fast heart rate
  • Fever
  • Appetite loss
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Odorous Lochia, a discharge from the vulva which is usually reddish brown in the first days after giving birth but may transition to green if an infection has set into the uterus.
  • Dark red gums
  • Kitten neglect
  • Reduced milk production
  • Bloody discharge for more than a week
  • Bacterial infection of the uterus, usually caused by E. Coli
  • Septic metritis, inflammation of the wall of the uterus
  • Septic shock
  • Death
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Causes of Retained Placenta in Cats

Retained placentas are quite rare in cats. When retained placentas do occur in a cat, they often follow an abnormally difficult labor, referred to as dystocia. Dystocia can result if the queen was not healthy when she went into labor, if one or more kittens are in positions that make them difficult to birth, if one or more kittens are abnormally large, if one or more kittens are stillborn and difficult to birth, and if the number of kittens in the litter is unusually large. Any of these factors can result in one or more placentas being retained inside the uterus.

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Diagnosis of Retained Placenta in Cats

If your cat has recently given birth and has begun to exhibit some or many of the symptoms listed above, it is imperative that you call your veterinarian or a veterinary emergency hospital immediately as your cat may be in grave danger. The following will likely occur when your cat is seen by the veterinarian. 

  • Your vet will conduct a thorough physical examination including listening to the heartbeat and taking your cat’s body temperature.
  • The vet will likely begin by examining the vulva, observing and smelling the discharge. 
  • A urinalysis will be done to check for signs of infection.
  • Blood tests will be done to determine if your cat has an infection that has spread to the bloodstream. 
  • An ultrasound may be administered in an attempt to locate a possible retained placenta.
  • X-rays may be ordered in addition to or instead of an ultrasound to locate the retained placenta.
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Treatment of Retained Placenta in Cats

Upon diagnosing your cat with a retained placenta, your veterinarian may first choose to administer an injection of oxytocin to stimulate contractions of the uterus in order to facilitate the passing of the retained placenta. Your cat will also likely receive intravenous fluids to combat dehydration, which is a risk after any birth but especially after a difficult birth. If the oxytocin does not cause your cat to pass the retained placenta, it may be necessary for the vet to perform a surgical procedure called a celiotomy, which is an incision in the abdomen through which the retained placenta can be removed from the uterus. Dependent upon how strong and widespread the infection is, it may be necessary for the vet to spay your cat, or remove the ovaries and uterus, to prevent further infection. Even if the reproductive organs do not need to be removed for emergency medical reasons your vet may encourage you to have your cat spayed during this procedure to prevent her from having to endure the possibility of another difficult and dangerous labor in the future. 

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Recovery of Retained Placenta in Cats

Your cat’s prognosis is largely dependent upon how quickly your cat received veterinary treatment after retaining a placenta and which treatment, whether medical or surgical, your cat required.  If you and your veterinarian discovered the retained placenta before it began to decompose and the placenta then passed after a dose of oxytocin, your cat will likely not have any additional recovery than that which is natural after giving birth. If your cat developed an infection before oxytocin was effective, your cat may be on antibiotics for several days and will likely be lethargic as she rests. A queen that has had a celiotomy will need several days to more than a week to heal from the surgery and may require antibiotics and pain medication. Your veterinarian will advise you as to whether it is safe for the mother to nurse the kittens while she is on medication or if you will need to feed the kittens with a milk replacement that can often be purchased through your vet’s office or at a pet store. The queen and her kittens will likely need to be re-examined by the veterinarian in the days or weeks following to ensure that your cat has healed and that the infection has subsided.

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Retained Placenta Average Cost

From 555 quotes ranging from $400 - $1,000

Average Cost

$650

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Retained Placenta Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Short haired

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Fifteen Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Gave Birth Within The Last Day

My cat herbal has bulge in her stomach within the last days she has given birth to seven kittens. I was not here for the birth. I am concerned that possibly a placenta was left inside her I am aware that she could get gangrene and die. I cannot afford a Veterinary right now. Is there any way I can assist her at home? And what should I do for her? As well

Sept. 17, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. There isn't any way to get a placenta out at home. There are medications that she would need from a veterinarian. It is Thursday morning, most regular veterinarians are open, and you should be able to avoid emergency veterinarian charges. It would be best to call some clinics in your neighborhood, let them know what's going on, and see if they can get you in. She does need to be seen if you think this is going on. I hope everything goes well for her.

Sept. 17, 2020

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I’m not sure the breed

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Almost 1

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Blood Coming Out Of Her Vulva

She gave birth 4 days ago she has blood still coming out not a whole lot. Is it normal? She does not seem to be in any pain. Her behaviors are normal.

Aug. 3, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I'm not sure if your pet is a cat or a dog, and that might make a difference. There is a small amount of normal discharge after having puppies or kittens, but that should not go on for more than a day or two and it should not be excessive bleeding. If you think that she is bleeding more than what you would expect, it would probably be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can assess her health, and see if she's having a problem. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 3, 2020

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Black cat not sure the breed. Stray cat.

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

None That I Can See

My cat gave birth to her second litter at 4am yesterday. She gave birth to 3 kittens. Her one side of her stomach is soft but the other side is hard. What does this mean?

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It may mean that she is not finished having kittens, and there may be more kittens in there. It would be best to leave her in a quiet space where she is safe and can give birth to the rest of her kittens if there are any. If she is straining and nothing is coming out, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian. I hope that everything goes well for her.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Gizmo

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Ragdoll Tabby miz

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Ball In Tummy When I Rub

Cat just gave birth to 3kittens on Saturday. She started to come out to eat and use the restroom. She lays in front of me so I can rub her. When I do, I can feel like a ball or something firm. I think it makes her uncomfortable. With her 3kittens I left her alone after the first one, and it was fast. I'm not entirely sure if she delivered the placentas. She ate the first one but that is all I saw.

Sept. 3, 2018

Gizmo's Owner

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Hope

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Calico

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Contraction

How to tell if my cat still has more kittens inside? I feel she might,though my roommate says no. My reason for thinking so is she still has a few bulges areas that looks like there might be.. she had 5 yesterday, then took a break to let them eat and for her to rest up.. today it looked like she was having contractions again..

Aug. 18, 2018

Hope's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

If Hope is still having contractions, she may still have more kittens, and without x-rays, there isnt really any way to know if she will continue to have kittens besides waiting, watching her, and seeing what happens. If she is having contractions and no kittens are coming, she may need to be seen by a veterinarian.

Aug. 18, 2018

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Luna

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Norwegian forest cat

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Bleeding

My cat is only over a year old. Recently had two kittens. Stillborn. I did not see her eat the placentas. There was some blood not lot. She was bleeding today but it was drops. Very few. Belly has an odd shape at the bottom. But she's not in pain. Walking around. Playing. Eating. Stool is fine. Is she done with the kittens or should I be worried?

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Missy

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Bengal

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16 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Pain When Lifted

My cat gave birth 5 days ago and and all seemed well. However this morning she is yowling and appears to be in pain or discomfort. She is licking herself. What could this be? I gave her some loxicam which I had from when she hd cystitis. This seems to have worked a bit.

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Princess

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Cat

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9 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Discharge
Discomfort
Walk Unevenly

Hi, I had a cat give birth about a day ago (early aug 4th) and this is her first litter, all of them didnt make it and one was still born, she had a total of 4, and the first two she didnt bother with and left the sac on one, and one was doing well and we were giving him/her replacer milk but he ended up passing away 24hrs later, She still cannot walk properly but still has an appetite and is using the restroom but still has discharge. Btw, the mother is about a 9-10 months old, I believe she was young and didnt know what to do but none of the placenta(s) came out, she is showing that she is fine but her body says otherwise.

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Chloe

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Blue Russian

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lack Of Energy

Chole just gave birth to 5 kittens 2 days ago. She seems pretty weak and lacking energy. We think she may just be still tired from kitten birth but she just vomited out food she ate. She doesn't neglect the kittens and they nurse on her perfectly fine but she seems very weak. We also feel a lump in her tummy we aren't sure if it's a kitten still in there or a placenta. She may have passed the one we missed while we were sleeping. Also she seems to have shortness of breathe. Her owner thinks she's dying but I'm not sure.. Should we be worried?

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Fluffy

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Unknown

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9 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Bleeding
Lethargy
Swollen Stomach

My cat gave birth to four kittens day before yesterday, but I didn’t see her give birth. She is still quite large and might have more kittens inside her. She is up and walking around, she’s eating and drinking, and she’s nursing and cleaning her kittens. When she gets up, it’s not long before she lies down again. She is napping frequently and only really gets up for food or water. She wasn’t bleeding yesterday, but today she started bleeding from her uterus. Should I be worried? Should I take her to the vet? Is there anything I could do to help her?

Retained Placenta Average Cost

From 555 quotes ranging from $400 - $1,000

Average Cost

$650

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