What is Retained Placenta Removal?

When a dog gives birth, the puppies come out in protective sacs that the mother will bite or chew through. After expelling all the litter, afterbirth or placenta, needs to be expelled as well. If this does not occur, serious health conditions can develop, some of them are life-threatening. Retained placenta can cause:

  • Postpartum hemorrhage 
  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Irregular discharge
  • Vomiting

If your dog recently had puppies and is exhibiting any of these signs, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. The vet will run a series of tests in order to determine if there is any retained placenta that needs removing. If the dog’s conditions are not serious, a simple prescription may be all that’s needed. Oxytocin causes uterine contractions and can encourage the body to naturally expel the placenta. However, if this does not work or the dog is in a critical state, surgery will need to be performed. 

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Retained Placenta Removal Procedure in Dogs

Pre-Operative

A diagnosis will be secured once the veterinarian and staff perform a physical exam. Sometimes this is enough to know if any retained placenta is present; however, a sample of cells from the vagina will be more assuring. Some veterinarians will feel more comfortable preparing for surgery knowing without a doubt that retained placenta needs to be removed. Thusly, they will request a radiograph or ultrasound. Once a diagnosis is obtained, surgery will be scheduled either immediately or the next day (depending on severity).

Peri-Operative

Before any surgery begins, veterinarians need to know if the animal has any pre-existing conditions, particularly with the heart or blood. Blood work and urinalysis help them anticipate potential perioperative complications and keep the surgery as low-risk as possible. Pain medications may be administered to the canine patient as well as anesthesia. Once asleep, incisions are made into the abdomen to access the placenta in the uterus. Through the incision, the placenta is removed and the abdomen is sewn up. Sometimes a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) is necessary in order to save the dog’s life. In extreme cases, blood transfusions may also occur. 

Post-Operative

After successful removal of the placenta, the dog may be kept under surveillance to ensure no postoperative complications that could be life-threatening. Pain medication may be prescribed to help with the incision wound, and certain precautions will be taken to ensure the animal doesn’t lick, bite, or agitate their stitches. 

Efficacy of Retained Placenta Removal in Dogs

Removing retained placenta is a relatively simple operation with a 100% success rate of removing the placenta. In the case of severe bleeding and/or escalated development of retained placenta, complications can occur. Prognosis for dogs after placenta removal favors their health and quality of life as long as postoperative healing goes without complication. When appropriate, manual removal of placenta and administration of oxytocin can be just as effective with less risk involved, as no surgery is necessary.  

Retained Placenta Removal Recovery in Dogs

Recovery from surgical removal of placenta is two to four weeks, with a majority of that time waiting for the abdominal incision to heal. You should notice your dog getting her back to her usual self in as little as two to three days. She may walk more gingerly than usual, but this is also a result of giving birth. If any signs of aggression develop or if or she frequently goes off alone, talk to a veterinarian as these could be in response to infection. 

Be sure to bathe the dog gently, particularly around the abdomen where discomfort may still be present. She may be prescribed anti-inflammatories as well as pain reduction which usually are administered within the first two weeks. A check-up or two may be recommended, typically occurring within the first two weeks, as well. These are to ensure that she’s healing properly and to possible prescribe additional medications if pain or infection is evident. 

In some cases, it may be possible to remove the placenta manually. This depends heavily on the individual case of each mother dog, as manual removal is best very shortly after her delivery of puppies. Recovery from manual removal takes less time than surgical removal, but can give the dog just as much discomfort.

Cost of Retained Placenta Removal in Dogs

Manual removal of placenta can cost around $300 to $500 with surgical removal costing around $500 to $1,000 (typically including anesthesia administration). These costs do not account for whether or not the appointment or surgery are an emergency or during off-hours for the veterinarian, which can incur additional charges. Post-operative check-ups and medication prescriptions can bundle to cost between $100 and $200. 

Complications during surgery that may call for a blood transfusion or any additional medical attention may result in additional charges, as well. If you opt for spaying your pet, this operation can cost around $300. While these procedures can be expensive, it’s often the difference between a happy, healthy pet and an ill one. The removal of retained placenta is essential in the healing process after birth, and any placenta left in the uterus is considered foreign by the body, which can lead to infection and toxicity. 

Dog Retained Placenta Removal Considerations

If surgery takes place, your dog’s veterinarian may recommend ovariohysterectomy (spay). This surgery does not differ from many steps involved in the approach of surgical placenta removal, with the major variant being that the uterus and ovaries are removed.

Retained placenta that goes unnoticed or is not removed can result in metritis, a severe infection of the uterus, as well as toxicity. Either of these conditions can lead to death, making it important for responsible pet-owners to know the signs of retained placenta and act accordingly. 

Retained Placenta Removal Prevention in Dogs

Be There for the Birth

If you suspect your dog is close to giving birth, which she will indicate by fasting a day ahead, showing signs of abdominal discomfort, and finding a safe space to rest and be alone, be sure you’re there to witness it. The key to preventing retained placenta is to count each placenta sack in accordance to puppies (each puppy will have its own placenta). Not being there to witness the birth will give you no way of knowing if all placenta was expelled as you may not know or find her birthing spot, and mothers eat the placenta for nutrients. 

Ovariohysterectomy

Spaying your pet may help prevent breast, ovarian and cervical cancers, but it will also prevent them from becoming pregnant. If you’re not interested in the responsibility that goes along with having puppies, spaying is recommended. Spaying also helps prevent overpopulation of dogs, which leads to better quality of life with less dogs ending up in shelters. 

Healthy Diet

After giving birth, your dog should have a larger appetite than usual. Be sure she’s being provided with plenty of food, sleep, and water. 

Clean Up

Immediately following the birth, dispose of whatever bedding the birth may have occurred on. This reduces the risk of infection in the puppies and the mother.