Overview of Abortion in Cats
Spontaneous abortion is the death and resorption or expulsion of a fetus before the pregnancy has come to term. Some people choose to abort unwanted pregnancies intentionally, but abortion can also occur in planned pregnancies. Be aware that it is possible for the dam to abort one or more kittens and still maintain and deliver healthy full term kittens later. Since early pregnancy is difficult to confirm before 16 days post fertilization, abortions early in pregnancy may be diagnosed as infertility.
Abortion after confirmation of pregnancy can occur without any signs of illness. You may not know the dam has aborted until you realize it is past her due date and there are no kittens. Subsequent examination reveals that she is no longer pregnant. In these situations, the kittens were probably aborted early enough to result in reabsorption.
In late stage abortion, you may see:
Causes of abortion can be divided into maternal causes and fetal causes. Maternal causes include:
Fetal causes are primarily related to abnormal development and early fetal death.
Diagnosis of Spontaneous Abortions in Cats
Diagnosing spontaneous abortion can be difficult. Pregnancy in the dam can be confirmed 16 days post fertilization. If the abortion occurs before this, there is no way to determine if the dam aborted or was never pregnant.
After 16 days, ultrasound can confirm the presence of kittens. If future ultrasounds or x-ray examinations reveal fewer kittens or no kittens, abortion is diagnosed.
Determining the cause of the abortion can also be tricky. The best way to find out why your dam aborted and to help prevent future abortions, post mortem (necropsy) examination of the aborted puppy is highly recommended. If the puppy is not available or was absorbed by the mother, specific tests on the dam may help determine the cause.
Prior to breeding, all cats should be tested for Brucellosis. This is a bacterial infection that is easily spread from cat to cat and can infect people. It is difficult to treat and there is no vaccine to prevent transmission. All cats found to be Brucella positive should be excluded from any breeding program.
Brucella infection typically results in abortion at about 45-55 days of pregnancy.
Other tests that can be done on the mother include:
Treatment of Spontaneous Abortions in Cats
There is no treatment to stop abortion. Treatment is aimed at helping to reduce abortion in future litters. The treatment, if possible, is specific for the cause of the abortion. If no cause is found, no treatment will be available and future pregnancies may be normal or result in abortion again.
Home Care and Prevention
There is no home care for abortion. Save any aborted kittens for examination by a pathologist to help determine the cause and prevent future abortions.
Without knowing the cause of abortion, there is no preventative care. For certain diseases or conditions, preventative treatment is available for future litters.
In-depth Information on Abortion in Cats
Abortion in cats can be the result of maternal causes, fetal causes or related to medications.
The most common maternal causes of abortion are infection with Brucella or herpes virus.
Those infected with Brucella usually abort the kittens around 45 to 55 days of the pregnancy. If strict rules regarding the removal of Brucella-positive cats are not adhered to, Brucella infection can have a devastating effect on a breeding program.
Fetal Causes of Abortion
The fetus may have developmental abnormalities that are not consistent with life. Severely deformed or improperly developing kittens are usually aborted early in the pregnancy. A cause for these abortions is rarely found and may be related to genetic disease or birth defects.
Other causes of spontaneous abortion include administration of glucocorticoids or Chloramphenicol during pregnancy. For this reason, medication administration during pregnancy should be done with extreme caution and only under your veterinarian’s advice.
In-depth Information on Diagnosis of Abortions in Cats
Evaluation and examination of the aborted kitten is the best way to diagnose the cause of abortion. This will give you and your veterinarian the best chance of finding the cause of the abortion and help avoid future abortions.
If the kitten is not available, some tests can be done on the mother.
In-depth Information on Treatment of Abortions in Cats
Once abortion has begun, it is nearly impossible to stop. Frequently, you are unaware that abortion has occurred. The goal is to determine the cause of the abortion, treat for any underlying disease and help prevent abortion in future litters.
Some causes of abortion have potential corrective measures:
Follow Up Care
Queens that have been diagnosed with abortion in the past may have repeated problems. Even with treatment, these cats may continue to abort some, if not all, of the future litters. You may want to consider removing queens prone to abortion from your breeding program.