Canine Maternal Hydrops: A Potentially Deadly Condition We Know Too Little About

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Symptoms vary and all or none of these symptoms can be present:

  1. Size and weight increase that is out of proportion to the expected number of puppies  (For reference: A typical Golden Retriever bitch will gain two pounds per puppy.)
  2. Abdomen that is hard to the touch
  3. Edema or swelling of the vulva, hocks, and feet
  4. Leaking of clear fluid
  5. Unclear, blurry x-ray at day 55-56
  6. Ultrasound showing excess fluid
  7. Heavy vomiting close to delivery
  8. Early temperature drop, not beginning labor
  9. Most expel large amounts of fluid during c- section which must be replaced by IV
  10. Decrease in condition in the last two weeks of pregnancy.

Treatment involves managing the symptoms as they present themselves.   At this point, there is no treatment regimen defined by veterinarians.  C-sections are necessary in most, if not all, cases.  Sometimes a premature C-section must be performed to save your bitch. You have to be ready to make a decision before your girl crashes and you lose everything.  Some say a low-sodium, more Adkins-type diet and 500-1000 mg. of dandelion root twice daily can help. You may want to slow weight gain (without starving) and give a diuretic to decrease the fluid.  The diuretic of choice is spironolactone.   Another common practice is injecting Dexamethasone to mature the lungs of the puppies faster, giving them a much great chance of survival should they be born early.   Most importantly, give your bitch IV fluids with a large bore needle during the C-section and give the puppies antibiotics following the C-section.

Canine Maternal HydropsKnowledge and education continues as we experience hydrops more and more frequently.  It is important to note that this condition is most common in first pregnancies, does not always happen to the same bitch on subsequent pregnancies, and may or may not be passed on to offspring.  Until we know more, it’s our best bet is to learn from each other and share our information openly.

Photo right: Edema & fluid filled uterus. 


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