Stalled Labor and Delivery Problems in Dogs

By PetMD Editorial on Nov. 12, 2010

Uterine Inertia in Dogs

Uterine inertia is a condition in which the pregnant female dog is unable to birth her fetuses due to uterine muscle's inability to contract and expel the puppies from the uterus.

Symptoms and Types

The main symptom is the inability to initiate the process of birthing (parturition) at the end of the normal gestation period. Often the patient is bright and alert and does not appear to be in distress. In some cases, the bitch may deliver one or two fetuses normally, after which labor ceases, even though there are still more fetuses in the uterus.


  • Uterine muscles are not responding normally to the body's hormonal signals
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obstruction in the reproductive tract (i.e., vaginal canal)
  • Oversized puppies
  • Faulty fetal positioning within the reproductive tract


If your dog has passed the date at which she should have given birth, or has delivered some but not all of her young and her labor appears to have stopped completely, you will need to consult with a veterinarian before things take a turn for the worse. Your dog's general health and previous parturition history will be taken into account by your veterinarian.

The initial physical examination will include evaluating your dog's mental and physical health and placing her in a quiet space in the hopes of restarting her labor so that it can progress normally. Her rectal temperature will be recorded, which will help in establishing the stage of parturition she is in. In animals that are near to parturition, but have not yet showed signs of onset of labor, the rectal temperature drops below normal. If the signs are present, it will be taken as an indicator of the initiation of labor. Routine laboratory tests include a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, electrolytes, and urinalysis.

In patients with primary uterine inertia, the results of these tests are often found to be normal. However, in some animals the biochemistry profile may show abnormally low levels of calcium and blood glucose. Calcium is essential for proper contractions of the muscles, including the uterine muscles. If the blood is low in calcium this will be indicative of the direction the treatment will need to go.

If time and resources allow, your veterinarian will have the blood sample checked for hormonal levels, notably progesterone. If serum progesterone levels remain low, this finding will help in establishing the diagnosis. Your veterinarian will also take abdominal X-rays and/or ultrasound to assess the number and position of the fetuses, and to check their heart rate. Depending on the findings from the examination, your veterinarian may be able to use labor inducing drugs, or may find it necessary to perform a cesarean surgery to remove the puppies.


Drugs to promote uterine muscle contractions will be given on the basis of the preliminary diagnosis. Repeated injections are often required with continuous monitoring to watch over the mother's progress. Intravenous fluids may also be used as a way of administering drugs and supplements to your dog, while also keeping her hydrated.

Normal calcium and glucose levels are required for normal contractions of uterine muscles. If your dog is exhibiting low levels of calcium or glucose, intravenous therapy will be initiated. Unfortunately, not all dogs will respond to medical treatment. In these cases an immediate caesarean section surgery is performed to avoid fetal stress and death of the puppies and mother.

Living and Management

Your dog will need proper rest in a stress free environment in the time just before the due date, and during and after labor. The overall prognosis, for both the mother and her young, is generally favorable if medical assistance or surgical treatment is given without delay.

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