How to Help Animals Giving Birth

How to help animals giving birth produce healthy youngsters, including keys to after birth survival for dogs, cats, rabbits, sheep, goats and pigs.

| March/April 1987

How to help your animals giving birth produce healthy youngsters.  

How to Help Animals Giving Birth

Few events signify spring more beautifully than animals giving birth to baby animals. Since we're entering the season when many species bear young—and when all animal owners must face the task of helping as best they can—here are some tips to ease you through those joyful, but often nerve-racking, animal birth days.

Getting Ready

Ideally, you've already taken several steps to prepare your expectant critters for motherhood. Although it's beyond the scope of this article to list each individual species' needs, it's important that you at least have had your mothers-to-be vaccinated, wormed, and treated for external parasites no less than 30 days before the expected birth date. (You've kept accurate records so you know when that date is, right?)

As the day nears, prepare a warm, dry, draft-free, and absolutely clean birthing place. A few days before the blessed event, you may want to clip away any excess hair around the vulva and teats and scrub the areas well. (Such clipping is especially important for ewes and pigs, but not necessary for rabbits or cats.)

Put your midwifery supplies someplace where you'll be able to find them quickly. Have several clean drying towels handy (old bath towels or diapers work fine). A small, wide-mouthed bottle filled with iodine is ideal for sanitizing a newborn's dangling umbilical cord. With the cord immersed in the iodine, simply hold the bottle tightly against the little one's belly and turn the bottle and baby over. (This isn't required for rabbits.)

Most births proceed without a hitch and present no problems. It's always a good idea, though, to have your veterinarian's phone number handy—both for regular hours and after hours. And you might want to read MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 85's article "Livestock Parturition" for information on handling troublesome deliveries yourself—just in case.

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