How to Remove a Retained Placenta in Dogs (Without Endangering Them)!

So you have made it to this point. Your dog’s have been bred successfully. You’ve gone through the 63 days of waiting and have set up the whelping area for your dog. And now, all that hard work has paid off and your bitch is in labor. It may seem like you are at the finish line for those puppies, but there are a number of things that can happen during labor, and one of those is your dog having a retained placenta.


But what can you do about that? The answer is that you can do a number of things for your dog and we will go through this and more regarding retained placentas.


What is a Retained Placenta?


Before we look at what a retained placenta is I want to stress that a retained placenta is actually quite uncommon. In general, most dogs will dispel all of their placentas, however, in toy breeds, or large litters, you may see more occurances of retained placentas than you would in other smaller litters.


So what is a placenta? First, a placenta is a ring of tissue that connects the puppies to the uterine wall. Through the placenta, puppies receive their nutrients and oxygen and dispose of the waste they produce. It is essential in a viable pregnancy.


A retained placenta is when a placenta is not expelled during whelping or shortly after birth. While many people think of a retained placenta as the whole placenta, it can be a small part of it if the placenta has broken during delivery.


Counting Placentas

Your dam should be happy and calm with her new puppies.

During labor, it is very important to pay close attention to the number of placentas that you see. If you are preventing your dog from eating the placentas, which is a normal behavior for female dogs, place them in an area you can check them over after she is done whelping.


If you do this, look them over quickly to make sure the placenta is intact. Sometimes, a piece may break off and be left in the uterus, which can lead to problems for your dog later on.


However, don’t worry about counting the placentas until all of the puppies are born. Expect to see one placenta per puppy. Also, while most placentas are birthed 5 to 15 minutes after a puppy is born, not all come out with each puppy.


Some placentas won’t be expelled until all of the puppies are born so make sure you are watching for this.


When your puppy is born, it may be tempting to gently pull on the umbilical cord to pull out the placenta. Do not do this. If the placenta is attached, it could tear from the uterine wall and cause severe bleeding. In addition, it could cause the placenta to be retained when it wouldn’t have been otherwise.


Once your dam is finished whelping, make sure that you have the same number of placentas as you do puppies. If you don’t, monitor her for signs of a retained placenta.


A missing placenta may not mean she has one retained as the mother dog can quickly eat a placenta without you seeing. But it is good to plan for the worst and hope for the best.


4 Ominous Signs of a Retained Placenta

You can often tell if your bitch has a retained placenta.

As mentioned, when you are counting placentas, it can be very easy to miscount and believe that you have a retained placenta when you don’t. For that reason, I always recommend that you watch for signs of a retained placenta. Catching it early can help prevent serious infection.


One thing that should be mentioned is that you should see a greenish-black discharge for a few hours after delivery, even up to 24 hours. However, it should taper off and become a reddish-brown discharge within a day or two.


Signs of a retained placenta are:

  • Greenish-black discharge that lasts longer than 24 hours or returns after 24 hours.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargic or lack of energy
  • Fever


Occasionally, a mass will develop in the abdomen when there is a retained placenta, but that is rare and not often a sign you would notice first.


If you see any of these signs, speak with your vet immediately.

Non-Invasive Way to Remove a Retained Placenta

Many vets will give breeders oxytocin to administer at home to prevent retained placentas.

When it comes to a retained placenta, there isn’t a lot that a breeder can do at home without the aid of a vet. One thing that is often recommended is to watch the bitch.


  • Take her temperature regularly. A temperature of 101 to 102.5 is normal for a dog. Higher can indicate an infection.
  • Monitor her vaginal discharge.
  • Monitor her mood and appetite.


If any change contact your vet.


Another thing that breeders can do is provide calcium throughout the labor. A rule of thumb is to give calcium after each puppy. This helps increase the strength of contractions and also keeps her energy up during labor.


One thing that I did want to mention is that many breeders work with their vets and often have oxytocin shots at home for the delivery. Once the last puppy is born, an injection of oxytocin is given to help expel anything else that is left inside.


However, if your vet doesn’t allow you to self administer oxytocin, this is usually the non-invasive treatment for a retained placenta. Your vet will administer and watch to make sure that she expels the placenta. In addition, antibiotics and hormones may be prescribed to save the breeding life of your bitch.


Invasive Ways to Treat a Retained Placenta

Sometimes the treatment of a retained placenta is surgery.


In the event that the non-invasive treatments do not work, your vet will need to treat your bitch surgically. There are two different ways that your vet will treat this and it will depend on whether you are trying to save your bitch’s breeding career or not.


#1  Surgical Removal


This treatment is used to try to save the breeding career of your dog. It is similar to a c-section, except, it is used to remove any placentas from the uterine horns.


This treatment is often accompanied with antibiotics and has a high success rate. However, it is not as successful if it has caused an infection with a lot of fluid in the uterus.


#2 Ovariohysterectomy


This treatment is used if there is no chance that you can save the breeding career or if any other form of treatment is not working, your vet will opt for a ovariohysterectomy or spay.


With a spay, the vet will remove the reproductive organs and will also prescribe a pain medication and antibiotic as needed. It will remove all infection, however, your dog will no longer be part of your breeding program.


Although a retained placenta needs to be treated with the help of your veterinarian, as you can see, there are things that you can do to keep the delivery going and preventing a retained placenta.


In the end, trust your judgement and make sure that you always err on the side of caution when it comes to the health of your bitch.