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What is known as Dystocia?

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  1. Dystocia is defined as difficulty in giving birth or an abnormal birth in mammals.
  2. Dystocia can occur in any mammal but is most often found in cases where the birth canal is too small for the emerging fetus. A few common mammals exhibiting this symptom are cattle, swine, guinea pigs, dogs, sheep and horses. Dystocia is a prevalent issue in guinea pigs, especially when the guinea pig sow is older than six months of age. This is due to the fact that the pelvic symphysis begins to fuse in sows older than six or seven months, creating a higher risk of dystocia and overall difficulty in birthing the fetus. Fat percentage also increases in the pelvic area of older sows, contributing to a higher risk of dystocia. Certain breeds in other mammals are also predisposed to dystocia. Boxer bitches have dystocia approximately 28% of the time when whelping. This is due to the large fetus size compared to the expectant mother’s birthing canal.
  3. While it is not contagious, (no zoonotic potential), there are many predisposing factors that can lead to dystocia in female guinea pigs, as it is one of the most common urogenital problems. The majority of these cases are in sows at approximately seven to eight months old. This is why it is important to breed the sow prior to six months of age if the owner has intentions of breeding. Owners bringing new guinea pigs into their home should also be sure of sex before placing to ensure no unwanted pregnancies occur. Guinea pig sows are sexually mature as young as four weeks of age, leaving ample time and opportunity to breed if desired or left unattended.1 Other predisposing factors can also lead to dystocia, however. A few possibilities are: large fetus size, obesity of the sow, and uterine inertia.
  4. There are common behaviors of guinea pigs before and during dystocia. Before noticeable labor begins, physical signs of dystocia can often include a bloody or greenish vulva discharge. Normal delivery is usually around 30 minutes. A longer duration of time may be a sign of dystocia, and the animal should be consistently monitored. Other signs include straining with no production of fetus, crying, biting the vulva and depression. Sows with a history of dystocia and birthing difficulty are also predisposed to future cases of dystocia.
  5. Auscultation may be done to observe if any abnormalities are present. Radiographs may also be done to note the position and number of fetus present in the sow. Prognosis of the guinea pig sow is good via cesarean section or chemical induction. This may or may not lead to survival of the pups. In many other species, such as cattle, prognosis is good if caught in time. If dystocia is ignored, death of the fetus and/or female is probable.
  6. One common differential diagnosis over dystocia is pregnancy toxemia. This is caused by poor nutrition in the late stages of pregnancy and can cause listlessness, depression and unwillingness to eat in the female. Testing of glucose levels can be used to determine whether pregnancy toxemia is present. However, hypotension and hypertension are not always noted when pregnancy toxemia is the culprit. Another common differential diagnosis is calcium deficiency in the sow. This vitamin deficiency can also cause a slow labor process. Comparative vitamin levels can be done to see if vitamin deficiency is a possibility.

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