The Normal Postpartum Period

  • Involution of the uterus is accompanied by the discharge of lochia from the vulva for up to three weeks.
  • Normally, the discharge is nonodorous and red to black in color.
  • The queen should show no signs of fever, depression or anorexia if involution is normal.
  • Should the discharge persist and/or the queen appear ill, metritis, rupture/torsion of the uterus or mastitis should be considered possible causes.
  • Kittens should gain weight and double their weight in the first two weeks.

    Return to Estrus

  • Return to estrus is reported to be inhibited by lactation and results in an anestrus period lasting 2 to 8 weeks postweaning, but clinically it is not uncommon to find queens 2-4 weeks pregnant when performing ovariohysterectomies shortly after a normal weaning.
  • To avoid lactational anestrus, early weaning at 3 days postpartum can hasten the onset of estrus to around 7 days post weaning.
  • Abortion without an ensuing lactation also results in a return to estrus within around 7 days.
  • Abnormal Events of the Postpartum Period
    • Retained placentas  
      • May not be a problem unless they result in secondary metritis, but secondary metritis is an infrequent sequel to retained placentas. 
      • Unless the queen shows signs of metritis, retained placentas need not be a cause for immediate concern.
    • Postparturient metritis
      • Although not common, is seen as early as one day to as late as ten days postpartum. 
      • It is most commonly seen in queens experiencing dystocia, but it can occur in any postpartum queen. 
      • Queens suffering from this condition generally show depression, pyrexia, anorexia and a vulvar discharge. 
      • The kittens may also become sick secondary to the metritis. 
      • Diagnosis of postparturient metritis is based upon clinical signs, leukocytosis and vaginal discharge. 
      • Therapy should include the administration of supportive fluids and systemic antibiotics based on culture results. 
        • Prostaglandins have been reported to be effective in successfully treating postparturient metritis. 
        • Ovariohysterectomy may be advised for queens with refractory cases.
    • Uterine prolapse
      • Has been described in the postparturient queen. 
      • Manual reduction under general anesthesia (in conjunction with laparotomy when needed) is generally successful. 
      • Ovariohysterectomy is indicated in cases of severe uterine damage. 
      • Fertility after treatment of uterine prolapse is not reported.


    • Mastitis
      • Also seen during the postparturient period. 
      • The clinical signs include swollen, painful mammary glands that cause the queen to show discomfort when nursing, anorexia, pyrexia and depression.
      • Kitten mortality from ingestion of septic milk may also be an early indicator of mastitis. 
      • The most common organisms isolated from mastitis are Streptococci sp., Staphylococci sp. and E. coli
      • Treatment should include supportive care of the queen along with the administration of broad spectrum antibiotics until a specific organism can be isolated. 
      • Gangrenous mastitis is best treated with hot packs followed by lancing, debriding and draining the affected gland(s) if needed. 
      • If kitten mortality occurs, the kittens should be removed from the queen and raised as orphans or placed on another queen if feasible.

    contributed by Bruce E Eilts modified 23 August 2006

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    contributed by Bruce E Eilts on 25 September 2012


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