What Happens If A Little Placenta Is Left Inside Dog?


The placenta is an organ that develops during pregnancy to provide oxygen and nutrients to the developing puppies and remove waste products (Roberts, 2012). It attaches to the wall of the uterus and is normally expelled shortly after the puppies are delivered.

In some cases, small pieces of the placenta can be retained in the uterus after birth. This is known as retained placenta and occurs when the placenta does not detach properly from the uterine wall. Reasons for retained placenta include infection, hormone imbalances, uterine inertia, and abruptions or separations in the placenta (Roberts, 2012).

If placenta is left behind, it can cause complications like infection, bleeding, and problems with subsequent pregnancies. It’s important to remove any retained tissue to allow the uterus to heal and prevent further issues (Egbor, 2006).

Signs of Retained Placenta

Some of the most common signs that a dog may have retained placenta after giving birth include:

  • Continued vaginal discharge – This is often green or dark in color and may have a foul odor. The discharge persists longer than the normal 2-4 weeks after whelping. According to PetMD, “Green discharge from vulva that continues” is one of the main symptoms of retained placenta.
  • Foul odor – The green or dark vaginal discharge often has a very foul odor, which can indicate infection or decomposing placental tissue.
  • Lethargy – If retained placenta leads to infection like metritis, the mother dog may show signs of illness like lethargy and weakness.
  • Loss of appetite – Illness from retained placenta can cause loss of appetite in the mother dog.
  • Fever – An elevated temperature is another sign of illness and infection from retained placental tissue. According to WagWalking, fever can indicate retained afterbirth in dogs.

If a mother dog shows these persistent signs and does not seem to be recovering normally after whelping, retained placenta may be the cause. It’s important to contact a veterinarian promptly for examination and treatment.


There are several potential causes for a retained placenta in dogs:

Uterine inertia refers to the uterus failing to contract properly after birth, which can prevent full detachment and expulsion of the placenta. This may be due to exhaustion, calcium deficiencies, or certain medications.

Hormonal imbalances related to pregnancy and birth can also contribute to retained placentas. Levels of progesterone, estrogen, oxytocin, and prostaglandins all shift dramatically around the birthing process.

A uterine infection, like metritis or mastitis, can cause inflammation that prevents the placenta from detaching normally. Bacteria like E. coli or Streptococcus can be responsible.

Finally, a difficult birth involving prolonged labor, small pelvis size, or excessive pulling may result in portions of the placenta being left behind in the uterus.[1]


To diagnose a retained placenta in dogs, the veterinarian will first perform a thorough physical examination, looking for physical signs such as a foul-smelling green or brown discharge coming from the vulva [1]. The physical exam allows the vet to assess the dog’s overall health status, feel the abdomen for any remaining placental tissue, and look for signs of infection.

An ultrasound may also be recommended, as it allows the vet to visually identify if any placental tissue remains stuck to the uterine wall [2]. Ultrasound is considered more accurate than a physical exam alone.

Blood tests may also be run to check for signs of infection or inflammation. Elevated white blood cell count, for example, can indicate the dog’s body is fighting an infection [3]. Bloodwork helps the vet determine if antibiotics or other medications may be needed.

Risks of Retained Placenta

There are several potentially serious risks associated with a retained placenta in dogs [1]. Some of the most concerning risks include:

A retained placenta can lead to a uterine infection called metritis. Bacteria can enter the uterus and cause inflammation, discharge, fever, and illness. Metritis requires antibiotic treatment and can be life-threatening if left untreated [2].

Uterine Necrosis:
The placenta starts to decay while still attached to the uterine wall, which can cause tissue death (necrosis). This is an extremely serious condition requiring emergency surgery.

Scarring from infection or necrosis can prevent implantation of future pregnancies. This may lead to secondary infertility.

As mentioned, infection of the uterine lining (metritis) is a common complication. Metritis causes fever, appetite loss, lethargy, vomiting, and discharge. It requires antibiotic treatment.

If bacteria from a retained placenta enter the bloodstream, it can lead to sepsis. This is a life-threatening reaction to severe infection affecting multiple organs. Emergency hospitalization is required.


There are several treatment options for a retained placenta in dogs:

Oxytocin injections can help stimulate uterine contractions to expel the placenta. This medication is typically given by a veterinarian to encourage the uterus to contract and expel any remaining placental tissue (Source).

Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent or treat any uterine infections caused by retained placental tissue. Common antibiotics used include amoxicillin, cephalexin, or enrofloxacin (Source).

Surgery to manually remove the retained placenta may be necessary if medical management with oxytocin fails. This procedure is called an ovariohysterectomy and involves surgically removing the uterus and ovaries. It carries risks of bleeding, infection, and anesthesia complications (Source).


The recovery period after a retained placenta removal may take 1-2 weeks for the dog (Retained Afterbirth in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost). Follow up veterinary exams are important to monitor the dog’s progress and watch for potential complications like infection or metritis. The owner should limit the dog’s activity during recovery and keep her confined and resting.

It is essential to monitor the dog’s appetite and watch for signs of fever, discharge, or abnormal bleeding which could indicate an infection or other complication. Any concerning symptoms should prompt an immediate vet visit. With proper rest and care, most dogs fully recover within 1-2 weeks after the retained placenta is removed.


Proper prenatal care is important for preventing retained placenta in dogs. Getting regular vet checkups and ultrasounds during pregnancy allows the vet to monitor the health and development of the puppies and uterus. This helps catch any potential issues early.

It’s also crucial to monitor the birthing process closely. Watch for signs that each placenta has detached and been delivered after each puppy. If a placenta is not passed within 15-30 minutes after a puppy, this may indicate a retained placenta.

Strong contractions during labor help detach and expel the placentas. Making sure the mother dog is well hydrated and getting proper nutrition supports uterine health and strength. Some vets may administer oxytocin to encourage strong contractions. Gentle abdomen massage post-delivery can also help expel any remaining tissue.

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The prognosis for a dog with a retained placenta is generally good if prompt veterinary treatment is received, according to PetMD. However, there are some risks associated with retained placenta that can impact the prognosis. Older dogs or dogs in an already weakened state have a higher risk of developing complications from a retained placenta.

With timely treatment, most dogs recover fully from retained placenta without any long-term effects on their health. However, a retained placenta can sometimes lead to a uterine infection called pyometra if not treated quickly. Pyometra can be very dangerous, even fatal in some cases. Therefore, it is extremely important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible if a dog shows signs of a retained placenta after giving birth.

Overall, the prognosis for retained placenta in dogs is good in most cases when prompt veterinary treatment is provided. However, owners should monitor their dog closely after treatment and watch for any signs of complications, like infection or weakness, which could indicate a worse prognosis. Consulting a veterinarian is essential to ensure the best outcome.

When to Seek Help

It’s crucial to contact your veterinarian promptly if you notice any signs of a retained placenta in your dog after giving birth. Signs to watch for include green or dark vaginal discharge, fever, lethargy, reduced appetite or vomiting. A retained placenta is a serious medical condition that requires veterinary attention.

In particular, seek emergency veterinary care right away if your dog develops a fever, acts lethargic or begins vomiting after giving birth. These can be signs of a potentially life-threatening infection like sepsis. Swift treatment is essential to prevent complications from a retained placenta in dogs.

Don’t wait to see if signs resolve on their own. Contact your vet promptly for an examination if you notice any abnormal discharge or behavior after your dog gives birth. They can check for placenta remnants and provide appropriate treatment to help ensure your dog recovers safely.

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