Kitten and Puppy Umbilical Cord CareLast updated: August 02, 2016
Most of us do well with managing moms at birth, but we neglect to manage puppies and kittens after birth. One commonly missed and very important management tool is umbilical cord care. If the umbilical cord is not cared for properly, it can lead to navel infection. Navel infection can lead to joint issues, hernias, sick or dead puppies and kittens.
Why the Infection?The umbilical cord is a straight shot to the bloodstream. Infection of the navel or umbilicus leads to circulating bacteria in the blood. These bacteria get filtered out by the fine vessels of the body mainly in the joint cartilage, tail and toes. When this happens, the tip of the tail or a toe often loses circulation, the hair falls off, and the tip of the tail or toe falls off. All of these issues can be prevented if we take steps to avoid navel infection after birth.
PreventionOnce the baby is on the ground and nursing, treat the umbilicus with a strong iodine such as Triodine 7. This will cause the umbilicus to dry up quickly, preventing infection and the formation of small umbilical hernias in breeds that are prone to them. If we dry up the umbilical effectively, we scar down the umbilicus, blocking infection from entering the body. This scar tissue strengthens the weak area around the umbilical and a hernia is prevented. In hernia-prone breeds, it is wise to retreat the umbilical on day three to make sure it scars down effectively.
Over-Cleaning By MomOver-cleaning of the umbilical cord by mom happens in both kittens and puppies. Over-cleaning can lead to mom chewing into the skin and the intestine coming out. By treating the umbilical, we get mom to leave the umbilical alone because she doesn't like the taste. This will usually prevent belly wall damage and the intestine from coming out.
On moms prone to over-cleaning, using a nylon umbilical clamp after birth prevents her from chewing into the skin. The clamp falls off with the umbilical cord by day three to five and the problem is prevented. These clamps also work well with C-section puppies to be sure we don't have any issues. Bulldog puppies do not need issues with umbilicus complicating their C-section birth.
TreatmentIf mom over-cleans and the intestine starts showing, suturing the belly wall closed is the only treatment and the sooner, the better. Puppies and kittens that I have sewn up heal amazingly well and with no infection. The key is to get it closed before the intestine dries out and secondary damage occurs.
Getting babies on the ground is great, but do not stop there. Managing the open umbilical cord by cutting it to ½ inch, soaking it with Iodine or Vetericyn Super 7 + Navel Dip, and then clamping it will ensure that the umbilical cord drops off when it should and without a hernia.
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Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Former Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health
Donald Bramlage, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, practiced veterinary medicine for 30+ years and is known for his work in managing parvovirus. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Kansas State University in 1985. He served as Revival's Director of Veterinary Services from 2011 until his retirement in 2019.
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