Betty’s Bulldog Brood
Mastitis Post Whelping
Betty is a three year old Bulldog bitch who delivered ten healthy puppies after a caesarean section in February. Three weeks later she suddenly became unwell. She was very lethargic and constantly shaking. Her owners booked her in to see one our vets straight away. On arrival Betty was dull, shaking and had an elevated temperature of 40.1˚C. She was producing plenty of milk, her mammary glands were very hot but non-painful. She also had a small amount of clear mucus from the vulva.
At this stage our three main concerns were;
1) Eclampsia (due to low calcium levels).
2) Pyometra or Metritis (infection within the uterus).
3) Mastitis (infection of the mammary gland).
Full bloods were ran immediately. The calcium levels were normal ruling out eclampsia. The white blood cell count was low which was likely due to a high demand of white blood cells fighting an infection somewhere in the body.
An ultrasound examination of Betty’s uterus was performed to see if there was any sign of infection there. The uterus appeared normal, ruling out a uterine infection.
By this time Betty was starting to become painful in her teats making the diagnosis of mastitis most likely.
Due to the severe nature of Betty’s infection she was given pain relief, two different types of intra-venous antibiotic and started on fluid therapy. Her temperature was monitored every hour to ensure the antibiotics were having an effect.
In just a few hours Betty’s temperature has reduced to 39˚C, she was feeling much brighter and more comfortable. She went home that evening on oral medication.
It was important that the puppies did not suckle anymore as the antibiotic Betty was given would be present in the milk and is not suitable for animals under 6 months old. Luckily they had already started to take solids and were lapping milk happily while Betty was in hospital.
The next day, Betty was doing great, her temperature was normal and she was started on a drug to help her milk dry up.
Five days later, she had stopped lactating and the mammary gland had returned to normal. Although the pups had to be weaned early, they are all still doing very well and are looking forward to going to their new homes. Betty made a full recovery and can still have puppies in the future.
Mastitis is a very painful infection in one or multiple mammary glands during lactation (producing milk). It is usually caused by ascending infection up the teat which can easily occur if the teat has been traumatised.
The main symptoms are usually lethargy, inappetance and firm, hot, painful mammary glands. Sometimes you may notice the bitch is neglecting the puppies because it is too painful when they feed. If left untreated the glands may abscess and turn gangrenous. The bitch may eventually develop septicaemic shock.
If diagnosed early enough the puppies may be able to continue to nurse and a course of oral antibiotics may be enough to resolve the infection. However if the bitch is systemically unwell she will need to be hospitalised and will require fluid therapy, intra-venous antibiotics and pain relief. During this time the pups will have to be fed a milk replacement. If the gland develops an abscess or gangrene then it may need surgical intervention.