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Veterinary Topics: Neonatal Care

See Also: Feeding the Adult Labrador | Reproduction | Preventative Medicine
| Feeding Your New Puppy | Crate Training | Ask the Doc

In the coming weeks we will be adding various topics dealing with Neonatal Care, as we follow from the whelping process, up to the time of weaning. If at any time you would like some additional information on these subjects you can email me at:


As the newborn begins to dry off and make his way towards that first meal on "dry land", it is not too uncommon to find a trail of blood under his abdomen caused by a leakage from the recently severed umbilical vessels. Under most circumstances these vessels rapidly contract in order to promote blood clotting. But depending on the manner in which the blood vessels are severed when the placenta is detatched, you might see variable degrees of bleeding. There is much less chance for blood loss when the vessels are cut in a crushing or grinding manner (as the mother would do with her teeth), as opposed to a sharp, clean cut as would come from using a scalpel or scissors. So in those cases where the attendant needs to help sever the cord, the use of a scissors, even if available, is absolutely not indicated. Instead, consider using your hands as follows: If you are right handed, grasp the umbilical vessels an inch or two from the abdominal wall using the thumb and forefingers of your left hand. While the left hand keeps steady pressure on the cord so as not to place undue stress on the abdominal wall during the process, grasp the umbilicus again between your index finger and thumb, this time of your right hand. (You should now have the umbilicus in your left hand approximately 1-2 inches from the abdominal wall and in your right hand 3-4 inches from the wall). Firmly use your right thumb against the cord in a scratching or scraping motion, back and forth, until you separate the placenta from the newborn. Remember that any pressure generated on the cord during this process should be absorbed by the grasp of your left hand on the umbilicus. It is imporant to prevent any undue pull on the navel area as an inadvertent force could lead to an umbilical hernia. Having personally used this process many, many times, I can tell you that normal attention to this detail has never yet resulted in a hernia.

Once the cord has been properly separated, there still may be instances where bleeding persists a bit longer than you would prefer. This should be easily managed with firm pressure applied by your thumb and forefinger at the end of the umbilical stump. Usually a couple of minutes will do the job, but in the odd case where oozing persists and you would like to put it to rest, the use of a small hemostat will solve the problem. If you do not have one, simply tying a ligature around the far end of the stump with some sewing thread will get the job done. You can then remove the thread in several hours after the bleeding has stopped. I would not recommend leaving the ligature in place for any more time than is neccesary. Simply cut it loose and discard  it.

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