Obstetrics and post-dystocia care of camelid dams (Proceedings)
Fortunately, camelid parturition generally goes off without a hitch, with less than 5% of births being dystocias. Because the time of parturition is stressful for both dam and owner, it is important to know normal progression and be decisive with intervention.
Normal parturition is divided into three stages:
Stage I consists mainly of cervical dilation and fetal repositioning. It can last from 2-6 hours (avg. 2-6 hours) and is terminated by the entrance of fetal parts into the pelvis. The dam may exhibit signs of abdominal pain, restlessness, frequent urination and defecation and vocalization. If pastured, she may try and isolate herself. Rupture of the first water bag (allantois) usually occurs late during this stage as it is forced through the dilated cervix.Stage II can be defined as the passage of the fetus through the birth canal and this lasts 10-30 min. Entrance of the head and both front feet vagina stimulates abdominal straining or "true labor." This is important to remember in that some malpresentations, particularly backwards fetuses, may not induce true labor and therefore will not show signs of labor. The amniotic sac (second water bag) may appear at the vulva as a translucent sac.
Stage III consists of passage of the fetal membranes within 2-6 hours and uterine involution. Fetal membranes retained in utero for longer than 6 hours should be considered retained.
If Stages I or II do not progress as listed above, the birth is considered a dystocia and intervention should occur. The most common causes of dystocia are uterine torsion, fetal malposition, incomplete cervical dilation. Intervention should occur when: Stage I labor does not progress to Stage II, Stage 2 labor is not completed in 30 minutes, a portion of the fetus is visible with no progress in 15-20 minutes, fetal membranes hang from the vulva with no fetus produced or back feet are exiting the vulva (feet may appear upside down).
To examine the dam, she should be well restrained to protect both she and the examiner. The tail should be wrapped or held/tied to the side and the vulva should be cleaned well with disinfectant and water. It is wise to give the dam a caudal epidural of 2% lidocaine at 1mL/45kg, given at the sacro-coccygeal or an intercoccygeal space. A well-lubricated, sleeved hand should be introduced into the vulva and the fetal viability, size, and position determined relative to the maternal pelvis. Because one never knows at the start of this exam if a uterine tear may occur of if the case may go to surgery, only water-soluble reproductive lubricants should be used (i.e. KY Jelly, not J-lube). J-lube has been well documented to be fatal when leaked into the peritoneal space. The cervix should be examined to confirm full dilation. If the fetus is alive and in normal position, manual extraction may be attempted. If the fetus is in abnormal position, the position must be corrected prior to attempting extrication. If the fetus is backwards, it must be extracted quickly to prevent constriction of the umbilicus over the maternal pelvis. If extraction or re-positioning of the fetus requires more than 30 minutes with minimal or no progress, or there are obvious fetal abnormalities, a cesarean section should be pursued.
When a camelid dam shows signs of colic in late pregnancy or at term, a uterine torsion should be suspected. If a uterine torsion is diagnosed, attempts to roll the dam in the direction of the torsion (almost always clockwise in camelids) may be made while attempting to hold the fetus and uterus stationary by sitting on or pressing on the abdominal wall. If this type of correction is unsuccessful three times, a laparotomy is indicated to correct the torsion. The age of the fetus should be determined at the time of correction of the torsion as many torsions occur a few weeks pre-partum. If the fetus is premature, the uterine torsion should be corrected by rolling or surgery and the dam allowed to carry the fetus to term. Risk factors for uterine torsions include being moved to a new pen in the last 60 days of gestation, a large fetus, right horn pregnancy and being overdue.