It is normal for female cats to bleed for a few weeks after giving birth. This postpartum bleeding, called lochia, is the uterus’ way of cleaning itself out following pregnancy and labor. While some bleeding is normal, excessive or prolonged bleeding can indicate a potential health problem that requires veterinary attention. In this article, we will discuss what to expect with postpartum bleeding in cats, signs of abnormal bleeding to watch out for, causes of excessive bleeding, treatments, and when to seek emergency veterinary care.
What is normal postpartum bleeding in cats?
After a cat gives birth, it is normal for her to experience a bloody vaginal discharge called lochia for 2-4 weeks as the uterus contracts and sheds its thickened lining. The lochia starts out a dark red or brown color in the first few days after birth as the uterus sheds the majority of the placenta remnants and dead tissues. It then lightens to a pinkish or whitish discharge as the amount of bleeding decreases over the following weeks. The amount of discharge can range from light spotting to a heavy flow within the first 1-2 weeks postpartum. As the tissues continue to heal, the discharge becomes scantier and eventually tapers off completely.
It is normal for a postpartum cat to continue having some red-tinged discharge called serosanguineous fluid for up to 4 weeks after giving birth. This is a result of the healing uterine walls oozing plasma and erythrocytes. While alarming to owners expecting the discharge to end shortly after birth, this can be a normal part of the feline postpartum recovery process. However, if your cat has a foul-smelling, pus-like, or bright red discharge beyond the first 1-2 weeks, contact your veterinarian as this could indicate an infection or hemorrhage.
Signs of abnormal postpartum bleeding
While some bleeding after giving birth is normal, contact your veterinarian promptly if you notice any of the following signs that could indicate a potential health problem:
If the blood flow seems very heavy with large clots, or requires changing multiple pads or bedding per day, this typically indicates abnormal bleeding. Normal lochia discharge should not be gushing or run through multiple pads or surfaces.
Any vaginal discharge lasting more than 3-4 weeks postpartum typically signals a problem. The lochia discharge should steadily decrease and lighten, not persist at a heavy flow.
Bright red blood
While normal lochia starts out a dark red/brown initially, bright red blood or fresh hemorrhage beyond the first 1-2 weeks often indicates retained placenta or uterine injury.
A foul or pus-like discharge instead of the typical musky lochia odor can indicate a uterine infection or abscess.
If the postpartum cat seems weak, fatigued, or unwell despite adequate nursing and care, she may have lost too much blood or have an internal health issue.
Loss of appetite
A lack of appetite in a postpartum cat can be caused by internal bleeding or infection. Monitor food intake closely.
Check your cat’s gums and tongue regularly – if they appear very pale or white instead of pink, this can indicate anemia from excessive blood loss.
Rapid breathing or heart rate
A fast respiratory rate along with increased heartbeat can signal blood loss, pain, or illness.
Causes of excessive postpartum bleeding
Some potential causes for abnormal bleeding after birthing include:
Bacteria entering the uterus during labor and delivery can cause infectious metritis leading to pus-like discharge, fever, appetite loss, and lethargy.
Remnants of placenta or fetal membranes left in the uterus prevent it from fully contracting and cause continued fresh bleeding.
Rarely, an old uterine scar or traumatic labor can cause the uterine wall to tear, resulting in severe hemorrhage.
When the uterus partially turns inside out and protrudes from the vulva, it can become traumatized and bleed excessively.
Disorders preventing proper blood clotting can lead to uncontrolled hemorrhage after birth.
Low blood calcium levels after delivery can interfere with uterine contractions needed to slow bleeding.
Excessive straining or trauma to the vaginal/cervical area during labor can cause lacerations and bleeding.
Treatments for excessive postpartum bleeding
Depending on the underlying cause, possible treatments your veterinarian may implement could include:
To stimulate uterine contractions and expel any retained placental tissues or stop atonic bleeding.
To replace blood volume and treat anemia if the cat has experienced severe hemorrhage.
Such as an emergency spay to stop uterine bleeding or address a rupture, torsion, or prolapse.
To treat a uterine infection contributing to bleeding.
Intravenous calcium to support muscle contractions if hypocalcemia is causing uterine atony.
To improve blood clotting in cases of clotting factor deficiencies.
Drugs like cloprostenol can stimulate uterine contractions and expel remnants.
Blood coagulation products
Such as plasma or tranexamic acid help clot blood with coagulopathies.
When to seek emergency care
Postpartum cats experiencing any of the following urgent signs should be evaluated immediately at an emergency animal hospital:
Heavy bleeding filling multiple pads per hour
This level of hemorrhage can quickly lead to dangerous anemia, hypovolemic shock, or death without swift treatment.
Bleeding that continues unchecked after 2 weeks
Prolonged heavy bleeding or fresh hemorrhage after 2 weeks often indicates a serious uterine problem in need of urgent treatment.
Signs of hypovolemic shock
Pale gums, weak rapid pulse, collapse, or unconsciousness signals extreme blood loss requiring emergency transfusion and stabilization.
Evidence of severe infection
A postpartum cat with a high fever, foul discharge, diffuse swelling/discomfort, and prostration may have a life-threatening uterine infection needing intensive hospitalization.
An inverted uterus protruding from the vulva is an emergent, intensely painful condition requiring immediate veterinary attention to prevent hemorrhage, shock, and death.
Suspected clotting disorder
Cats with pre-existing conditions like hepatic lipidosis are at higher risk of bleeding disorders that require rapid targeted treatment.
You can help reduce the risk of excessive postpartum bleeding by:
– Spaying your cat to avoid the risks of pregnancy and birth altogether
– Ensuring your cat maintains a healthy weight before breeding
– Having your cat examined by a vet pre-breeding to rule out uterine issues
– Making sure birthing occurs in a quiet, secure environment
– Monitoring for prolonged labor and assisting delivery if needed
– Watching for retained placentas immediately post-birth
– Keeping the postpartum cat and environment very clean
It is common for cats to have some lochia discharge for 2-4 weeks after giving birth as the uterus cleans itself out and recovers from pregnancy. However, prolonged heavy bleeding, foul-smelling discharge, bright red blood, lethargy, appetite changes, or pale gums can signal a potential health problem requiring veterinary assessment. Make sure to monitor your postpartum cat closely and contact your vet promptly with any concerns. With proper care and monitoring, you can help ensure your cat has an uncomplicated recovery after her kittens arrive.