Stuck or Retained Kits in Doe — Rabbit Birthing Problems Help

by Laurie Stroupe

So far, I haven’t had every variation of stuck and retained kits (knock on wood), but I’ve had some experiences in this area. I don’t have all of the answers, but maybe I have one that will help you in the future.

baby rabbitsI’ve had several stuck babies. In all cases thus far, I have been able to help the doe deliver the kit. And in all cases, any further babies have been born dead. But the good news is that none of the does who had a stuck kit had ever had one before or since. So having a stuck kit isn’t necessarily the kiss of death for that doe as a producer.

Let me say first that if you don’t have mineral oil or some other lubricant as a normal part of your barn supplies, add it to your grocery list now – before you need it. In a pinch, I would use almost anything greasy and non-toxic, including vegetable oil. But I think mineral oil does a great job.

My first step is to soak the doe’s nether regions in a basin of warm water. Alternately, you can use a hot compress (actually a very warm compress) around the vent. After about ten or fifteen minutes, lubricate the vent area. If she makes some progress, re-oil the area.

To help her deliver, I will either keep her in the basin, if she’s comfortable there, or put her in a towel on my lap.

The next step is to grasp the part of the kit that is protruding. The kit is dead, so don’t worry about getting a good grasp on the kit’s skeleton – you don’t want to just pull off a foot.

Now you want to wait for a contraction. You are not going to pull the kit out, but rather add some outward tension so that any progress she makes stays made. You are going to be working with the doe. I generally find after two or three contractions that the kit will dislodge. If not, massage the vent opening with more oil, re-apply the compress, and keep at it.

You can continue these steps until you have success OR until your doe shows signs of being in distress. So far, I haven’t had this problem. But you need to think ahead about that now. Will you put her down, continue to try to deliver, or rush her to the vet for some $$$$ assistance?

Let’s assume that the kit is delivered. So far, all of my does have delivered any subsequent kits without incident within 24 hours. I always give my does an injection of Pen B (Combi-Pen) after any delivery with any issues. But I would especially be sure to give one after this situation since she’s been in a non-sterile basin and had non-sterile oil slathered on her open vent.

Believe it or not, you can rebreed her just as soon as her vent has returned to normal, assuming she’s in good health. Roxie had a stuck kit on December 7, 2006, and a live litter on January 14, 2007!

Retained or Reabsorbed Fetuses in Doe

Retained kits are another thing altogether. There are two types of retained kits – those that are delivered very late and those that are never delivered.

Permanently retained kits cause infertility. Is it possible to have a retained kit on one side and deliver on the other? I’m not sure, but I suspect so. I had a doe with a “thickening” on one side. I often wondered if it was a degenerated retained kit. It may have been a tumor or scar from an infection, though. We’ll probably never know.

Related article - using oxytocinI have a doe that suddenly stopped producing about nine months ago at an age that is much too young. Now perhaps she’ll deliver this time and things will be fine, but if she’s permanently stopped producing, then a retained kit may be the issue. When I palpate her, I haven’t felt the kit, but her abdomen is always full and firm like a pregnant doe. That’s another mystery that may or may not be solved.

I’ve had a number of the other type of retained kit. You know the kind. The due date comes and goes and you get into the numbers where you know that a live kit is either highly unlikely or impossible. Sure, I’ve heard of kits being born live on day 35, but how many? Very few.

So far, any doe that I’ve been absolutely sure was pregnant finally did pass the kits without incident. I do, however, give them an injection of Pen B, just in case an infection is trying to get started with the dead kits. I’m not a vet and I’m just making an educated guess there. Please don’t rely on that advice without checking it out through other sources.

Again, the key is watching the doe to see if she appears to be in distress. If she’s eating and drinking well and moving about normally, I don’t worry (too much). If she appears to be feeling bad or going into shock, then you need to be ready with your pre-determined course of action: put her down or take her to the vet.

Don’t wait until this situation arises to try to make that decision. Have a standing policy. And if the vet is a possibility, know which does are worth it and which are not (that will vary from person to person – I have just one or two that I would do almost anything to save – others would do almost anything to save any rabbit).

I know a breeder who opted for the $300 c-section on a doe. She lost all of the kits anyway, as I recall. Her decision was to not go that expensive route in the future. It’s important to know what your limits are.

Use of Oxytocin to Induce Rabbits’ Labor

You notice that I haven’t mentioned oxytocin. Always consult a vet before using it. Some people have used it with great success; others have killed their does with it.

You can read about my experiences with oxytocin to induce labor in rabbits at these pages: May’s Story and Belle’s Story.

If you decide to keep oxytocin on hand, do your research before you ever need it. Know the correct dosage. Know when you can give it and know when you can’t. Does must be hormonally and physically ready to work with the ocytocin. Otherwise, it can cause a uterus to rupture. Never use oxytocin as a matter of convenience.

I hope that I never have to deal with stuck or retained kits again, but I’m sure I will. If you haven’t had the pleasure, you will, too, if you breed enough. Some of you may, unfortunately, have had even more experience with this than I. I would love to hear from some of you. Please email me  if you have had any of the following:

   1. Live kits born after day 35
   2. Live kits born after a retained kit
   3. Retained kits passed more than 7 days after the due date
   4. Live birth from a doe with a confirmed permanently retained kit
   5. Death of a doe after using oxytocin
   6. Any other unusual situation related to stuck or retained kits.

I’d like to hear your story about stuck or retained kits. I think learning more about this subject would be very valuable.

Next Article: Losing Kits and Fader Babies

Next Article: Losing Kits and Fader Babies