May’s Retained Kit Story
by Laurie Stroupe.
Please note: This is merely a story of one breeder’s experience. Authors at the Nature Trail are breeders, not vets, but try to help others out from their experiences. However, we recommend you consult a veterinarian before administering oxytocin or any other drug to your animals.
GC The Nature Trail’s May, 10 legs, is my all-time favorite doe and probably my all-time favorite Holland lop. She’s been a great producer as well as a great show doe. But she’s had a hard time coming back from being idle last summer (during my feed and water problems). She produced one live daughter in November, had a stillborn litter a month or so ago, and was due again on March 25.
On March 26, she kindled one huge dead kit on the wire. I wondered if that was going to be it, so I palpated her. Even if you aren’t good at palpation, you can feel a 32-day pregnancy. And this one was huge, I could tell.
So far, I have been lucky in that all of my does who retained kits passed them within several days. (Pardon me while I stop and knock on wood!) But I was aware that sometimes does simply die or have to be put down.
By March 31, May had stopped eating. I feared the worst. My friend Janice suggested oxytocin.
My first reaction was that it wouldn’t work because she was already 5 days past kindling. Her body surely wasn’t prepared to work with the oxytocin, as I had always been told was a requirement. I’ve seen it written on many forums that giving oxytocin late wouldn’t help.
And I knew that a ruptured uterus was also a fear. But I was at a point where I felt I had nothing to lose.
I once asked my vet what would happen if I gave oxytocin to a doe and she wasn’t really pregnant. He said, “Nothing much.” She’s have some contractions, but that would be it. That wasn’t as dire as I thought it would be.
So I decided to go with Janice’s suggestion seven days after her due date and six days after kindling the dead kit.
I gave her a dose of 0.25 ml by subcutaneous injection. After what seemed like an eternity, nothing happened, so I assumed that the theory that the body had to cooperate and she was past that point was right. So I started feeding and attending to my other chores.
Then I heard a grunt. I went over to May’s cage and she was definitely having contractions. Now I worried about the ruptured uterus. Was I watching May die? She wasn’t typically a grunter during kindling, but was grunting with every contraction now.
This part seemed to last forever, though looking back it may have just been a minute or two.
Finally, I saw the kit emerge. It was over 5 inches long!
I don’t know whether I was more relieved or May was.
I don’t think she’s out of the woods yet. I need to see her regain her appetite and some weight before I breathe easily. But she’s past a major hurdle.
I still don’t think that using oxytocin willy nilly is a good idea. I will still give does a chance to pass retained kits on their own. But I think that giving it a try is a better option than watching a doe die or putting her down due to a retained kit.
You may be wondering how to get oxytocin. I think the answer for most people is to have a relationship with your veterinarian. He or she may require that you have brought in rabbits for treatment and that you’ve demonstrated enough knowledge and judgment about your rabbits that the vet is confident in your abilities and your expectations.
I think you will have more luck with veterinarians that treat farm animals or raise a herd of something themselves. They are more used to the concept of herd management and breeders who do a lot of treatment themselves.
You will probably have less luck with your dog’s veterinarian who just treats pets. They tend to expect to provide all of your animals’ needs personally.
You can read more about May in the Gallery of Champions. She is also the bunny featured in the header art on this website.