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C-Sections for Dogs

Emergency c-sections can be performed if a dog is in labor, but in some cases, an elective c-section may be recommended if your pooch faces an increased risk of complications. Today, our Tigard vets look at how to tell if your dog needs a c-section.

Your Dog's Pregnancy

Dogs are only pregnant for 63 days, and there is only a four-day window when a safe elective c-section can be performed - days 61 - 65 after ovulation (not after breeding).

When puppies are ready to be born naturally they will produce a surge of cortisol which initiates labor in the mother.

What Natural Labor Looks Like & When To Seek Emergency Help

The labor of your dog will be divided into three natural stages. Difficulties can arise at any point along the way, so it is critical to recognize the warning signs of a problem.

Stage 1
  • The first stage of your dog's labor can last 6 to 12 hours and is distinguished by behavioral changes such as shivering, panting, or other visible signs of anxiety. Once the cervix has been dilated, your dog's labor will progress to stage 2. After 12 hours, if your dog is still not showing signs of stage 2 labor, contact your veterinarian immediately; an emergency c-section may be required.
Stage 2 
  • The second stage of your dog's labor is the birth of her puppies. You'll notice her contracting and straining. A puppy should be born within the first 1-2 hours of this stage. If no puppies have arrived after 2 hours, immediately contact your veterinarian or go to the nearest 24-hour animal emergency clinic. Your dog might require an emergency c-section. If your dog is born normally, she will move on to stage 3.
Stage 3 
  • The placenta is delivered during Stage 3 of your dog's labor, which should begin 5-15 minutes after the puppy arrives. At this point, discharge is normal and should be expected.
Repeat
  • If all is going well your dog will now go back and forth between Stage 2 and Stage 3 as each of the puppies is born.

The amount of time between births varies between dogs but can last up to 4 hours. If you are aware that there are more puppies, but it has been more than 4 hours since the last puppy was born, go to your nearest emergency vet for immediate care. Your dog might need a c-section.

Other Signs That Your Dog Is In Trouble

Below are a few more signs to watch for that may indicate that your dog is having difficulties delivering her puppies and needs emergency veterinary care.

  • Your dog is actively pushing for 30-60 minutes without producing a puppy. 
  • Weak contractions for 2 hours or more without producing a puppy
  • Signs of illness include vomiting, fever, pain, and bloody discharge.

If your dog is in labor and displays any of the symptoms above, take her to your vet or emergency vet immediately.

When Elective C-Sections Are Recommended

While many healthy pregnancies in dogs can proceed unaided, in some circumstances an elective C-section may be recommended. Your dog may need a scheduled c-section if:

  • There is only one puppy - that may not produce enough cortisol to induce labor in the mother
  • Puppies are very large
  • Your dog suffers from any underlying health conditions 

If your dog requires a c-section, it will most likely be scheduled 63 days after ovulation, which puts the procedure within 24 hours of your dog's ideal due date. For a more accurate estimate, please consult your veterinarian about the cost of your dog's c-section.

If you're wondering how many c-sections a dog can have, the general rule of thumb is two to three. This is done to protect the mother's quality of life as well as the quality of life for future puppies.

How To Prepare for Your Dog's C-Section

Leading up to your pup's c-section there are a number of things you can do to prepare:

  • Stop using flea and tick products on your dog 1 week before her C-section
  • Apply an Adaptil (DAP) collar 3 days before the scheduled surgery
  • Give your dog a bath a day or two before the surgery so that she is as clean as possible at the time of her C-section
  • Do not provide food on the day of the surgery
  • Discuss any medications your dog is taking with your veterinarian; they will let you know if you should withhold medicines on the day of surgery.
  • Water may be given until you leave for the vet's office

What to Take Along to Your Vet's Office

When it comes time for your dog's c-section, there are a few things you should bring with you, including:

  • Your changed cell phone
  • Tarp, table cloth, or other easy clean covering for your seats or carpets in the car
  • Large crate to keep your dog in
  • Blankets and towels 
  • Heating pad and a way to power it - to keep puppies warm
  • Plastic laundry basket, ice chest without the lid, or strong cardboard box to carry puppies home in safely
  • A bulb syringe and DeeLee mucus trap should be on hand in case your dog gives birth en route to the vet's office

What to Expect On Surgery Day

Most veterinarians ask that you arrive an hour or two before your scheduled c-section surgery. The following are common procedures preceding a c-section:

  • Vaginal examination to check for signs of active labor
  • Imaging such as X-rays or ultrasound
  • Placement of an IV catheter
  • Shaving your dog's abdomen
  • Blood tests
  • Wrapping tail to keep clean 

Once all of the pre-op procedures are completed your dog will be taken to the surgery suite where she will receive anesthesia and the c-section will be performed.

After Your Dog's C-Section Surgery

Watch over your dog and her puppies when you get home. Your veterinarian will give you comprehensive instructions on how to care for and keep an eye on the mother and puppies, as well as any painkillers that have been prescribed for your dog.

Carefully following your veterinarian's instructions can help you catch any problems early before they worsen. Contact your veterinarian right away if your dog experiences complications following a c-section.

When To Call The Vet

Your dog's general health, pregnancy complications, and other elements will influence how long it takes her to recover from her C-section. The vast majority of dogs will fully recover in three weeks.

If your dog shows signs of fever, stops eating, isn't drinking, develops a swollen mammary gland, or shows signs of infection at the incision site it's time for an urgent call to your vet. 

Also, contact your vet if the puppies aren't nursing well, seem fussy, have dark-colored urine, or aren't gaining weight

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog pregnant? Contact our Tigard vets to schedule an examination.

New Patients Welcome

Cascade Veterinary Referral Center is accepting new patients! Get in touch with us today for information on how to book a specialty appointment for your pet. 

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