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C-Sections for Dogs

While the arrival of new puppies is very exciting, it's important to know what to expect and what to do if delivery doesn't go as planned. Here, our Denver vets discuss labor and delivery, what signs to watch for and what to expect with elective and emergency C-sections for dogs.

What to Know About Natural Labor in Dogs

Your dog will enter labor approximately 64 days after becoming pregnant. Some signs that she is about to go into labor include increased restlessness and nest-making initiation by pawing at her bed.

During the birthing process, you will observe a significant decrease in her appetite, ranging from limited to non-existent, for about 24 hours before active labor. Other signs include mucus discharge and licking of her vulva. It's important to note that these are normal during natural labor and should not cause concern.

Signs of Complications During Labor & Delivery

While your dog can often give birth at home with minimal assistance, complications may arise. If your dog begins to struggle during labor, you should promptly take her to a vet. To assess whether she requires assistance from you and the vet, watch for specific signs when your dog enters active labor.

Firstly, be attentive to whether she has been pushing for extended periods. Although moving can take time, it should not exceed 45 to 60 minutes for each puppy's delivery. Additionally, contractions should not last more than 45 minutes before the arrival of the first puppy.

If your dog exhibits signs of extreme pain or fatigue, along with vomiting and excessive bloody discharge, seeking medical attention is advisable. These symptoms could indicate that a puppy is stuck in the birth canal, potentially impeding the delivery of its siblings.

The time intervals between each puppy's birth can vary, extending up to four hours. If you can see or feel more puppies, and it has been more than four hours since the last delivery, it is crucial to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

When are elective canine C-sections needed?

While healthy pregnancies in dogs are very common and generally go unaided, in some cases, an elective C-section may be recommended. Your dog may need a scheduled C-section if:

  • Puppies are larger than average
  • She is only having one puppy. If there is only one puppy, your dog may not produce enough cortisol to induce natural labor
  • Your dog suffers from any health conditions that can affect labor
If your dog needs a C-section, it should be scheduled 63 days from her ovulation, which would put the procedure about 24 hours before her due date.

How many C-sections can a dog have?

When considering the number of C-sections a dog can undergo, there is no fixed answer, but many vets argue that a dog should not undergo more than two to three C-sections in a lifetime. Exceeding this limit could potentially impact your dog's health and the well-being of their future puppies.

How to prepare your pet for a C-section? 

There are a few things that you should do leading up to your dog's C-section

  • Stop using flea and tick medications on your dog one week before the procedure
  • Apply an Adaptil (DAP) to her collar three days before the C-section
  • You'll want to bathe your dog a few days before the C-section. They should be clean for the procedure, and it may be a while before you can bath her after the surgery
  • Your dog can not eat on the day of the C-section
  • If your dog takes any medications, you must speak with your veterinarian before the C-section for instructions on how to proceed.
  • Your dog should only have water before the C-section

What should you bring to your dog's surgery?

You should prepare a bag containing the essentials before you take your dog for her C-section. This bag should include;

  • Your cell phone and charger
  • A tarp to put down on your car seat for the drive to the vet's office
  • Blankets and towels, both for comfort and cleaning
  • Your dog's crate
  • A heating pad for the puppies
  • A basket or box to carry the puppies home afterward

What can you expect on the day of surgery?

When taking your dog to the vet's office, ensure you call ahead so the staff can prepare for your arrival and begin your dog's surgery. Upon entering the surgical suite, the veterinarian will administer general anesthesia to your dog before commencing the C-section.

Following the puppies' resuscitation, the vet will remove the placentas and attend to the umbilical cords. They will carefully document each puppy's condition upon delivery and address any medical issues observed. Afterward, the puppies will be temporarily placed in an incubator or warming area. Once all the puppies receive clearance, you can take them home.

What does a C-section cost for dogs?

If your dog has a C-section, the cost can be affected by several factors, including your dog's size and breed, your dog's age, and if they have any health issues that could cause complications.

What to Expect While Your Dog Recovers From Her C-section

When bringing your dog and the new puppies home, closely monitor your dog and her puppies. Your vet will provide detailed instructions on caring for and watching the puppies and mom, along with any prescribed pain medications. You will need to follow your vet's post-op instructions to reduce the risk of complications after your dog has C-section surgery. This includes caring for the incision and watching for signs of infection (redness, swelling, lethargy, etc.)

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.

If your dog shows signs of complications while delivering her puppies, contact our veterinary team or your nearest emergency vet clinic in Denver right away.

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