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C-Section for Dogs: Everything You Should Know

If a dog is in labor but things aren't going well, an emergency c-section can be performed; however, if your dog is at risk of complications, an elective c-section may be recommended. Today, our La Pine veterinarians discuss how to tell if your dog requires a c-section.

Your Dog's Pregnancy

Dogs are only pregnant for 63 days, and if your pooch needs a c-section there are a very short window of only 4 days 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 See Emergency Help

Your dog's labor will be broken into 3 natural stages. Difficulties can happen at any point along the way so it's important to know the signs of problems.

Stage 1
  • Stage 1 of your dog's labor can last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours and is distinguished by behavioral changes such as shivering, panting, or other visible signs of anxiety. Your dog's labor will progress to stage 2 once the cervix has been dilated. If your dog is still not showing signs of stage 2 labor after 12 hours, 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 will be able to see her contract and strain. A puppy should be born within the first 1-2 hours of this stage. If no puppies have arrived after 2 hours, contact your veterinarian or go to the nearest 24-hour animal emergency clinic right away. Your dog might require an emergency c-section. If your dog gives birth normally, she will proceed to stage 3.
Stage 3 
  • Stage 3 of your dog's labor should begin between 5-15 minutes after a puppy arrives, this is when the placenta is delivered. Discharge is normal at this point 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 rest time between each birth varies from dog to dog but can last up to 4 hours. If you know 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 may require 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 needs a c-section it will most likely be scheduled 63 days from ovulation which should put the procedure within 24 hours of your dog's ideal due date.

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
  • Speak to your vet about any medications your dog is taking- they will let you know if you should withhold medications 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

There are a number of things that you should take along when it's time to head to the vet for your dog's c-section, 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
  • 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 vets request that you arrive an hour or two before the scheduled c-section surgery. Common procedures leading up to a c-section include:

  • 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. The cost of your dog's c-section can be determined by a number of factors, so it is best to speak to your vet directly for a more accurate quote.

How Many C-Sections Can a Dog Have?

There is no limit to how many C-sections a dog can have in her lifetime. Going back into the bodily cavity, like with any operation, allows the veterinary surgeon to use the same surgical scars as landmarks, reducing the amount of additional damage. The question here is whether there is any inhumane behavior around multiple or back-to-back dog pregnancies. Most responsible breeders and vets believe c-sections should be capped at two to three throughout a dog's lifetime.

After Your Dog's C-Section Surgery

When you return home, you must keep a close eye on your dog and her puppies. Your veterinarian will give you detailed instructions on how to care for and monitor the puppies and mother, as well as any pain medications prescribed for your dog.

Following your vet's instructions carefully can help you to spot any issues right away before they become more severe. If any complications arise after your dog's c-section, contact your vet immediately.

When To Call The Vet

The length of time it takes for your dog to recover from her c-section will depend on her overall health, pregnancy difficulties, and other factors. Most dogs will recover completely within 3 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 La Pine vets to schedule an examination for your dog. Our vets have experience providing dogs with the c-sections they need to produce healthy puppies.

New Patients Welcome

We are accepting new patients to our La Pine vet clinic. Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of all pets in Central Oregon. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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