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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 Liberty Lake vets look at how to tell if your dog needs a c-section.

Your Dog's Pregnancy

Dogs only become pregnant for 63 days, and if your puppy needs a c-section, there is only a four-day window after ovulation (not after breeding) when a safe elective c-section can be done.

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
  • 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. Once the cervix is dilated, your dog's labor will progress to stage 2. 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 
  • Birthing her puppies is the second stage of your dog's labor. She'll strain and contract, and you'll see it. Within the first hour or so of this phase, a puppy should be born. After two hours, if the puppies are still absent, call your veterinarian or head over to the closest after-hours animal emergency clinic right away. A c-section may be necessary in your dog's case. Stage 3 is what happens if your dog gives birth normally.
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.
  • 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 by dog, but it can last up to 4 hours. If you know there are more puppies on the way but it has been more than 4 hours since the last puppy was born, go to your nearest emergency vet for immediate care. A c-section may be required for your dog.

Other Signs That Your Dog Is In Trouble

Here are a few more warning signs to look out for in case your dog is having trouble giving birth to her puppies and requires immediate 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 dog pregnancies can be carried out without intervention, an elective c-section may be advised in some cases. If your dog requires a scheduled c-section because of:

  • 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. Please consult your veterinarian on the cost of your dog's c-section for a more accurate estimate.

If you're curious as to how many c-sections a dog can have, the general rule of thumb is two to three. This is in order to preserve the mother's quality of life and the quality of life for future puppies.

How To Prepare for Your Dog's C-Section

There are several things you can do to get ready before your puppy's c-section:

  • 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
  • Bath your dog 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

There are a few things you should bring with you to 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
  • 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 

Your dog will be taken to the surgery suite after all the pre-op procedures are finished where she will be given anesthesia and the c-section will be carried out.

After Your Dog's C-Section Surgery

You must keep a close eye on your dog and her puppies when you return home. Your veterinarian will provide you with detailed instructions on how to care for and monitor the puppies and mother, as well as any pain medications that have been 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 there are complications after your dog's c-section, contact your vet immediately.

When To Call The Vet

The time it takes for your dog to recover from her c-section will depend on a number of factors, including her general health, any pregnancy complications, and other circumstances. The majority of dogs recover fully in 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 Liberty Lake vets to schedule an examination for your dog.

New Patients Welcome

At Legacy Animal Medical Center, we are always accepting new patients! Our veterinary team's experience and passion make all the difference to the patients at our animal medical center in Liberty Lake. Contact us today to book your first appointment.

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