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C-Section for Dogs: Everything You Should Know

While many dogs experience pregnancy, labor and delivery without any complications there are some that may be at risk and require assistance to help deliver their puppies safely through surgery. Today our Charlotte vets talk about pregnancy and delivery for dogs and signs that a dog may need a C-section.


What To Expect During a Dog's Pregnancy

Dogs are only pregnant for 63 days, and if your pooch needs a c-section there will be a sense of urgency as the only safe time to perform a c-section for dogs is between 61 and 65 days after they have ovulated. 

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

Below are the things to expect during routine labor and delivery in dogs and what the signs are that your dog may require a c-section as well as what to expect during and after c-section surgery.

C-Sections in Dogs

Natural Labor in Dogs & Signs That Your Dog May Require Urgent Care

Your dog's labor will be broken into 3 natural stages. Issues may arise at any point throughout the labor and delivery process so you should be sure to monitor your dog closely for any potential signs of complications.

Stage 1 of Labor
  • Stage 1 of your dog's labor can last anywhere from 6-12 hours and is characterized by behavior changes such as shivering, panting, or other noticeable signs of anxiety. Once your dog's cervix has dialated enough their body will naturallyl move into stage two of labor and the puppies will begin to be delivered. If after 12 hours your dog isn't showing any signs of stage 2 labor, call your vet right away, an emergency c-section may be required.
Stage 2 of Labor
  • Stage 2 of your dog's labor is the delivery of her puppies. Your dogs will visibly be straining and experiencing contractions. Within the first 1-2 hours of this stage a puppy should be born. If after 2 hours no puppies have arrived, call your vet, or visit the nearest 24/7 animal emergency clinic straight away. Your dog may need an emergency c-section. If your dog delivers a puppy normally, she will then move on to stage 3.
Stage 3 of Labor
  • Stage 3 of your dog's labor should begin between 5-15 minutes after a puppy arrives, this is when the placenta is delivered. You should expect discharge along with placenta delivery at this stage.
Repeat the Stages
  • If all is going well your dog will now go back and forth between Stage 2 and Stage 3 as each of the puppies are born.

How much rest time occurs between each birth varies from one dog to another but can last as long as 4 hours. If you know that there are more puppies but it has been over 4 hours since the previous puppy was born, head to your nearest emergency vet for urgent care to allow your vet to make a full assesment as your dog may require a c-section.

Ways To Tell That Your Dog Needs Help

Here are some of the other more common signs that you should contact your vet to have them seen for a veterinary evaluation and potential c-section:

  • 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 including 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 Your Vet May Recommend an Elective C-Section

While there are many dogs that delivery their puppies without any issues there are certain situations where your vet may recommend an elective c-section. Your dog may need a scheduled c-section if:

  • There is only one puppy - 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.

Preparing For Your Dog's C-Section

Here are some of the things that you can do to prepare for your dogs 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
  • 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

Things You SHould Bring When Your Dog Has Their C-Section

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 Will Happen The Day of The C-Section

Most vets request that you to 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.

Recovery For Your Dog After C-Section Surgery

When you return home it will be necessary to monitor your dog and her puppies carefully. Your vet will provide you with detailed instructions on caring for and monitoring the puppies and mom, 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.

When You Should Bring Your Dog or Their Puppies in For Urgent Care

How long it will take for your dog to recover from her c-section will vary based on her overall health, difficulties during pregnancy, and other factors. On average the majority of dogs heal naturally and fullly in about 3 weeks after the surgery.

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.

Do you have a dog that is expecting puppies? Contact our Charlotte vets to set up an examination to make sure your  dog and her developing puppies are strong and healthy.

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Providence Animal Hospital has been providing comprehensive veterinary care for your cherished pets in Charlotte since 1993.

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