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 Weldon Spring 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 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.
- The birth of your dog's puppies is the second stage of her labor. You will notice her contract and strain. Within the first 1-2 hours of this stage, a puppy should be born. If no puppies have arrived after 2 hours, contact your veterinarian immediately or go to the nearest 24-hour animal emergency clinic. Your dog may need an emergency c-section. If your dog has a normal birth, she will proceed to 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 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. 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 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
Leading up to your pup's c-section there are several 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
- 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
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
- 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
When you get home, keep an eye on your dog and her puppies. Your veterinarian will provide you with detailed instructions for caring for and monitoring 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 there are complications after your dog's c-section, contact your vet immediately.
When To Call The Vet
The time it takes your dog to recover from her c-section will be determined by her overall health, pregnancy complications, and other factors. The majority of dogs will recover completely within 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.