If a dog has gone into labor, but things aren't going smoothly an emergency c-section may need to be performed. But, in some instances, elective c-sections will be recommended if your dog is at risk for complications with the labor process. Here, our Kent vets explain everything you need to know about c-sections.
Your Dog's Pregnancy
Pregnancy in your dog only lasts about 63 days. If your dog needs a c-section before they enter labor, there is a very short window where this procedure can be safely performed: between days 61 and 65 after ovulation.
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 of your dog's labor may last anywhere between 6 and 12 hours and is characterized by changes in behavior including panting, signs of anxiety, and shivering Once your dog's cervix is dilated, their labor will move on to stage 2. If, after 12 hours, your dog isn't showing signs of stage 2 of their labor, call your vet as soon as possible since an emergency c-section may be required.
- Stage 2 of your dog's labor is the delivery of her puppies. You will be able to see her strain and contract. 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 your dog's labor should start between 5 and 15 minutes after their first puppy arrives. This is the delivery of the placenta. Discharge at this point is very normal.
- 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 that occurs between each birth will vary from dog to dog but can last up to 4 hours. If you know that there are more puppies to be born, but it has been over 4 hours since the last puppy was born, head to your nearest emergency vet for assessment and care.
Other Signs That Your Dog Is In Trouble
We have explained some of the points at which your dog may show signs of requiring an emergency c-section, below are a few more signs that your dog is having difficulties birthing her puppies and needs 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 pregnancies can process in dogs without any medical intervention being required, in coms circumstances, an elective c-section may be recommended. 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.
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:
- Do not provide food on the day of the surgery
- Water may be given until you leave for the vet's office
- 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
- 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
What to Take Along to Your Vet's Office
There are several things that you should take along when it's time to head to the vet for your dog's c-section, including:
- Blankets and towels
- Your changed cell phone
- Large crate to keep your dog in
- Heating pad and a way to power it - to keep puppies warm
- Tarp, table cloth, or other easy clean covering for your seats or carpets in the car
- 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:
- Blood tests
- Vaginal examination to check for signs of active labor
- Wrapping tail to keep clean
- Imaging such as X-rays or ultrasound
- Placement of an IV catheter
- Shaving your dog's abdomen
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 return home, it will be necessary to monitor your dog and her puppies closely. Your vet will provide you with detailed instructions about caring for monitoring puppies and their mother as well as pain medications that your dog may need to have prescribed.
Following your vet's instructions carefully can help you to spot any issues right away before they become more severe.
When To Call The Vet
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. Most dogs will fully recover within about 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.