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C-Sections for Dogs

In some cases, an elective c-section may be recommended if your dog faces an increased risk of complications during labor. Today, our Richmond vets will discuss how to tell if your dog needs a c-section.

Your Dog's Pregnancy

Dogs are pregnant for only 63 days, and there is only a four-day window for a safe elective c-section to be performed - specifically days 61 to 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

Natural labor in dogs typically follows three stages. In the first stage, the cervix dilates, and you might notice your dog becoming restless, panting, and nesting. This can last between 6 to 12 hours. In the second stage, the actual birthing of puppies begins, which should proceed steadily. The third stage involves the expulsion of the placenta.

It's crucial to monitor your dog closely during labor. Seek emergency help if:

  • Labor lasts more than 24 hours without any puppies born.
  • More than two hours pass between the birth of each puppy.
  • Your dog shows signs of severe distress, such as excessive panting, vomiting, or collapse.
  • There's a green or foul-smelling discharge without any puppies.

When are elective C-sections recommended?

Elective C-sections are often recommended in several scenarios:

  • Breeds with known difficulties in natural birthing, like Bulldogs or Pugs, due to their pelvic structure.
  • Previous complications in labor or a history of difficult births.
  • When an ultrasound indicates oversized puppies or other abnormalities.
  • To avoid risks associated with predicted prolonged labor in high-value breeding dogs.

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.

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
  • 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 spot any issues right away before they become more severe. If there are complications after your dog's c-section, contact your vet immediately.

How many c-sections can a dog have?

There is no strict limit on how many C-sections a dog can have; however, most veterinarians recommend limiting them to two to three throughout a dog's lifetime. Repeated surgeries increase the risk of complications such as scar tissue formation and issues with future pregnancies.

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

Costs & Considerations of a Dog C-Section

The cost of a C-section for dogs can vary widely depending on factors such as the location, the time of the surgery (emergency services are more expensive), and any additional treatments required. On average, you can expect to pay between $500 and $2,000 for a canine C-section.

By understanding the process and being well-prepared, you can help ensure a safe and smooth delivery for your dog and her puppies. Always consult with your veterinarian to make the best decisions for your pet's health and well-being.

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 Richmond vets to schedule an examination.

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