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C-Section for Dogs: Everything You Should Know

If your dog is due to have puppies but is experiencing complications they may need an emergency c-section, but in some cases, there may not be any immediate danger but an increased risk and so an elective c-section may be recommended. Today our Argyle vets discuss how to know if your dog may need a c-section and what to expect during and after the c-section procedure.

Pregnancy in Dogs

Dogs are only pregnant for 63 days, and if a c-section is required for your dog then there is a very short window of only 4 days 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.

The Stages of Labor

Your dog's labor will be broken into 3 natural stages. Because there can be complications at any point it is important to know what you should expect throughout labor so that you can be aware of what is not normal.

Stage 1
  • 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 the cervix is dilated your dog's labor will move on to Stage 2. Your dog should move into Stage 2 within 12 hours,if this does not happen then you should call your vet right away, an emergency c-section may be required.
Stage 2 
  • 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 all is going well and a puppy has been born then your dog will naturally move into Stage 3.
Stage 3 
  • 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 at this stage along with the placenta.
  • If all is going well your dog will now go back and forth between Stage 2 and Stage 3 after the birth of each puppy until they have all been delivered.

When To Seek Urgent Care

You should be prepared for your dog to rest for as long as 4 hours between the birth of each puppy. If it has been more than 4 hours since the last puppy but you know that you are to expect more then it is time to call your vet or head to your nearest emergency vet for urgent care. Your dog may require an emergency c-section.

Here are some of the signs of complications to watch for while your dog is in labor:

  • 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.

Why Your Vet May Recommend an Elective C-Section

A large portion of pregnancies in dogs will not require intervention, in some 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.

Preparing For Your Dog's C-Section

Here are some of the things you can do to help prepare for your dog'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
  • 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 Your Should Bring For Your Dog's C-Section

While you are at your dog's c-section appointment there are some things you can bring in order to help the day go smoothly, these are:

  • 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 While At Your Dog's C-Section Appointment

Most vets request that you to arrive an hour or two before the scheduled c-section surgery. When you arrive for your dog's c-section appointment there are some pre-surgery steps that your vet may want to take such as:

  • 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 After Your Dog's C-Section Surgery

Once you are able to return home with your dog and her new puppies it will be crucial that you monitor the puppies for any signs of complications. 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. 

Be sure to follow your vet's instructions carefully and contact them immediately if you notice any issues.

When You Should Reach Out To Your 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.

Are you expecting your dog to have puppies in the future? Contact our Argyle vets to schedule a wellness examination for your dog.

Looking for a new veterinarian in Argyle?

Contact (940) 464-3231