Emergency c-sections can be performed on dogs who are in labor when things aren't going smoothly. In some cases, though, your vet may recommend an elective c-section if your pup faces an increased risk of complications from their labor. Here, our Oakland vets take a look at how you can tell whether or not your dog needs a c-section.
Your Dog's Pregnancy
A dog's pregnancy only lasts approximately 63 days and if your pup requires a c-section, there is a short window of 4 days when safe, elective c-sections can be performed—from days 61 to 65.
When your dog's puppies are ready to be born naturally, they produce a surge of cortisol in your pup's body, initiating the process of labor.
What Natural Labor Looks Like & When To See Emergency Help
Your dog's natural labor process is broken up into 3 different stages. Difficulties may happen at any point along the way so it is important that you know what to look out for.
- The first stage of your pup's labor can last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours and is characterized by changes in behavior like panting, shivering or other signs of anxiety. Once your dog's cervix is dilated, their labor process will move on to the second stage. If your dog isn't showing any signs of the second stage of labor after 12 hours, call your vet as soon as possible! An emergency c-section will be required.
- The second stage of your dog's labor process is the delivery of her puppies. You will notice her straining and contracting. Within an hour or two of this stage beginning, a puppy should be born. If, after 2 hours, so puppies have arrived, call your vet or visit the nearest after-hours emergency clinic as soon as possible. You dog may require an emergency c-section in these cases. If your dog is able to deliver a puppy normal, however, they will move on to the third stage.
- The third stage of your dog's labor should start anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes after their puppy arrives. This is when the placenta is delivered. Discharge is to be expected during this stage.
- If all is going well your dog will now go back and forth between the second and third stages as each of the puppies are born.
The amount of time that elapses between each birth varies from one dog to the next but it can last as long as 4 hours. If you know there are more puppies but it has been over 4 hours since the last puppy was born, go to your nearest emergency veterinary hospital for care and possibly an emergency c-section.
Other Signs That Your Dog Is In Trouble
Here are some signs to look out for that can indicate that your dog is experiencing difficulties in delivering her puppies and requires emergency veterinary care.
- Your dog is actively pushing for 30-60 minutes without producing a puppy.
- Signs of illness including vomiting, fever, pain and bloody discharge.
- Weak contractions for 2 hours or more without producing a puppy
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 may process without help, in some instances an elective c-section may be recommended by your vet. You dog might need an elective c-section if:
- There is only one puppy - may not produce enough cortisol to induce labor in the mother
- Your dog suffers from any underlying health conditions
- Puppies are very large
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
In the lead-up top your pup's c-section, there are a number of things you can do at home to prepare them.
- 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
- Do not provide food on the day of the surgery
- Water may be given until you leave for the vet's office
- 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
- 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 a variety of things you should take along with you when it's time to head to your vet for your dog's c-section. These can include:
- Your charged cell phone
- Large crate to keep your dog in
- Blankets and towels
- Tarp, table cloth or other easy clean covering for your seats or carpets in the car
- 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 dog's scheduled c-section. Common procedures leading up to one of these can include:
- Blood tests
- Vaginal examination to check for signs of active labor
- Placement of an IV catheter
- Shaving your dog's abdomen
- Wrapping tail to keep clean
- Imaging such as X-rays or ultrasound
Once all of your pup's pre-op procedures are taken care of, your dog will be brought into the surgical suite where they will receive anesthesia and their c-section will be performed.
After Your Dog's C-Section Surgery
When you return home with your dog, it will be very important for you to monitor her and her puppies really carefully. Your vet will provide you with detailed instructions on caring for monitoring both the mom and her puppies as well as any pain medication your dog might need to manage discomfort.
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
The length of time it will take for your dog to recover from her c-section will depend on her overall health and if she encountered any difficulties during her pregnancy among other factors. Most dogs will recover within 3 weeks or so.
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.