Dogs can usually deliver puppies safely, without any human intervention. Even so, certain situations may require medical intervention. Here, our Doraville vets share information about elective and non-elective C-sections for dogs and what you can expect during and after the procedure.

What Natural Labor Looks Like in Dogs

Pregnancy in dogs lasts 64 days. At this time, your dog will go into natural labor.

When your dog is about to go into labor you may notice signs like increased restlessness and nest-making initiation by pawing at her bed.

Once the initial stages of labor begin, you will observe a significant decrease in her appetite, ranging from limited to non-existent, for about 24 hours before active labor. Other signs include possible vomiting, mucus discharge, and licking of her vulva.

These signs are all perfectly normal and should not cause any concern.

When is veterinary care needed?

While dogs are biologically designed to manage the birth of their puppies, there may be certain situations that result in the need for an emergency C-section (Cesarean section). If your dog begins to struggle during labor, you should promptly take her to a vet. To assess whether she requires assistance from you and the vet, watch for specific signs when your dog enters active labor.

Firstly, be attentive to whether she has been pushing for extended periods. Although moving can take time, it should not exceed 45 to 60 minutes for each puppy's delivery. Additionally, contractions should not last more than 45 minutes before the arrival of the first puppy.

If your dog exhibits signs of extreme pain or fatigue, along with vomiting and excessive bloody discharge, seeking medical attention is advisable. These symptoms could indicate that a puppy is stuck in the birth canal, potentially impeding the delivery of its siblings.

The time intervals between each puppy's birth can vary, extending up to 4 hours. If you can see or feel more puppies, and it has been more than 4 hours since the last delivery, it is crucial to take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.

Elective C-Sections for Dogs

While healthy pregnancies in dogs are prevalent and generally go unaided, in some cases, an elective C-section may be recommended. Your dog may need a scheduled C-section if:

  • The puppies are larger than expected
  • If there is only one puppy, your dog is not producing enough cortisol to induce natural labor
  • Your dog suffers from any health conditions that can affect labor

If your dog needs a C-section, it should be scheduled 63 days from her ovulation, which would put the procedure about 24 hours before your dog's due date.

How many C-sections can a dog safely have?

When considering the number of C-sections a dog can undergo, there is no fixed answer, but many vets argue that a dog should not undergo more than two to three C-sections in a lifetime. Exceeding this limit could potentially impact your dog's health and the well-being of their future puppies.

What should I do to prepare my dog for her C-section?

There are a few things that you should do leading up to your dog's C-section

  • Refrain from using flea or tick medication on your dog the week leading up to their C-section
  • Apply an Adaptil (DAP) to her collar 3 days before the C-section to help calm her
  • Bathe your dog 2 or 3 days before the C-section
  • Do not feed your dog on the day of her C-section surgery
  • If your dog takes any medications, you must speak with your veterinarian before the C-section for instructions on how to proceed
  • Your dog should only have water before the C-section

What should I bring to the appointment?

It can be helpful to have a 'go bag' ready for when you need to bring your dog to her surgery. This bag should include;

  • Cell phone and charger
  • A tarp or blanket to cover the seat in your vehicle
  • Blankets and towels, both for comfort and cleaning
  • Your dog's crate
  • A heating pad for the puppies
  • A basket or box to carry the puppies home afterward

What happens during canine C-section surgery?

When taking your dog to the vet's office, ensure you call ahead so the staff can prepare for your arrival and promptly initiate the surgery for your dog. Upon entering the surgical suite, the veterinarian will administer general anesthesia to your dog before commencing the C-section.

Following the resuscitation of the puppies, the vet will remove the placentas and attend to the umbilical cords. They will carefully document each puppy's condition upon delivery and address any medical issues observed. Afterward, the puppies will be temporarily placed in an incubator or warming area. Once all the puppies receive clearance, you can take them home.

C-Sections for Dogs: Factors Affecting Cost

The cost of your dog's C-section can change due to several factors, including your dog's size and breed, your dog's age, and if they have any health issues that could cause complications.

What can I expect as my dog recovers from her C-section?

When bringing your dog and the new puppies home, closely monitor your dog and her puppies. Your vet will give you detailed instructions on caring for and watching the puppies and mom, along with any prescribed pain medications for your dog. Follow your vet's instructions meticulously to identify and address any issues, preventing further complications promptly.

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.

Do you suspect that your dog is expecting? Contact our veterinary team in Doraville today to ask questions or book an examination.