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Understanding Dog C-Sections - How to Tell if Your Dog Needs One

Many dogs deliver their puppies safely, without the help of a vet, but sometimes problems arise and a C-section is necessary. How can you tell if your dog needs a C-section? How much will your dog's C-section cost? Find out.

What to Expect from Your Dog's Pregnancy & Labor

Dogs are only pregnant for 63 days. If your pup needs a C-section there are only 4 days when a safe elective C-section can be performed (61 - 65 days 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.

A Dog's Natural Labor Process

Your dog's labor will be broken into 3 natural stages. Difficulties can happen at any point so it's important to know the signs of problems.

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. If after 12 hours your dog isn't showing any signs of stage 2 labor, 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 your dog delivers a puppy normally, she will then move on to 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. Discharge is normal at this point and should be expected.
Repeat
  • If all is going well, your dog will now go back and forth between stages 2 and 3 as each puppy is born.

How much rest time occurs between each birth varies from one dog to another, but can last as long as 4 hours. If you know that there are more puppies but it has been over 4 hours since the previous puppy was born, head to your nearest emergency vet for urgent care. Your dog might need a c-section.

Signs of Difficulty Delivering Puppies

Below are a few more signs 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 (be sure to call ahead to let the vet know you're on your way.)

When an Elective C-Section for Dogs is Recommended

While many healthy pregnancies in dogs can proceed unaided, in some circumstances elective c-section surgery 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 too large to be safely delivered by the mother
  • 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.

Number of C-Sections a Dog Can Have

At Animal Hospital of North Asheville, our experienced team of veterinarians is often asked, 'How many c-sections can a dog have?'. The fact is that there is no set number but it is typically understood that 2-3 c-sections are safe, but more than that could negatively impact the health of your dog and put future puppies at risk.

Preparing for Your Dog's Elective C-Section

Leading up to your pup's c-section there are several 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
  • 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
  • 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

What to Take With You to Your Veterinarian'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:

  • 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
  • A 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 Your Dog's 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:

  • 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.

Your Dog's Recovery From a C-Section

When you return home, you will need to monitor your dog and her puppies carefully. Your vet will provide detailed instructions on caring for and monitoring the puppies and mom, as well as how to administer any pain medications prescribed for your dog. 

Following your vet's instructions carefully can help you spot developing problems quickly before they become more severe.

Dog C-Section Cost

The cost of your dog's C-section will depend upon multiple factors including the size of your dog, her overall health, and how complicated the procedure is in your dog's case. Even where you live geographically will have an impact on cost.

If your dog is being scheduled for an elective C-section, ask your vet for an estimate before the big day. This will allow you to get an accurate understanding of how much the procedure is likely to cost. Your vet will be able to provide you with a breakdown of the various fees involved and answer any questions you may have.

In the case of an emergency C-section, speak to your emergency vet immediately about the cost. It is best to avoid any unpleasant financial surprises. The cost of your pet's emergency C-section will depend upon the variables above and other factors. 

Recovery & Complications After Dog C-Section

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 any of the puppies aren't nursing properly, 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.

At Animal Hospital of North Asheville we can help your dog have a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery. Contact us today to book an examination for your pup.

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