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Cesarean Sections (C-Sections) For Dogs: What To Know

Cesarean Sections (C-Sections) For Dogs: What To Know

Cesarean sections (C-sections) can be used in emergency cases when a dog is having trouble during labor, but in some cases, an elective c-section may be recommended if your pet has an increased risk of complications. Today our Los Angeles vets look at how to tell if your dog needs a c-section.

Your Dog's Pregnancy

Dogs are only pregnant for 63 days, and if your pet needs a c-section there are only 4 days during which an elective c-section can be safely performed (between 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.

Natural Labor In Dogs & When To Seek Emergency Help

Usually, your dog's natural labor process will be in 3 stages. Difficulties can happen at any point along the way so it's important to know the signs of problems.

Stage 1
  • This can last anywhere from 6 – 12 hours and is characterized by changes in your dog's behavior (shivering, panting, or other 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
  • Your dog should begin delivering her puppies at this stage. You will be able to see her strain and push, and within the first 1-2 hours, 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
  • About 5-15 minutes after a puppy arrives, your dog will deliver. Discharge is normal at this point and should be expected.
  • If all is going well your dog will now go back and forth between Stage 2 and Stage 3 as each puppy is born.

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

Signs That Your Dog Is In Trouble

Below are a few more signs to watch for that may indicate that your dog is having trouble during labor and might require emergency veterinary care:

  • Your dog 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.

When Elective C-Sections Are Recommended

While many healthy pregnancies in dogs can proceed naturally, there are some circumstances where an elective c-section may be recommended. Your dog may need a scheduled c-section if:

  • There is only one puppy - this may not produce enough cortisol to induce labor in the mother
  • Puppies are large in size
  • Your dog has underlying health conditions

If your dog requires 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

Leading up to your pet'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
  • Put an Adaptil (DAP) collar on your pet 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 the procedure
  • Do not feed her on the day of the surgery
  • Ensure your veterinarian knows about any medications your dog is taking so that they can let you know if you should withhold medications on the day of surgery
  • You can give your dog water until you leave for the vet's office

What To Bring On Surgery Day

There are a number of things that you should take along when it's time to head to the vet for your dog's c-section, including:

  • Your cell phone (make sure it's charged!)
  • Tarp, table cloth or other easy-to-clean covering for your seats or carpets in the car
  • Large crate to keep your dog in
  • Clean blankets and towels
  • Heating pad and a power source (to keep new puppies warm)
  • Plastic laundry basket, drink cooler (sans 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 vets request that you arrive 1 – 2 hours before the scheduled c-section surgery. Common procedures leading up to a c-section include:

  • Vaginal examination of your dog to check for signs of active labor
  • Imaging (e.g. 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 you head home will be necessary to monitor your dog and her puppies carefully. 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.

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

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.

Is your dog expecting puppies? Get in touch with our expert Los Angeles veterinarians to schedule an examination for your dog. Our vets have experience providing dogs with the c-section surgeries they need to have healthy puppies.

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