Dogs are only pregnant for 63 days, and if your pooch needs a c-section 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.
Stages of Natural Labor & When To Seek Emergency Help
There are 3 stages to labor when your dog is ready to give birth to her puppies. Difficulties can happen at any point along the way so it's important to know the signs of problems.
- 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 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 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.
- If all is going well your dog will now go back and forth between Stage 2 and Stage 3 as each of the puppies are born.
The amount of rest time 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.
Other Signs That Your Dog Is In Trouble
Below are a few more signs to watch for 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 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 an Elective C-Section May Be Recommended
While many healthy pregnancies in dogs can proceed unaided, 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.
How To Prepare for Your Dog's C-Section
Leading up to your pup's c-section there are a number of 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
- 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
What to Take Along to Your Vet's Office
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 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 On 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.
Following Your Dog's C-Section
When you return home it 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.