Caesarean Section in Dogs: What to Expect When Your Dog Needs a C-section
October 16, 2020
You’re expecting a litter, that’s great! Then you find out your female will need a C-section. Don’t worry, with a little planning and preparation, you, your female and your household will be ready for the exciting upcoming event.
In most cases, Caesarean section in dogs is done within 24 hours of her ideal due date. However, in some cases such as in females carrying large litters or without precise progesterone timing at the breeding, you may be off by a few hours. Because of this, I recommend you monitor her the last 24 hours before her surgery to be sure she does not go into labor unattended.
What Should I Do Before Her Surgery?
Three days before her surgery, apply a ThunderEase collar. These come in two sizes and emit a pheromone that we believe helps with maternal skills for about four weeks.
A day or two prior to her surgery, you may wish to bathe her if you can do so safely. I recommend Vet Basics® ChlorConazole medicated shampoo with antibacterial and antifungal properties. This means she will be cleaner for surgery and for taking care of her puppies. You may also wish to shave part of her abdomen; we will shave only the additional coat required for a sterile surgery field.
You should feed her dinner the night before her surgery but no food the morning of her surgery. She may have access to water until she is ready to travel to the veterinarian’s office. If she is on any medications, she may have those the morning of her surgery, with only enough canned dog food or cheese to coat the tablet. Ask your vet if you have questions about specific medications. Please do not use any topical flea and tick products on her within one week of her due date. She should have her ThunderEase collar placed around her neck three days prior to her C-section.
In advance of your scheduled canine C-section, I also recommend you have your whelping area ready for your arrival home.
- Having a quiet warm area of your home or kennel designated for the nursery. Limit access to this area to children, extra people, and dogs.
- Whelping nest or other heated area.
- Wading pool.
- Whelping and neonatal care supplies:
- Rectal thermometer.
- Room thermometer.
- Heat source, avoiding heat lamps as they are fire hazards.
- Tincture of iodine for umbilical cord care.
- Puppy scale.
- Record keeping system for weights, temps, urine color and other notes.
- Marking system for puppies – avoid neckbands. I recommend the Breeder’s Edge® ID Me Collars.
- Feeding tube.
- Puppy formula such as Breeder’s Edge® Foster Care Canine milk replacer.
- Medi-nurser baby bottle.
- Bulb syringe and Delee mucus trap.
- A puppy-safe disinfectant for the whelping box such as Chlorhexidine solution.
What Should I Bring the Day of Her Surgery?
Hopefully you will make it to the vet’s office before the puppies arrive, however it’s always good to be prepared. I recommend bringing the following with you to her C-section just in case you have a delivery en route and for safe transport of your female and the new litter home:
- The female.
- Your cell phone.
- A tarp or vinyl tablecloth to cover the seats or floor of the car/van.
- A large crate for the female.
- Blankets and towels.
- Heating pad and inverter to run the heating pad.
- Plastic laundry basket or ice chest to take the pups home in.
- Bulb syringe and Delee mucus trap in case she whelps en route.
What Happens During a Dog C-section?
I recommend arriving one to two hours prior to her scheduled C-section, however, it’s always a good idea to ask your vet how much in advance when they would like you to arrive. On arrival, she will likely have the following procedures done by your vet’s staff:
- Evaluation for active labor, which may include a vaginal examination.
- Radiographs (X-rays) and/or ultrasound.
- IV catheter placement. A small area on her front leg will be shaved for this.
- Medications ordered by the veterinarian caring for her.
- Shaving for her surgery.
- Blood tests drawn and run which may include progesterone and pre-op blood work if not previously done.
- Wrapping her tail, if she has one, to keep her tail clean until she is ready to discharge.
Do Dogs Need Pain Meds After C-section?
A variety of dog medications will most likely be sent home with you for your female and her puppies. These may include:
- Pain medications – usually Metacam for post-op pain management.
- Reglan/metoclopramide – to aid in improved lactation by increasing milk production.
- Oxytocin – to aid in lactation by increasing milk letdown.
- Nemex and Strongid – as dewormers to start two weeks postpartum.
- ThunderEase collar – if not already applied pre-op to improve maternal skills.
- Plasma – for the pups, to be used via a feeding tube or by sq injection if there is any doubt about colostrums availability for the pups.
How Do I Care for a Dog After C-section?
After her dog C-section, once you return home, it’s important to watch for the following:
- Monitor the female to be sure she is willing to accept and care for the pups safely. Do not leave the pups with her unattended until you are sure they are safe.
- Monitor that she does not lay on the pups.
- Monitor the pup’s weights, temperatures and urine color twice daily, and record, to be sure they are gaining well and nursing adequately.
- Bottle or tube feed the puppies if they are not gaining well or staying well hydrated.
- Contact your vet for assistance if the pups are fussy, not nursing well, have dark-colored urine or are not gaining weight.
- Monitor the female’s incision, mammary glands, temperature, and appetite. Contact your vet if she runs a fever over 103° F, fails to eat and drink well, has a firm swelling of the mammary gland, or there are abnormalities of the incision.
- It is normal for her to have bloody vaginal discharge the first few days after the pups are born, slowly changing to gray. Contact your vet if there is excessive blood, odor to the discharge, or an odd color to the discharge.
Ten to 14 days post-op, is generally when your vet will remove her sutures from the surgery. Every mom is different which means every delivery is different. But with a little preparation, you will help her raise a healthy litter.
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Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.