Planning Your Dog’s C-Section

Planning Your Dog’s C-Section

Everything you need to know to prepare you, your dog, and your household for the upcoming C-section.

When is an elective C-section safe?

Dogs are only pregnant for 63 days. Puppies are not like human babies. There is only a 4 day window when puppies can safely be born.

Timing to schedule a c-section is based on ovulation date, not the breeding date. Puppies can only be born safely 61 to 65 days from ovulation.

Labour in the dog is initiated by the fetuses, not the mother. When there is a small litter, the pups don’t produce enough cortisol collectively to initiate labour in their mother. In these cases, progesterone levels can’t be used to estimate due date. For this reason, we need to know her due date based on progesterone timing at the time of breeding and intervene before it is too late to save pups.

So when you have not done progesterone testing at the front end of the pregnancy, what can you do to time the c-section if you find yourself in need of intervention. Or what can you do to estimate due date if you have a high-risk pregnancy?

1. Progesterone timing at the end of pregnancy.  Don’t be hasty in making a decision based on progesterone drop alone.

2. Lactation. If the mother is not producing milk yet, waiting may be a great idea.

3. Ultrasound signs. Puppies that are mature enough to be born have active guts and obvious kidney interior structure. This requires a great ultrasound machine and experience.

4. Maternal behaviour. Nesting, refusing food, a temperature drop, and a far-away look in her eye are all indicators of first stage labour.

Our doctor at Weldrick Animal Hospital is cautious about proceeding to c-section without using all of the above parameters to determine the ideal time to deliver pups. We often agonize over the decision, with the owner involved in making the decision. It is critical to get this right. We make our decisions on the best interest of the mother and baby’s readiness for delivery, not based on a calendar and when it is convenient for us. I will walk through fire to help you make a great decision.

We are not a 24 hour hospital but we are a 5 day a week hospital willing to help you make a great decision on timing a c-section.

Scheduling The C-Section

You can estimate a bitch will be due to whelp 63 days after the day she ovulated. Ovulation occurs when the progesterone reaches 4 to 8 ng/dl. At our practice, we frequently schedule c-sections 62 days after ovulation so you don’t end up in the middle of the night at your local emergency clinic. In most cases, 63 days from ovulation is within 24 hours of her ideal due date. However, in some cases such as in bitches carrying large litters or without precise progesterone timing at the breeding, this timing may be off by a few hours. Because of this, we recommend you monitor her the last 48 hours before her surgery to be sure she does not go into labour unattended.

Before The Surgery

Before any C-Section females MUST be tested and found DNA negative for Brucellosis (this is a zoonotic disease and people can be exposed). You can order this test from your local clinic or with us. Three days before her surgery, please apply an Adaptil (DAP) collar. These come in two sizes and emit a pheromone that we believe helps with maternal skills for 4 weeks. You may feed her dinner the night before her surgery but do not give her food the morning of her surgery. She may have access to water until she is ready to travel to the vet. 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. Do not use any topical flea and tick products on her within one week of her due date.

What To Prepare Before The C-Section

In advance of your bitch’s scheduled C-section, have your whelping area ready for your arrival home. This includes:

  1. 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.
  2. Whelping nest or another heated area.
  3. Wading pool.
  4. Whelping and neonatal care supplies:
    1. Rectal thermometer.
    2. Room thermometer.
    3. Heat source, avoiding heat lamps as they are fire hazards. T.E Scott whelping nest works great.
    4. Tincture of iodine for umbilical cord care.
    5. Puppy scale.
    6. Record keeping system for weights, temps, urine color, and other notes.
    7. Marking system for puppies – avoid neckbands.
    8. Feeding tube.
    9. Puppy formula.
    10. Medi-nurser baby bottle.
    11. Bulb syringe and DeeLee Mucus trap.
    12. Disinfectant for the whelping box.

What To Bring To The Surgery

Bring the following with you to her C-section, so you may assist with an en-route delivery (we hope this doesn’t happen) and safely transport your bitch and new litter home:

  1. The bitch.
  2. Your charged cell phone.
  3. A tarp or vinyl tablecloth to cover the seats or floor of the vehicle.
  4. A large crate for the bitch.
  5. Blankets and towels.
  6. Heating pad and inverter to run the heating pad.
  7. Plastic laundry basket or ice chest to take the pups home in. Drape the towel across the inside to prevent the lid from sealing tightly.
  8. Bulb syringe and DeeLee mucus trap in case she whelps en route.

What To Expect The Day Of The C-Section

Typically, you will need to arrive 1 to 2 hours prior to her scheduled C-section. At our practice, she will have the following procedures performed:

  1. Evaluation for active labour, which may include a vaginal examination.
  2. Radiographs (X-rays) and/or ultrasound.
  3. IV catheter placement. Her front leg will be shaved for this.
  4. Medications ordered by the veterinarian caring for her.
  5. Shaving for her surgery.
  6. Blood tests drawn and run, which may include progesterone and pre-op blood work if not previously done.
  7. Wrapping her tail, if she has one, to keep her tail clean until she is ready to discharge.

What Happens During Surgery?

When the veterinary staff is ready to start her surgery, she will be taken to the surgery suite. She will have her anesthesia induced. Then they will start her C-section. In our practice, you may be invited to the treatment area where the pups are being cared for. It is best to allow highly trained veterinary staff to provide neonatal resuscitation and care. After the pups are resuscitated, the staff will remove placentas, begin umbilical cord care, proceed with record keeping, and treat any pups with medical conditions as directed by the veterinarian. They will be moved to an incubator or warming area. Prior to leaving the veterinary clinic, ask if you can help her pups nurse for their first meal.

What Medical Care Do You Need To Do At Home?

After the C-section, a variety of medications will be sent home with you for your bitch and her pups. These may include:

  1. Pain medications – usually Tramadol for post-op pain management.
  2. Oxytocin – to aid in lactation by increasing milk letdown.
  3. Strongid-T– as dewormers to start 2 weeks postpartum.
  4. AdaptilTM collar – if not already applied pre-op to improve maternal skills.

Caring For The Bitch And Puppies After The C-Section

After her C-section, please watch for the following:

  1. Monitor the bitch 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.
  2. Monitor that she does not lay on the pups.
  3. Monitor the pup’s weights, temperatures, and urine colour twice daily, and record, to be sure they are gaining well and nursing adequately.
  4. Bottle or tube feed the pups if they are not gaining well or staying well hydrated.
  5. Contact your veterinary clinic for assistance if the pups are fussy, not nursing well, have dark-coloured urine or are not gaining weight.
  6. Monitor the bitch’s incision, mammary glands, temperature, and appetite. Contact your veterinary clinic if she runs a fever over 103 degrees Fahrenheit, fails to eat and drink well, has a firm swelling of the mammary gland, or there are abnormalities of the incision.
  7. 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 veterinary clinic if there is excessive blood, odor to the discharge, or an odd colour to the discharge.

Preparing For The Next Vet Visit

Your next visit to the veterinary clinic will include:

  1. Incision recheck for C-section 7 days post-op.
  2. Deworming at weeks 2, 4, 6, and 8 for the pups and the bitch.
  3. Health exams, health certificates for travel, microchips, and first vaccinations starting at 6 weeks.