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Caesarean Sections in Dogs: Post Operative Care Guide

Nicole Cosgrove

Caesarean sections are an operation whereby an incision is made in the tummy and womb and the baby, or puppy, is delivered through this cut.

The caesarean section, or C-section, is given in cases where natural birth would harm the puppy or the mother. While it is possible with any breed, some breeds require this type of delivery in almost all cases. The Boston Terrier as well as the English and French Bulldog are known for having heads too large for the birth canal. The puppies would get stuck without a C-section. C-sections may also be necessary because of any physical and health problems of a specific dog, regardless of breed.

The procedure is common, and with both emergency and elective C-sections, dam and puppy survival rates are high, although there is a greater rate of puppy mortality associated with emergency caesarean sections.

Although generally considered safe, these operations do take some time to recover from. As the pet owner, you will need to ensure mom is eating and drinking. You may have to provide pain relief to the mom and help with the puppies while mom recovers.

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What Is a Caesarean Section?

A caesarean section is the delivery of a puppy through a cut made in the tummy and womb. The puppies are removed directly from the uterus.

An emergency caesarean is performed when there is a physical problem that has prevented the natural birth of the puppy.

The procedure may also be planned and carried out electively. An elective caesarean is most often carried out on dogs with existing health complaints, or those of breeds with certain physical characteristics that would prevent a safe, natural birth.

Elective procedures are commonly carried out for the following reasons:

  • Too Large Heads – Some breeds have heads that are disproportionately larger than their bodies. Typical examples include small breeds like the Boston Terrier. Other breeds include the English and French Bulldog. The head of the puppies is considered too wide to fit through the birth canal, and natural whelping is not considered safe.
  • Too Large A Litter – Breeds like the Mastiff and the St. Bernard are known for having large litters, often of as many as 16 puppies, but more commonly of around 8 puppies. Such large litters carry a risk of delivery exhaustion, which can lead to serious complications for mom and puppies. Owners may be recommended to consider a C-section if it is discovered that a mom is carrying an especially large litter.
  • Hip Dysplasia – The German Wirehaired Pointer is an example of a dog breed that is prone to hip dysplasia and if a pregnant dam is discovered to have this problem, it can be highly detrimental to the birthing. A C-section is preferred because it protects mom’s hips and ensures the safer delivery of the puppies.
  • Litter Preservation – It is not uncommon for animals that give birth to litters to lose one or two during the whelping stage and immediately after the birth. Breeders and owners that want the best chance of preserving the whole litter may opt for this procedure. This is more common with breeds like the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, which is a rare breed, as their owners want to maintain the line and prevent the loss of any whelps.

Post Operative Recovery

The caesarean section is considered major surgery. How easily the dam recovers from the procedure depends on a lot of factors, including whether it was an elective or emergency procedure. If the C-section was an emergency procedure, dogs that underwent several hours of labor before the surgery was performed will take longer to recover.

Fernando Castelani_shutterstock_birth
Image Credit By: Fernando Castelani, shutterstock

Anesthesia Recovery

The mom will have been given anesthesia. Assuming no allergic or negative reaction to the anesthetic, she should recover from this quickly, as soon as the drug is eliminated from her body. Typically, she will have fully recovered from the anesthesia by the time she is discharged and sent home. However, it can take 6 hours or longer to fully eliminate the drugs, and if your dog is still under the influence when she returns home, you will have to closely monitor her to ensure that she does not react badly, fall over, or come to any harm. If she is with her puppies, this includes monitoring to ensure that she doesn’t roll on and hurt any of her puppies.

Eating and Drinking

It is highly unlikely that she will want to eat or drink within the first few hours, but then she may be interested in food and water again. Offer small amounts of both every 20 minutes or so until 24 hours have passed.

If you give her too much food or water too quickly, it can lead to vomiting.

After 24 hours, ensure that you are feeding a high-quality, premium food and expect mom to eat approximately 1.5 times as much food as normal. This amount will continue to increase until she is eating approximately three times her usual amount, during the third week of nursing.

Nursing

Do not leave mom with her puppies until she has fully recovered from the anesthesia and is showing an interest in her babies. Once this happens, you can help by introducing the puppies and mom. Encourage mom to lay still, give her emotional support, and then gently place the puppies near her teets. Usually, puppies will naturally latch on, but you may need to encourage mom to lactate by massaging the teat. This should encourage the puppy to start suckling.

wanida tubtawee_shutterstock_birthImage Credit By: wanida tubtawee, shutterstock

Bloody Discharge

It is normal for mom to experience a bloody vaginal discharge up to a week following the birth. While the discharge can be quite heavy initially, it will usually diminish over the first week and should stop by day seven. If it does not stop, changes color, or starts to smell, you should consult your vet to check for other signs of infection.

Stitch Removal

There are different types of sutures, or stitches, that are used following a C-section. Dissolvable or absorbable stitches naturally dissolve and do not need to be removed. Those that do need to be removed are usually easily visible and will need to be removed approximately 2 weeks after the operation. Staples also need to be removed after this same period.

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Caesarean Section Post-Op Care

Caesarean sections are a type of major surgery that enables a vet to deliver puppies through a cut in the womb and tummy. Emergency and elective C-sections are both used, with the latter proving more successful and less dangerous. In both cases, there are steps that you can take to help mom and puppies recover from this invasive technique. Above all, ensure that babies are nursing, mom is eating and drinking, and there are no signs of infection following the operation.


Featured Image Credit By: namaki, shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.