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C-Section for Dogs: Everything You Should Know

In emergency situations during labor, Cesarean sections (C-sections) may be necessary for dogs experiencing difficulties. However, under certain circumstances, an elective c-section may be advised if your pet's likelihood of complications is high. Our veterinarians in Turlock explore the signs that suggest a c-section may be necessary for your dog.

Your Dog's Pregnancy

Did you know that dogs are only pregnant for 63 days? In the case of a c-section, there are only 4 days during which an elective c-section can be safely performed, that is between 61-65 days after ovulation, not after breeding. It's interesting to note that when puppies are ready to be born naturally, they produce a surge of cortisol which initiates labor in the mother.

Natural Labor In Dogs & When To Seek Emergency Help

Your dog's natural labor process usually occurs in three stages, with potential difficulties arising at any point. Therefore, it's crucial to be aware of 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.

The time between each birth for dogs may vary, and it can extend up to 4 hours. In case you suspect that there are more puppies to be born, but it has been over four hours since the last birth, it is advisable to rush to your nearest emergency vet for immediate care. Your furry friend 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 pushes for 30 – 60 minutes without producing a puppy.
  • Weak contractions for 2 hours or more without producing a puppy
  • Signs of illness include 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
  • 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
  • bath your dog 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

When you're heading to the vet for your dog's c-section, make sure to bring along several important items, such as:

  • 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 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 dog 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.


Once you return home, it will be crucial to keep a close eye on your dog and her puppies. Your veterinarian will provide you with thorough guidelines for taking care of and observing the mom and puppies, including any pain relief medications given to your dog. Adhering closely to your vet's instructions can enable you to detect any problems promptly, preventing them from escalating into more serious issues.

When To Call The Vet

The length of time for a dog to recover from a c-section can differ based on various factors such as overall health, pregnancy complications, and other factors. Nonetheless, most dogs will fully recuperate within approximately 3 weeks.

In case your dog displays symptoms of fever, stops eating or drinking, develops a swollen mammary gland, or shows signs of infection at the incision site, it is crucial to reach out to your vet as soon as possible.

Additionally, if the puppies are not nursing well, seem fussy, have dark-colored urine, or aren't gaining weight, it's advisable to contact your vet for further assistance.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

If you are concerned that your dog is in distress after a c-section, please contact our Turlock vets for a consultation.

New Patients Welcome

Monte Vista Small Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Turlock companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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