What is Dystocia?
To be able to determine whether your dog is suffering from dystocia or not, you need to know the date she should give birth. If she has not given birth within 65 days after you find out she is pregnant, you need to call your veterinarian. Taking her temperature daily after the due date can help and when her temperature falls below 99 degrees Fahrenheit, she should deliver within 24 hours. Some dogs are more susceptible to dystocia, because giving birth is a lengthy and strenuous process for your pet that includes a great deal of stress and changes in heart rate, respirations, and even her temperature.
Dystocia is a common disorder which can mean any type of difficult birth in dogs. There are several types of dystocia that can happen at any stage of labor and delivery. All of these difficulties are dangerous enough to be life threatening to the birthing canine and her pups. Even though most dogs are able to go through the processes of labor and birth with no problems, sometimes there are complications that require either your help or the help of a veterinary professional.
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Symptoms of Dystocia in Dogs
The symptoms depend on the cause of the dystocia, but the most common are:
- Labor starts less than 56 days after conception
- Labor has not started after 70 days
- Bloody discharge
- Green or black discharge for several hours without delivering
- Strong contractions for more than an hour without delivering
- Fetus trapped in the birth canal
- Straining more than two hours without delivering
- Longer than five hours between delivering puppies
- Fever higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39.5°C)
- Extreme lethargy or weakness without delivering any puppies
There are many types of dystocia, but the most commonly reported are:
- Abnormal position of the fetus
- Extremely large fetus
- Birth canal too small
- Lack of effective uterine contractions
Causes of Dystocia in Dogs
- Age (too young or too old)
- Extremely small dog breeds (Pekingese, Boston Terrier, Chihuahua, Bulldog, Pug, Toy Poodle)
- Breeds with large heads or flat faces
- Mother extremely overweight
- Previous dystocia
Diagnosis of Dystocia in Dogs
If you believe your dog is having trouble giving birth, you should call your veterinarian or an emergency clinic. You will need to explain over the phone what is going on so they can tell you whether you should take care of it yourself or bring her to the clinic. In most cases, the veterinarian will tell you to come in because they are usually against telling untrained people to do procedures over the phone.
Once you get to the veterinarian’s office or clinic, you should describe what is going on and bring your dog’s medical records if you can. A physical examination will be done, including abdominal palpation, body temperature, blood pressure, weight, pupil reaction time, reflexes, respiratory rate, pulse, and breath sounds. The veterinarian will also do a thorough examination of the birth canal to check for any obvious signs of the problem. Abdominal radiographs (x-rays) and an ultrasound will be done next to check the number of fetuses, their sizes and positions, and to see if there are any obvious obstructions. CT scans and MRI may also be done if necessary. Other diagnostic tests may include a serum biochemical analysis, complete blood count (CBC), blood glucose, and a packed cell volume (PCV) to check the amount of hemoglobin, hematocrit, and electrolytes.
Treatment of Dystocia in Dogs
The treatment depends on what the problem is although in the majority of cases, the veterinarian will end up performing a cesarean section (C-section).
If there are fetuses in abnormal positions, the veterinarian will first try to manipulate the puppy into the right position. If that does not work, a C-section will probably be recommended.
Large Fetus or Small Birth Canal
If the puppy is too large or the birth canal is too small, your veterinarian may try to manipulate the fetus or use lubrication and forceps to help. If this does not work, however, the veterinarian will do a C-section.
Lack of Contractions
If the contractions have stopped, have not started, or if they are not strong enough to push the puppies out, the veterinarian will most likely administer oxytocin or calcium gluconate with intravenous (IV) fluids, as well as electrolytes and oxygen. These medications stimulate the uterine to begin contractions or to make them stronger. Of course, if this does not work, the veterinarian will need to perform a C-section.
Recovery of Dystocia in Dogs
The veterinarian may want to keep your dog and her puppies for at least 24 hours for observation. If she had a C-section, the stay may be a little longer. Once your dog is able to go home, you need to provide a safe and comfortable place in your home where she can rest. If she had surgery, you may have to bottle feed the puppies until she has healed enough to nurse. The veterinarian will give you instructions if that is necessary. To prevent this from recurring, the best idea is to get her spayed. However, if you wish to keep breeding her, you should plan a C-section in advance.