What is Cesarean Section?
In dogs, Cesarean sections are not performed routinely. Rarely, they may be booked if a pregnant dog is known to have an abnormally small pelvis, or if other issues have been diagnosed during the pregnancy. If a dog has previously had a Cesarean section and once again is bred, another C-section will be needed. Most often, a Cesarean section is used on an emergency basis if labor is lasting too long.
X-rays may reveal if any of the puppies have large skulls or if they are in awkward positions. Long labor in dogs is closely linked with death of the pups. Cesarean sections are used to increase survival rates for both the mother and the puppies. As this surgery involves more than one dog, a team of a veterinary surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and a group of nurses are needed to perform the operation.
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Cesarean Section Procedure in Dogs
The vast majority of cesarean sections in dogs are unplanned. The dog has often been in labor for several hours, and is likely to be dehydrated to some degree. Administering fluids and electrolytes intravenously is often the first step in stabilizing the mother for surgery. The vet must also determine if the dog is in shock, and treat her accordingly. General anesthesia is damaging to small puppies, and should be used as sparingly as possible. To assist in this measure, all preparation for the surgery should be done before general anesthesia is given. Medication can be given to calm the animal at this time.
The lower abdomen can then be shaved and cleaned. Extra care is needed in keeping the site clean, as antibiotics can present further complications in nursing mothers and young puppies. General anesthesia can then be given, with local anesthesia, such as an epidural, also being used to lessen the amount of general anesthesia needed. Everything done from this point onward should be done both as fast and as carefully as possible.
An incision is made from the bellybutton to the pubis of the dog. Once the abdomen is open, the uterus is brought to the surface. One horn may be pulled up and carefully incised. The hole must be large enough for the pups to be pulled through. The placentas should be gently detached with each pup if possible. The first uterine horn can be placed back in the body, and the process will then repeat with the second uterine horn. Once all puppies are out, the placentas should be counted to ensure none remain in the uterus, as this can lead to infection. Each pup will need to be removed from its sack, and each cord will need to be clamped and then cut. The surgical site will then be sutured shut, with subcuticular stitching so as to not interfere with nursing of the pups.
Efficacy of Cesarean Section in Dogs
Cesarean sections result in higher survival rates for both mother and pups than lengthened and difficult labors. There is no other solution to relieve problems in pregnancy. Most Cesarean sections are successful, although rates of puppy survival are lower than mother survival. The procedure is sometimes paired with an ovariohysterectomy if the mother is not to be bred again.
Cesarean Section Recovery in Dogs
The mother will need to be closely monitored as anesthesia wears off. As soon as she is deemed stable enough, the puppies should be introduced to her. This promotes the mother's instincts to nurse. They should be discharged once they are stable, to reduce the risk of infection from exposure in the hospital. A prescription for broad spectrum antibiotics should be used sparingly, only if contamination during surgery is suspected.
Cost of Cesarean Section in Dogs
The cost of performing a cesarean section ranges greatly depending on whether it is done during business hours or not. If it can be completed at a regular veterinary clinic, it can cost as little as $500. If the dog is taken to an animal hospital or emergency clinic, the cost can jump up to $2,000. Both general and local anesthesia may be used, which also adds to the price of the procedure. Two surgical teams are needed, one for the mother and one to receive and or resuscitate the puppies. Medication may be needed post-surgery.
Dog Cesarean Section Considerations
Anesthesia can cause complications to arise in the mother. The effects of general anesthesia on the puppies are associated with greater risks, and therefore use of gases or injections should be limited. Approximately 70 to 90% of puppies survive a cesarean section, while up to 99% of mothers fully recover from the procedure. Hemorrhage during surgery is a possibility, which may result in the need for oxytocin administration, and in severe cases, an ovariohysterectomy. Hemorrhage may also occur after the operation, which can be more life-threatening. Infection of the uterus or surgical site may follow the procedure.
Cesarean Section Prevention in Dogs
Emergency Cesarean sections may be difficult to prevent, as lengthened labor can be hard to predict. Extra measures should be taken while the mother is pregnant to promote her health. She should be fed a high quality diet. She can be taken for check ups throughout the pregnancy to evaluate both her health and the health of the pups. Unhealthy dams should not be bred, as this often results in complicated births. If the dog has had a prior section, it should not be bred.
Cesarean Section Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My bitch has had a c section recently and I feel that there should have had more pups due to the size she was and going on previous litters I've bred over the last 19 years experience and successfully delivering the majority myself, unless having c section, . I have always been right in determining the size of litters sometimes with a give or take of 1. My questions are does the vet performing the c section, what is the legal requirement involved in the vet informing the owner if there is any loss of pups? Is the vet allowed to keep this information from you? This is because I feel in my heart that some of my girls pups did not make it, a loss 3 pups. Are vets required to tell you or not if if any loss of pups? Thankyou Mark
It isn’t just a legal question, it is an ethical one too; it is normal to deliver pups by c-section and to explain to the owner the number born alive and the number stillborn, your Veterinarian is obligated to inform you of any stillborn pups. I understand that with experience that you can judge within a certain margin the number of pups your girl was expecting; however in some instances like in humans when you believe your friend is having twins because the size of the bump at three months, a similar effect may occur with dogs. If you have questions, speak with your Veterinarian since they should document everything as well. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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