What is Induction of Labor?

For most dogs, the process of labor and delivery of a litter is a very simple process that occurs without any help or interference. However, there are certain instances in which this process does not occur on what vets consider to be a normal timeline. The normal period of gestation for dogs is 9 weeks or 63 days. In the event a dog goes past 65 days of gestation, it may be necessary to induce labor. A qualified veterinarian should be the one to perform the induction of labor in dogs to reduce the risk of injury or death to both mother and puppies. 

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Induction of Labor Procedure in Dogs

In the event the dog is suffering from issues that are causing her problems with being able to deliver her pups, the vet will probably recommend admission to a pet hospital for further evaluation and possible treatment. 

The first step is to provide supportive care in the form of an IV to help maintain her electrolyte levels and keep her hydrated. The vet may also recommend injecting her with a calcium and dextrose supplement. These will help strengthen her uterine contractions and boost her systems. 

The vet should then examine the dog to ensure all the puppies are in the proper position for birth. When everything appears to be in place for a normal healthy birth, he may inject her with a dose of oxytocin.  Dosages range from 2 to 20 units, which the vet can administer in 30-minute intervals. This drug will help to speed up and increase the strength of her contractions to facilitate the birthing process. If necessary, the vet may also need to manually assist in the birthing process. 

It may be necessary for the vet to provide more than one injection of oxytocin over a period of hours to fully induce labor. In this case, the dog must be under constant surveillance to ensure neither the medication nor the labor process are putting mother and puppies at risk of injury or death. Bear in mind, if induction of labor does not work, caesarean surgery may be the only way to avoid death for mother and puppies. 

Efficacy of Induction of Labor in Dogs

The efficacy of inducing labor in dogs varies depending greatly on the breed, how many puppies she is carrying, and any prevailing medical conditions. If the puppies are not in the proper birth position or are simply too big to pass through the birth canal, induction is more likely to cause injury or death to mother and puppies. 

The use of oxytocin does not always guarantee a successful outcome. In fact, studies show it is only effective in approximately 30 to 40 percent of all cases. There are many instances in which the use of oxytocin results in the delivery of part of the litter, but not all of it. When this occurs, the vet will have no choice but to perform a caesarean section to remove any remaining puppies. Doing this will also reduce the risk of injury or death to the pups and their mother. 

Induction of Labor Recovery in Dogs

Provided the mother is in good physical health and has received the medical attention she needs in a timely manner, the prognosis for recovery is excellent. Provide a clean space for mother and pups in a quiet area of the home where someone can continuously monitor them without disturbing them. 

Look for signs of pain or discomfort, lethargy, discharge, and unusual aggression. In the event any of these symptoms present, contact the veterinarian for further assistance and instructions. 

Be sure the mother has easy access to plenty of food and fresh water because producing the milk needed to feed a litter takes a lot of energy and water. 

The overall prognosis for recovery from induction of labor for dogs is very good providing medical assistance was available in a timely manner and that she was in good health before and during the pregnancy. 

Cost of Induction of Labor in Dogs

Treating a birth difficulties in dogs, especially those that result in the induction of labor, can be expensive. Prices can range from as low as $500 to $5,000 or more depending on the severity of the dog's condition and the prevailing rates for both veterinarian and veterinary hospital. The average cost across the U.S. for induction without a C-Section is approximately $2,000. 

Some pet owners try to avoid these costs by using natural home remedies such as rubbing the mother's nipples which may help stimulate the production of hormones known to induce labor. Others believe walking the dog in short intervals can help along with massaging stomach muscles. But, if labor has started and delivery has not begun within 24 hours, it is time to call the vet. 

Dog Induction of Labor Considerations

There are risks involved in the use of drugs to induce labor in dogs. Oxytocin should not be used when:

  • The dog has an allergy to the drug or is hypersensitive to it 
  • There is the possibility of interaction with another medication the dog is currently taking 
  • If the fetus is sitting in an abnormal position or is too big to fit through the birth canal
  • If the cervix is NOT dilated
  • If the dog has uncorrected low blood sugar or calcium levels 
  • If the oxytocin is not administered properly, it could lead to complications such as a ruptured uterus or excessive pain from uterine cramping 

Induction of Labor Prevention in Dogs

There are several simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of dystocia (labor difficulties) in dogs. The first is to make sure the dog is healthy and eating a healthy balanced diet. Age plays a large role in birthing difficulties, making it vital the dog is not too old to have puppies as her body may not be up to the stress and strain. 

To ensure the dog can have a litter, she should receive regular veterinary care. This may include x-rays during the pregnancy to ensure it is proceeding normally and that there are no complications. The mother should get plenty of rest during the latter part of the pregnancy to ensure the pups are in position for delivery. While supplements are generally not necessary, a calcium and dextrose supplement towards the end of the gestation period may help strengthen muscles and the dog's overall health, putting her in a better position to deliver her litter normally.