C-section in dogs

A C-section in dogs is often needed when natural birthing poses risks. Approximately 20% of canine pregnancies encounter complications requiring this intervention.

A C-section in dogs is a surgical procedure that involves administering anaesthesia, making an abdominal incision, and carefully extracting puppies from the uterus. The procedure is crucial when complications arise during labour, jeopardising the mother or pups. Also referred to as a caesarean section or surgical whelping. You should get veterinary help quickly if your dog is having trouble giving birth.

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What it’s for

When is a C-section in dogs necessary?

A C-section in dogs is recommended when complications during labour (dystocia) endanger the health of the mother or the well-being of the puppies.

Common indications of dystocia include:

  • Prolonged labour
  • Difficulty in delivery due to puppy’s position in the pelvic canal
  • Mismatch in puppy size and mother’s pelvic canal due to the mother’s breed or father’s size disproportion

Consult with a vet if you see any signs of distress or difficulty during labour. Click here for more details on dogs giving birth.

You can also find information on our pregnancy in dogs article.


How it’s done

How is a C-section done in dogs?

Vet checks during pregnancy and just before the due date are very important to prevent emergency labour complications.

If your dog faces labour difficulties, they may need an emergency C-section.

In order to prevent emergency life-threatening situations, your vet may anticipate labour complications and advise a planned C-section.

In a non-emergency or planned C-section, you may expect the following:

Before the surgery day

  • Your dog will have a pre-natal check with a vet, this can include a scan or x-rays.
  • Your dog needs to be starved from the night before.
  • You can leave water available.
  • Try to ensure they go to the toilet on the morning of the operation before you take them to the vet.

In practice

  • A vet or a nurse will admit your dog.
  • Then the vet will do a hands-on examination to make sure the operation can go ahead.
  • When necessary, pre-anesthetic blood tests will be performed.
  • Then a sedative and pain relief will be given to your dog.
  • While waiting for the pre-anaesthetic injection to work, your dog will be kept in a calm, warm kennel.
  • Once the sedative has taken effect, your dog will be put under a full/general anaesthetic.
  • In preparation for surgery, the incision site will be cleaned and clipped while your dog is being closely monitored.
  • Surgery will begin.

During surgery:

  • An incision will be made on your dog’s tummy, followed by one on the uterus.
  • The puppies will be gently extracted one by one.
  • The membrane covering the puppy (amniotic sac) is ruptured and peeled away.
  • The umbilical cord will be cut and stitched, if necessary.
  • The puppies will be wrapped up and massaged until they start breathing and become responsive.
  • If future litters are not intended, a spay (surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries) may be performed.
  • Finally, the mother’s tummy will be sutured and closed.
  • Surgery time should, ideally, not last more than 1 hour.

After surgery

  • Mum will be recovered quickly from anaesthesia to facilitate early nursing and maternal bonding.
  • Mum and pups will be placed in a quiet, warm, comfortable kennel together.
  • They will be monitored closely to ensure she is recovering well and is receptive to the pups.
  • Usually, you can take mum and pups home as soon as they are stable to ensure stress is reduced.

In emergency situations, your vet may try to deliver the puppies naturally or with the help of medication, before deciding to proceed for surgery. In these cases, the procedure is the same, but there will be less opportunity to prepare before the surgery.



How much does a C-section for dogs cost?

Cost depends on:

  • Geographic location of the vet practice
  • Type of anaesthesia monitoring
  • Complexity and time of surgery
    • This will increase if there are any complications during surgery that require further intervention and medication.
  • Hospitalisation time



Are some dogs more at risk of needing a C-section?

Some breeds and mating matches may need a planned (elective) C-section.

  • Breeds with a large head and small pelvis: English and French Bulldogs, Pugs and Norwich Terriers are some of the breeds more prone to difficulties during birthing.
  • Very large puppies: this can happen when there is a mismatch and the father is significantly bigger than the mother.
  • Planned C-sections may also be indicated:
    • If your dog suffers from any underlying health conditions.
    • If there is only one puppy as may not produce enough cortisol to induce labour.

Are there any risks or possible complications for your dog during or after a C-section?

There are several things to consider. Your vet will assess them and discuss it with you.

  • Anaesthetic risk: for both mum and puppies. As most anaesthetic and pain medications cross the placenta, extra precautions are taken to minimise fetal exposure to certain medications.
  • Opening of the surgical wound: excessive rubbing, licking or injury to the skin can damage the surgical site before adequate healing has occurred.
  • Infection: of the uterus or skin incision is possible and can lead to the opening of the wound.
  • Bleeding (haemorrhage): during surgery or after.
  • Death: unfortunately is a possibility at any time before, during, or after the procedure for both mum and puppies.


Recovery tips

How to care for your dog after a C-section

The recovery period is generally 10 to 14 days.

Aftercare includes:

  • Close monitoring of mum and puppies
    • The puppies should nurse as soon as you arrive home. If necessary, place the puppies near the mum’s teats. You can express some milk to encourage nursing.
  • Monitoring mum’s appetite
    • Should start eating within a few hours after surgery. Offer small amounts of food and water frequently (every 30 minutes or so) for the first 24 hours after surgery.
    • Mum should be offered approximately 2 to 3 times the normal amount of food while nursing.
    • Continue a high-quality food for pregnant and nursing dogs. If you do not have access to this, you can use a high-quality puppy food instead.
  • Giving painkiller medications such as paracetamol
    • This should be prescribed by your local vets.
  • Keeping an eye on the puppies
    • Make sure they are all nursing, are active and are always warm.
  • Resting mum
    • Avoid any boisterous movements, play or jumping for 2 weeks following surgery.
  • Monitor the surgical wound
    • Prevent mum from licking it and monitor the puppy’s behaviour to avoid any injury to the area.
    • Inspect the incision regularly for any bleeding, discharge, or small skin openings.
  • Hold off on baths
    • Do not bathe mum for at least 7 to 10 days after surgery.


When to worry

When to worry about your dog after having a C-section

In the days following a C-section surgery, close supervision of your dog is crucial.

Seek vet care if your dog is showing signs of:

  • Weakness (lethargy) that persists more than 24 hours after coming home
  • Bleeding or discharge from the incision site
  • Bleeding or discharge from the vagina that continues for more than 7 days
  • Vaginal discharge that is green-coloured or has a bad smell
  • Pale gums
  • Laboured breathing
  • Tremors, twitching or seizures
  • Vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Pain

Joii can help if:

  • You see bruising around the incision
  • Mum is not eating well
  • Mum refuses to allow the puppies to nurse
  • You cannot keep mum calm
  • Mum licks or chews at the incision site
  • The incision is being injured by puppies nursing
  • You have trouble feeding or caring for the new puppies
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