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C-Section for Dogs: Everything You Should Know

C-Section for Dogs: Everything You Should Know

Cesarean sections, commonly referred to as C-sections, can be a life-saving measure in emergency cases when a dog is experiencing difficulties during labor. If you're unsure whether your dog requires a C-section, our veterinarians across Roswell have put together a guide on how to recognize the signs.

Your Dog's Pregnancy

Did you know that dogs typically carry their puppies for only 63 days? If your furry friend requires a C-section, it's essential to know that there are only four days during which an elective C-section can be safely performed.

This window is between 61 and 65 days after ovulation, but not after breeding. It's fascinating to note that when puppies are ready to be born naturally, they produce a surge of cortisol, which stimulates labor in the mother.

Natural Labor In Dogs & When To Seek Emergency Help

As a pet owner, it's essential to be aware of the three distinct stages of your dog's natural labor process. Although complications may arise at any stage, recognizing the indications of potential issues is crucial.

Therefore, it's imperative to familiarize yourself with the warning signs to ensure that your furry friend's delivery goes as smoothly as possible.

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
  • Your dog will deliver about 5-15 minutes after a puppy arrives. 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.

How much time passes between each birth varies from one dog to another but can be as long as 4 hours. If you know or suspect that there are more puppies to be born, but it has been over 4 hours since the last puppy was birthed, head to your nearest emergency vet for urgent care. Your dog 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

There are several things that you should take along when it's time to head to the vet for your dog's c-section, including:

  • Your cell phone (make sure it's charged!)
  • Tarp, tablecloth, 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've returned home, keeping a close eye on your furry friend and her adorable puppies is crucial. Your veterinarian will provide you with detailed guidelines on how to care for and keep track of the mother and her little ones, along with any prescribed pain medications for your dog. 

Paying close attention to your vet's instructions can aid you in detecting any problems promptly before they escalate into more serious concerns. Therefore, following the instructions carefully is essential to ensure the health and well-being of your dog and her puppies.

When To Call The Vet

How long it will take for your dog to recover from her c-section will vary based on her overall health, difficulties during pregnancy, and other factors. Most dogs will fully recover within about 3 weeks.

If your dog shows signs of fever, stops eating, isn't drinking, develops a swollen mammary gland, or shows signs of infection at the incision site it's time for an urgent call to your vet.

Also, contact your vet if the puppies aren't nursing well, seem fussy, have dark-colored urine, or aren't gaining weight

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 to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.

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

Experienced Emergency Vet Care

Animal Emergency Center of North Fulton is an after-hours and critical care hospital, providing veterinary emergency care since 1991. If your pet is experiencing an emergency, contact us to get the help your pet needs.

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