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C-Section for Dogs: Everything You Should Know

What does natural labor look like for a dog? When should you seek emergency assistance? When are elective C-sections recommended? What happens during surgery? Our San Jose vets answer these questions and more in this post.

A Dog's Pregnancy

Dogs have a gestation period of only 63 days. There is a narrow window of just four days, from days 61 to 65 after ovulation (not after breeding), during which a safe elective c-section surgical procedure can be performed on a dog.

When puppies are ready to be born naturally, they will trigger an increase in cortisol levels, which in turn induces labor in the mother.

What Natural Labor Looks Like & When to See Emergency Help

A dog's labor has three natural stages. Difficulties can occur at any point during the process, so it's important to be aware of signs of problems.

Stage 1

The first stage of your dog's labor can last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours and is marked by behavioral changes such as panting, shivering, and other noticeable symptoms of anxiety. Once your dog's cervix is dilated, labor will progress to stage 2.

If, after 12 hours, your dog hasn't progressed to stage 2 of labor, contact your veterinarian immediately, as an emergency cesarean section may be necessary. 

Stage 2

This is the delivery stage of labor, during which your dog strains and contracts. A puppy should be born within the first 1-2 hours of this stage.

If no puppies have arrived after 2 hours, please call your primary veterinarian or get to the nearest 24/7 animal emergency clinic immediately. Your dog may require an emergency C-section. She will proceed to the final stage if your dog can deliver her puppies normally.

Stage 3

The third stage of your dog's labor should start between 5-15 minutes after a puppy arrives. This is when she will deliver the placenta. Expect discharge at this point.


If labor goes as should, your dog will alternate between Stages 2 and 3 as each puppy is born.

How long it takes your dog to rest between birthing each puppy will vary from one dog to another, but this rest period can last as long as 4 hours. If you know more puppies are coming, but it has been more than 4 hours since the previous puppy was born, go to your nearest emergency vet for emergency care. Your dog may require a C-section.

Other Signs That Your Dog is in Trouble

Here are a few more signs that may point to labor difficulties and the need for emergency care.

  • Weak contractions for two or more hours without producing a puppy.
  • Your dog has been actively pushing for 30-60 minutes without birthing a puppy.
  • Symptoms of the illness include fever, pain, bloody discharge, and vomiting.

If your dog is in labor and shows any signs listed above, take her to a veterinarian or emergency vet immediately.

When Elective C-Sections are Recommended

Many viable, healthy pregnancies in dogs can proceed without assistance. However, an elective c-section may be recommended in some circumstances. Your dog might require a scheduled c-section if:

  • There is only one puppy, which may not produce enough cortisol to induce its mother's labor
  • Puppies are very large
  • Your dog is suffering from any underlying health issues
  • Your dog is one of the breeds not capable of a safe vaginal delivery, including the Boston Terrier, French Bulldog, Pekingese, Bulldog, Scottish Terrier, Mastiff, German Wirehaired, Miniature Bull Terrier, Clumber Spaniel or Dandie Dinmont Terrier.

If your dog requires a cesarean section, it will typically be scheduled 63 days from ovulation, which aligns closely with its ideal due date, usually within 24 hours.

Many pet owners inquire about the maximum number of cesarean sections a dog can undergo. We advise consulting your veterinarian to assess your dog's health and individual circumstances, as this limit may vary.

While it is technically feasible for a veterinarian to utilize existing surgical scars and anatomical landmarks to minimize additional trauma in subsequent cesarean sections, responsible breeders advocate for limiting the number of procedures a dog undergoes.

Rather than subjecting a dog to an indefinite number of cesarean sections, it is widely recommended that dogs undergo no more than 2-3 cesarean sections throughout their lifetime. This approach aims to preserve the mother's and her offspring's well-being.

Your veterinarian will evaluate your dog's condition and determine the necessity and safety of a cesarean section for your pet.

How many c-sections can a dog have?

When it comes to how many c-sections a dog can have, there is no set answer, but many vets believe that a dog should not have more than 2-3 c-sections in a lifetime. Having more than three could affect the health of your dog and their future puppies.

How To Prepare for Your Dog's C-Section

Leading up to your pup's c-section, there are a number of things you can do to prepare:

  • Stop using flea and tick products on your dog one week before her C-section
  • Apply an Adaptil (DAP) collar three 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 her C-section
  • Do not provide food on the day of the surgery
  • Speak to your vet about any medications your dog is taking- they will let you know if you should withhold medications on the day of surgery.
  • Water may be given until you leave for the vet's office

When it comes to dog c-sections and how much they will cost, your veterinarian will be able to provide an estimate, which a number of factors such as age, weight, physical condition, time and place of the c-section procedure, and number of puppies may impact. 

What to Take Along to Your Vet's Office

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

  • Your changed cell phone
  • Tarp, table cloth, or other easy clean covering for your seats or carpets in the car
  • Large crate to keep your dog in
  • Blankets and towels
  • Heating pad and a way to power it - to keep puppies warm
  • Plastic laundry basket, ice chest without the lid, or strong cardboard box to carry puppies home in 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 an hour or two before the scheduled c-section surgery. Common procedures leading up to a c-section include:

  • Vaginal examination to check for signs of active labor
  • Imaging such as 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.

After Your Dog's C-Section Surgery

When you return home, you must carefully monitor your dog and her puppies. Your vet will provide detailed instructions on caring for and monitoring the puppies and mom and any pain medications prescribed for your dog.

Following your vet's instructions carefully can help you spot any issues right away before they become more severe.

While a C-section is a common procedure, there are still some risks of complications after a dog's C-section. It's important to discuss these with your veterinarian before the procedure. Risks and complications related to c-sections in dogs include:

  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia or other medications administered during surgery
  • Dystocia (if your dog has previously suffered from this in the past) and/or uterine inertia
  • Bleeding, blood clots, wound infections
  • Damage to uterus
  • Severe complications of incision scars tear open (occurs in some cases)
  • Injury to puppies during the c-section. Other risks to puppies include fetal absorption, fetal putrefaction, malnutrition, breathing difficulties, and placental ruptures.

Following surgery, recovery time from anesthesia typically ranges from 2-6 hours. Recovery time from the procedure will vary based on your dog, whether there have been any complications during or after the procedure, and the toll on her body for the 63 days prior to labor. 

Certain aftercare measures can aid the recovery process. Ask your vet about how you can best care for your dog and her puppies after c-sections. 

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 three 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. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your dog pregnant? Contact our vets at Bloom Plaza Animal Hospital to schedule an examination. Our vets are experienced in performing C-section surgeries to help dogs produce healthy puppies.

Now Welcoming New Patients

Bloom Plaza Animal Hospital is now welcoming new cat and dog patients! Our professional and talented vets are dedicated to the health of San Jose's companion animals. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for your furry friend. 

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