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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

News & Views July 2019 Issue

Dear Doctor: A C-section to deliver the puppies?

Q. Do dogs ever get C-sections?

Esther Millhouse

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Dear Ms. Millhouse,

A. It’s not an altogether uncommon scenario, says Your Dog editor-in-chief, John Berg, DVM, a veterinary surgeon at Tufts. “We probably do one to two a month,” he reports.

Indeed, the inability to deliver one or more puppies vaginally, called dystocia, is estimated to occur in about one in every six dogs. Dr. Berg describes the case of one German shepherd who was having contractions so she could deliver her nine pups. Seven finally came with the administration of calcium, which assists in the contraction of uterine musculature, and also oxytocin, a hormone given to some women to induce labor. But the last two were reluctant to make their way into the world, even though more than 12 hours had passed. A C-section at Tufts was required to remove those healthy pups.

Breeds most prone to C-section include English bulldogs (their puppies’ very large heads are difficult for the mother to push through the vaginal canal), Scottish terriers, Chihuahuas, Pomerians, Irish wolfhounds, and Great Danes. Issues can range from failure of the uterus to contract properly to a small pelvic canal, a very large fetus, or a fetus that is mal-positioned.

If a dog in labor has reached the point where her contractions are visible with very strong effort but no puppy has emerged after 30 minutes, get her to the hospital. This doesn’t just have to be for her first pup in a litter.

Also get her to the hospital if more than 4 hours have passed between the delivery of one puppy and the next. It shouldn’t take longer than that between births. In some instances, waiting too long can be life-threatening to both puppy and mother.

In determining whether birth is progressing normally, it can be very valuable to know how many puppies to expect. This can easily be determined by having your veterinarian take an x-ray a week or two before the puppies are due.

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