Fox Point Farm
Does My Dog Need a C-Section
Dog Pregnancy, Whelping Signs, Helpful Hints, Tools, Signs your Dog needs a C-section

I can't tell you how many times I heard breeders say you would just lose a puppy or two in each litters, especially large ones. It almost seemed like a foregone conclusion that the tiniest one or two would perish, "that's just nature's way", I'd hear. When my precious Maggie had a c-section and four tiny puppies I knew I wanted them to ALL survive.

 Maggie was a tiny, perfect color, perfect markings, personality from Heaven, expensive toy-size sheltie female. When I bought her, I knew she had had a c-section before and knew chances were she would need one again. Please note, if a female was too little to free whelp her puppies once, she isn't going to grow before the next litter. If she needed a c-section once, she will probably need one again.

 We bred her to my pride and joy, Frosty, and waited for the big day. The books say dog gestation is 64 days. I calculate from the first day bred and note how long she was standing. Most girls won't stand until after bleeding stops (usually day 7) and some will stand up to a week after at. Keep good records, write it down, you think you will remember but its too hard. I count 64 day from the first day standing, but keep in mind the ending date too. My dogs have whelped as early as 60 days (not much hair and challenge to get them going) to as late as 66 days (they have thick coats and look a week old). If your dog has gone 68 days, you are in trouble! Keep records!

I take my girls into our vet at what I believe is an average 50 days pregnant for an xray. The xray is a valuable information tool! Puppies are not mineralized enough before 45 days to show up, so you can get an idea of where you are and if your numbers look correct. If puppies are highly visible, you know you are getting closer, if you see clear eye sockets and contours on the skulls, you are due or close. You can see how many puppies to expect (not a perfect science but you can get an educated guess), fewer puppies might equal bigger puppies, better for survival, harder to deliver. Lots of puppies could be a red flag too, if mom's calcium has gone all to forming puppies, her muscles won't function properly to push them out. Xrays give you a glimpse of what's to come.

I start taking mom's temp about 10 days prior to delivery. I set up her whelping box/birthing suite, and start having her sleep in it at night. I now use large rabbit hutches, with deep plastic bottoms and wire tops. I prefer a large top entry door. I cover it with towels and leave a window open for mom to see out and for me to see in. I elevate the 'crate' so its eye level with my bed. I get a heating pad WITHOUT an automatic shutoff and a space heater with a thermostat. I line the box with towels and get her used to it. I also get a postal scale on which to weigh my puppies, slight weight changes are a big deal.

Poor Maggie had the cardboard box lined with towels on the floor in the bedroom. She could easily get in and out. And we keep our house at a warm 68-70 degrees, I thought it was warm.

Normal temp is 100.5-101.5, taking temp every day gets you used to what's normal for your dog. Temp will drop to 98-99.3 within 24 hours of delivery. If temp drops, nothing happens, goes back up to 100, then goes down to 99.5 and fluctuates, you may have a problem.

We didn't do an xray and waited for normal labor for Maggie. Sure enough one night she started panting, then scratching making a nest, we knew it was time. But nothing happened. She didn't push, she just quit. The next morning I took her to my vet and xplained what happened. He thought I was overreacting since I couldn't prove dates or temps, temp was now 99.5, looked like I could be overreacting. They put her on an IV of Oxytocin to see if she would go ahead and go. She stayed on it all day long and nothing happened. By that evening they asked what I wanted to do, I said a c-section, he palpated her and said indeed she needed one, only a tail had made it into the canal.

I know now that if she was 64 days, her temp had dropped, she went through panting/scratching, and nothing happened, do c-section right away, don't leave the mom pushing (stressing herself and the puppies) for hours waiting to see if you were just overreacting. You risk losing that puppy who is in position, most say you will lose it every time, only if you are too slow.

C-sections are graphic and not for the faint of heart. I feel if you put your girl through it you should be able to handle it too. The vet will sedate her, put in an IV catheter, put a tube down her throat, tie each leg back to the corners of the operating table, have her belly, make a long incision down her mid-line, pull out the long tube of puppies (looks like a stuffed sausage) still in her uterus and place it on her belly. He will cut it open and start working puppies out. Puppies come out 'still-born' with lungs full of water, you must squeeze them, sling them and rub them vigorously to wake them up and get them to breathe. It is not gentle or delicate, be prepared!

C-section moms take several hours to recover from the drugs and you need to supervise her until she is awake and fully aware and caring for her babies. Some c-section moms wake up and try to kill their babies (remove immediately and bottle or tube feed), or they lie on them and suffocate them accidentally. Make sure all puppies nurse from the colostrum at least that first 6-8 hrs before you supplement to get all the antibodies from mom. If a puppy is smaller or losing weight, you should tube-feed it before it gets weak.

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