Everything you need to know to prepare you, your bitch, and your household for the upcoming scheduled C-section delivery of a litter of puppies.
Scheduling the Bitch’s C-Section
You can estimate a bitch will be due to whelp 63 days after the day she ovulated. Ovulation occurs when the progesterone reaches 4 to 8 ng/dl. At our practice, we frequently schedule c-sections 62 days after ovulation so you don’t end up in the middle of the night at your local emergency clinic.
In most cases, 63 days from ovulation is within 24 hours of her ideal due date. However, in some cases such as in bitches carrying large litters or without precise progesterone timing at the breeding, this timing may be off by a few hours. Because of this, we recommend you monitor her the last 48 hours before her surgery to be sure she does not go into labor unattended.
Before the Bitch’s C-Section Surgery
Three days before her surgery, please apply an Adaptil (DAP) collar. These come in two sizes, and emit a pheromone that we believe helps with maternal skills for 4 weeks.
A day or two prior to her surgery, you may wish to bathe her if you can do so safely. This means she will be cleaner for surgery and for taking care of her puppies. You may also wish to shave part of her abdomen to minimize the shaving the veterinary clinic will do.
You may feed her dinner the night before her surgery but do not give her food the morning of her surgery. She may have access to water until she is ready to travel to the vet. If she is on any medications, she may have those the morning of her surgery, with only enough canned dog food or cheese to coat the tablet. Ask your vet if you have questions about specific medications. Do not use any topical flea and tick products on her within one week of her due date.
What to Prepare Before the Bitch’s C-Section
In advance of your bitch’s scheduled C-section, have your whelping area ready for your arrival home. This includes:
- Having a quiet warm area of your home or kennel designated for the nursery. Limit access to this area to children, extra people, and dogs.
- Whelping nest or other heated area.
- Wading pool.
- Whelping and neonatal care supplies:
- Rectal thermometer.
- Room thermometer.
- Heat source, avoiding heat lamps as they are fire hazards. T.E Scott whelping nest works great.
- Tincture of iodine for umbilical cord care.
- Puppy scale.
- Record keeping system for weights, temps, urine color, and other notes.
- Marking system for puppies – avoid neck bands.
- Feeding tube.
- Puppy formula.
- Medi-nurser baby bottle.
- Bulb syringe and DeeLee Mucus trap.
- Disinfectant for the whelping box.
What to Bring to the Bitch’s C-Section Surgery
Bring the following with you to her C-section, so you may assist with an en route delivery (we hope this doesn’t happen) and safely transport your bitch and new litter home:
- The bitch.
- Your charged cell phone.
- A tarp or vinyl tablecloth to cover the seats or floor of the vehicle.
- A large crate for the bitch.
- Blankets and towels.
- Heating pad and inverter to run the heating pad.
- Plastic laundry basket or ice chest to take the pups home in. Drape the towel across the inside to prevent the lid from sealing tightly.
- Bulb syringe and DeeLee mucus trap in case she whelps en route.
What to Expect the Day of C-Section Surgery
Typically, you will need to arrive 1 to 2 hours prior to her scheduled C-section. At most practices, she will have the following procedures performed:
- Evaluation for active labor, which may include a vaginal examination.
- Radiographs (X-rays) and/or ultrasound.
- IV catheter placement. Her front leg will be shaved for this.
- Medications ordered by the veterinarian caring for her.
- Shaving for her surgery.
- Blood tests drawn and run, which may include progesterone and pre-op blood work if not previously done.
- Wrapping her tail, if she has one, to keep her tail clean until she is ready to discharge.
What Happens During Canine C-Section Surgery?
When the veterinary staff are ready to start her surgery, she will be taken to the surgery suite. She will have her anesthesia induced. Then they will start her C-section. In some practices, you may be invited to the treatment area where the pups are being cared for.
It is best to allow the highly trained veterinary staff to provide neonatal resuscitation and care. After the pups are resuscitated, the staff will remove placentas, begin umbilical cord care, proceed with record keeping, and treat any pups with medical conditions as directed by the veterinarian. They will be moved to an incubator or warming area. Prior to leaving the veterinary clinic, ask if you can help her pups nurse for their first meal.
What Medical Care Do You Need to Do At Home After Canine C-Section Surgery?
After the C-section, a variety of medications will be sent home with you for your bitch and her puppies. These may include:
- Pain medications – usually MetacamR (meloxicam) or RimadylR (carprofen) for post op pain management.
- Reglan/metacam – to aid in improved lactation by increasing milk production.
- Oxytocin – to aid in lactation by increasing milk letdown.
- Nemex and strongid – as dewormers to start 2 weeks post partum.
- AdaptilTM collar – if not already applied pre-op to improve maternal skills.
- Plasma – for the pups, to be used via a feeding tube or by sq injection if there is any doubt about colostrums availability for the pups.
Caring for the Bitch and Puppies After C-Section
After her C-section, please watch for the following:
- Monitor the bitch to be sure she is willing to accept and care for the pups safely. Do not leave the pups with her unattended until you are sure they are safe.
- Monitor that she does not lay on the pups.
- Monitor the pup’s weights, temperatures, and urine color twice daily, and record, to be sure they are gaining well and nursing adequately.
- Bottle or tube feed the pups if they are not gaining well or staying well hydrated.
- Contact your veterinary clinic for assistance if the pups are fussy, not nursing well, have dark-colored urine or are not gaining weight.
- Monitor the bitch’s incision, mammary glands, temperature, and appetite. Contact your veterinary clinic if she runs a fever over 103 degrees Fahrenheit, fails to eat and drink well, has a firm swelling of the mammary gland, or there are abnormalities of the incision.
- It is normal for her to have bloody vaginal discharge the first few days after the pups are born, slowly changing to gray. Contact your veterinary clinic if there is excessive blood, odor to the discharge, or an odd color to the discharge.
Preparing for the C-Section Follow-Up Vet Visit
Your next visit to the veterinary clinic will include:
- Taildock and/or dewclaw removal for appropriate breeds 3-to-5 days after birth.
- Suture removal for C-section 10 to 14 days post-op.
- Deworming at weeks 2, 4, 6, and 8 for the pups (Nemex) and the bitch (Strongid T).
- Health exams, health certificates for travel, microchips, and first vaccinations at 8 weeks.
- Placing pups in new homes, with contracts after 8 weeks of age.