Cesarean Section (C-Section)

Whether you are a breeder or have an accidental litter, you might be faced with the need for a Cesarean section (C-section). There are many reasons that female pets require a C-section, ranging from a narrow birth canal, extremely large fetus, mal-positioned fetus or maternal exhaustion. In some cases, a C-section can save the mother and litter’s lives. Our surgeons strive to provide our patients with surgical care during regular business hours.  However, because we do not have staff on site 24 hours a day, some Cesarean sections must be referred to emergency clinics.  It is very important for you to know what to watch for that would indicate your pet is in distress during delivery so you can reach out for help in a timely manner.  

How do I know if labor is progressing normally?

Labor and delivery can be extremely variable..it is never the same twice.  Here is what you can expect in most cases.

1st stages of labor:  Mother becomes restless, paces, nests.  Temperature drops to around 98.5 degrees.  No evidence of contractions or pushing at this time.  Can go on for hours so the best thing to do at this point is put the mother in a quiet place with a birthing box and leave her alone.

2nd stages of labor:  Mother begins pushing and having active contractions.  If she pushes for more than 60 minutes and does not deliver a fetus, it is time to call for help.  After she has a fetus, the time for her to have another is extremely variable.  As long as she is not pushing, let her rest.  Once contractions and pushing begin again, she should not be allowed to strain for more than 30 minutes for all subsequent puppies or kittens.

3rd stages of labor:  Placenta is passed following delivery of the fetus.  Do not attempt to pull on the placenta.

Some of the most common mistakes pet owners make while their pet is in labor include:

  • Hovering:  Your pet's instinct is to find a quiet isolated place to deliver their litter.  You must leave them alone and only have one family member check on them very quietly every 30 minutes to observe for distress.
  • Trying to get them to eat and drink during labor.  They will not be interested, and if a C-section ends up being necessary, they will be at greater risk for aspiration when they are anesthetized.
  • Trying to speed up delivery by walking their pet.  It is best to let nature take its course.  As long as the mother is comfortable and is caring for the newborns that have been delivered, leave her alone.

If my veterinarian recommends a Cesarean section, what does it involve?

Unfortunately, most Cesarean sections are performed once labor has stalled and the lives of the mother and her offspring are in danger.  In all cases, great precision and care are taken to ensure the safety and health of all patients. If time permits, preanesthetic bloodwork and supportive care are performed on the mother to ensure that she will be able to withstand general anesthesia and surgery.  The least amount of general anesthesia required for comfort is used to help facilitate fetal resuscitation after surgical delivery from the uterus. Often, an injection of local anesthesia around the proposed incision site is used to lessen the total amount of general anesthesia necessary. During surgery, each newborn is gently extracted from the uterus and placed in neonatal intensive care where breathing is stimulated, the amniotic sac is removed, fluid is taken out of their lungs, and their umbilical cords are tied. Surgery is completed by suturing the uterus, body wall and skin closed.

The mother and her litter remain under neonatal care for several hours to make sure she recovers uneventfully from anesthesia and that all of the newborns are nursing.  It is very unusual for new mothers to need help caring for their new litter.  If necessary, our trained staff, will guide the new mom in nurturing her litter. If there are any concerns regarding the mother's ability to care for the litter, or there are individual offspring that need additional care, our staff will counsel you regarding supplemental care and nutrition.  Once the mother and the newborns are considered stable, they will be released to their owner.

Care of the mother postoperatively is routine with restriction of activity, monitoring of the incision, and restricting access to the incision to prevent her from licking and chewing at it.  The newborns do not generally cause any irritation to the incision by nursing.  The incision will be rechecked in 7-10 days and sutures removed if necessary.  At that checkup, the veterinarian will also make certain that your pet is recovering from pregnancy and delivery normally.

If you have any questions about Cesarean section surgeries or would like to schedule a surgery, please contact our office.

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