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A caesarean is a major abdominal surgery to remove puppies from your dog’s uterus. It is an emergency procedure when there are concerns for the puppies/bitch or complications with the birth. Most dogs will recover quickly from this procedure, however if your dog was in labour for an extended period or had birthing complications, her recovery may be slower with extra attention required for her recovery as well as her puppies’ care.


What should I expect during the mother’s recovery period?

During the surgery, your dog will be administered a fast acting general anaesthetic. This is eliminated from her body quickly and will enable her to regain consciousness as she is moved from the surgery to recovery area. A complete recovery from an anaesthetic may take several hours dependent on the dog’s physical condition, size, age and temperament. While we like to reunite mother and puppies as soon as possible after the surgery, your dog must be restrained during her recovery to ensure she does not fall, injure herself or her puppies. The puppies should not be left alone with her until she is completely awake and co-ordinated; this normally means that she will need to spend a few hours after her surgery at the veterinary clinic where she is monitored closely by experienced veterinary nurses and veterinarians.

The mother should be interested in eating within a few hours post-op; however she must be completely awake for food to be offered at this time. For the first 48 hours after the operation, she should be offered small quantities of puppy food and water frequently, being carefully that she does not eat large meals at once which could result in vomiting. Immediately after whelping / caesarean your dog’s food intake should be approximately one and a half times her normal non-pregnant intake. This ensures she is absorbing enough calories to adequately feed her puppies and sustain herself. By the third and fourth week of nursing, her food intake may be two to two and a half times normal and her greatest food intake will be at the time of greatest milk production which is approximately three weeks post whelping. Nutrition is a major factor in your dog and puppies recovery period and must be managed carefully.

The mother’s temperature may rise around one degree Celsius above normal for the first one-three days after delivery, then it should return to the normal range. Your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics, pain relief or medications to be given immediately and in the days following the operation. If you are at all worried about the condition of your dog or puppies, do not hesitate to contact your veterinary surgeon.

When should the puppies begin to nurse?

The puppies should be encouraged to feed as soon as possible after the operation. Although the mother may not be awake enough to handle the nursing alone, it may be possible to assist the situation by keeping her still so the puppies can suckle. If the mother does not have any milk at first, the puppies may need to be supplemented with formula for the first day or so. There are several good canine milk substitutes available as well as feeding bottles and teats for puppies.

Although it is desirable for the puppies to begin nursing immediately after birth, a healthy newborn can survive up to 12 hours without nursing. However if the newborn is weak, dehydrated or chilled, nourishment must be given as soon as possible.

How warm should we keep the room where the puppies are?

A newborn puppy is unable to regulate its body temperature very well. As long as the puppies stay near their mother, the room temperature is not critical as the mother will provide body heat. However, if they are not with their mother, the environmental temperature should be between 29-32 degrees Celsius. If a heat lamp or other artificial form of heating is used, it is important to ensure that overheating does not occur.

Is vaginal discharge normal?

A bloody vaginal discharge is normal for 3-7 days following the birth. It may be quite heavy for the first three days, then it should begin to diminish. If it continues for longer than a few days or you are at all concerned about the amount, colour or smell of the discharge, consult a veterinarian immediately. If your dog was de-sexed at the time of the caesarean, vaginal discharge should be minimal and monitored carefully.

What does it mean if the puppies are crying frequently?

Puppies should sleep or be nursing 90% of the time. If they are crying or whining frequently something is likely to be wrong. Uterine infections, poor quality milk and infected milk are the most likely causes contributing to ‘fading puppy syndrome’. An entire litter can die within 24 hours so if you are at all concerned about the puppies’ well being, contact your veterinary clinic immediately.

When are sutures removed?

Depending on the type of suture used, they may or may not need to be removed, follow your veterinarian's’ advice. Removal of sutures is generally 10-14 days post operatively.

When should the puppies be weaned?

Weaning can commence around 3-4 weeks. The first step is to offer a puppy milk replacer in a flat saucer until they begin to lap. Once lapping begins, a puppy type food should be added to the milk mixture, this may be canned wet food or puppy biscuits softened in hot water. The milk mixture can be gradually reduced so they are only eating solid food; this is generally around 6-8 weeks of age. They should have fresh clean water at all times.

When are the puppies treated for worms?

Puppies should be treated for worms from approximately 2 weeks of age depending on the breed. It is important that accurate weights are obtained for the puppies so that the correct dose of medication can be used. Speak to your veterinary clinic staff regarding the choice of medication used and doses required.

When should vaccinations begin?

First vaccinations typically begin at around 6 weeks of age. If your puppies were not able to nurse during their first three days of life, they will not have received proper immunity antibodies from their mother. In this situation vaccinations may need to be started earlier. Many breeders today ensure that a vaccination has been given to the puppies before they go to new homes. This should be discussed with your local veterinary clinic and a vaccination programme put in place.

Ongoing Care

Your dog will need ongoing post natal care in the form of examinations, suture removals, flea and worming as well as puppy flea, worming, feeding and vaccinations. We strongly recommend contacting your veterinary clinic after your dog’s caesarean to make these appointments.

This advice does not substitute a proper consultation with a veterinarian and is intended only as a guide. We recommend you follow all advice as given by your veterinarian and contact them immediately with any concerns. You must follow medications as dispensed by your veterinary clinic and monitor your pet closely during their recovery period noting any changes and contacting your veterinary clinic as needed.

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