Ceasarean section in the bitch


We have data  from 1990 onwards on over 8000 canine caesarean sections. Our experience indicates that it should be an uncomplicated abdominal surgery when performed correctly. One of the most difficult parts of the surgery is making a decision about WHEN to do it. Unfortunately, many veterinarians make mistakes with timing, leading to surgery being performed too early, resulting in weak and sometimes deceased pups. In a 63 day gestation, every 12 hour period makes a big difference in the survivability of neonatal pups as they approach the end of gestation.

The following are some of the factors our vets consider when presented with a bitch in labour:

Days of gestation from ovulation date (most bitches follow a 63 day gestation)

Bitch behaviour and vaginal discharge

Bitch serum progesterone level

Foetal stress (based on ultrasound examination of foetal heart rate and movement)

Foetal head diameter measurement

Bitch reproductive history

Vaginoscopy to assess cervical dilation – it is physically impossible to feel for cervical dilation in most bitches


Once the decision to perform the C section is made, the next sequence of events occurs in an expedient fashion. We encourage all owners and breeders to be involved in the non-surgical aspects of the C section. The bitch is anaesthetised and prepared for surgery. Puppies are soon extracted from the uterus, rubbed vigorously and have their umbilical cords tied off by veterinary nurses. Once the bitch is in recovery, the pups are placed on her teats to have their first suckle. The entire procedure can take between 15 and 30 minutes to complete.


Puppies may receive a single dose of purified canine plasma by injection and/or mouth to provide a colostrum substitute. This is helpful where the bitch has insufficient milk let-down at the time of C section. First-time bitches receive intranasal oxytocin to help to improve mothering after surgery.


Alfaxan Australian C-section Paper

Vet Pharm Therapeutics – 2023 – Hyndman – The effect of doxapram on survival and APGAR score in newborn puppies delivered