[BLOG] Risk of dystocia in the bitch: what about elective C-section?

One of the most stressful moment when you breed dogs is definitely parturition. Bitches are what we call a polytocous species (=they usually give birth to several offsprings) so whelping might not always go as “smoothly” as we expect. I previously wrote a blog on those risk factors that can be identified beforehand to determine if a bitch is at risk (or not) to present a dystocia (=difficulty to give birth).

Here is a link if you want to give it a look:

Canine Parturition: at risk... or not ?

If the risk is deemed high, it is important to determine what the options are to optimize the survival rate of the foetuses. And for this purpose, elective C-section is definitely a great tool to consider in my opinion.

What it means: the date of the C-section is scheduled in advanced and the surgery is performed before the start of natural parturition.

Elective C-sections indeed present multiple advantages:

-          It is performed during the day, while full veterinary staff is available. When we were doing those surgical procedures, we always had two surgeons, 1 anesthesiologist (the most important role when doing a C-section) and a full team for puppy resuscitation. This is a real plus since on the contrary, emergency cases often happen at night (2 bitches out of 3 will give birth in the middle of the night) while veterinary staff is limited.


-          It is performed before the bitch has started to deliver: no foetal stress yet, no need to rush the procedure. This decreases the related stress on both the patient and the veterinary team.


-          Studies show that when all conditions are met, neonatal survival rate is excellent. In a study my former team published in 2009, neonatal mortality rate was 2.6% after a planned procedure… vs 20-40% when dealing with emergency C-sections.

The scheduling of the elective C-section is critical: it is always easier when the day of ovulation is known because the bitch had a timing of ovulation. For more technical details,please refer to the aforementioned study 

Elective C-section is a great tool, but should only be used in bitches where a risk of dystocia has clearly been identified. Keep in mind that it is a tool that can be used to optimize neonatal survival rates, but it is not meant to be a substitute for natural parturition.

If you have thoughts, stories, questions don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section! I can’t wait to read them! 

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