It is one of those stressful moments in a breeder's life : your bitch is going to give birth. You hope everything will be fine. But you simply have no idea how things might turn out. And that is a fact when it comes to canine parturition : on the contrary to what one might think, things do no always go as smoothly as expected. In fact approximately 15% of whelpings are considered difficult (we refer to those as "dystocias" in our veterinary jargon). Those difficult births directly impact the neonatal survival rate of the puppies. In case of a "normal" whelping, the neonatal mortality rate is usually around 10-15%... while it can go up to 40% when dystocia happens ! Rule of thumb here : if you think something seems wrong during whelping, go straight for an emergency veterinary consultation ! Don't wait !
There are many different ways to approach those cases in our clinics, one of them being performing a caesarean-section (or C-section). This surgical act has been used for ages in veterinary clinics. It is definitely not a very complicated surgical procedure (the technique has been improved over the years), its main challenges being the anesthesia of the bitch and the neonatal resuscitation of the puppies. It is definitely a tool that is used a lot when it comes to canine obstetrics. And its follow-up often raises those two questions.
Question 1 : " After the C-section, how long should we wait before breeding them ? "
I get this question quite often. Breeders often tell me they were said to wait for "at least a year", or "to skip two-three cycles" before thinking of breeding the bitch back. We always assume it is going to be a long surgical recovery... The reality is however quite different. The healing capacities of the uterus are somehow amazing. I sometimes had to do surgeries in bitches that had just gone through C-section. Very often, two weeks after the surgery has been performed, you cannot even find the stitches that were done on the uterus ! If you don't look carefully, you might not even be able to tell if a surgery has been performed on this organ ! Sure, the surgeon does play a role. But when the surgery is properly done, this is a fact : the uterus will recover very quickly. Bitches should typically not cycle before 4 months after the procedure, which means that at this time, the uterus would have fully healed. Technically, you could definitely breed the animal if there are no other contraindications ( take a look at our previous post on this topic ).
Question 2 : " She previously had a C-section, does it mean she would always require one to give birth to her puppies ? "
Long story short : no. Well, it obviously depends. There are indeed predisposing factors for dystocia that are described in the bitch ( you can look at them here ). But a previous C-section is definitely not among them. I've seen plenty of bitches having a C-section and then giving birth totally normally at the next breeding. Because of this previous episode however, it makes total sense to get extra-cautious. Therefore I would definitely recommend to discuss with your veterinarian in order to assess the animal during gestation. This way, he can come up with the best approach for your specific case. If no risk factors are identified however, your bitch might be able to give birth without any help.
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