A mother dog with her litter.

Vet Tips on the Canine Birthing Process

So, your dog is pregnant. This may have been planned or purely by accident. Either way, the process of a canine giving birth can be exciting, but also stressful. If everything happens beautifully and naturally, that’s wonderful, however, what happens if things don’t go as planned? What happens when your pregnant four-legged friend runs into trouble? To recognize what is abnormal, you should first understand what normal birth entails.

Canine parturition (birthing) is divided into three stages:

A difficult birth is commonly referred to as dystocia. It is typically seen in older dogs, with the highest incidence noted in brachycephalic breeds (English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Pugs to name a few). It can be caused by a variety of factors both maternal and fetal in origin. The mother can be older, obese, experiencing electrolyte abnormalities (such as low calcium or low blood sugar), or suffering from systemic illness. The puppies may be breached, too large to pass through the birth canal, or may have died in utero. Any one of these factors can lead to dystocia.

How do you know when your pet needs to be seen for a difficult birth?

Here are a few scenarios that warrant examination by a veterinarian right away:

If you DON’T see any of the aforementioned signs, remain calm. You can always call your veterinarian from home to ask for advice prior to making the trip to the ER. The best environment for a dog to give birth is likely in your home, in a dark, secluded place where they feel comfortable. If no problems arise, do not travel to the hospital, as this can lead to maternal distress and possibly predispose your dog for dystocia.

If you are planning on breeding your dog, know that dystocia is always a risk. It is almost a guarantee in brachycephalic breeds. Be sure to establish a trusting relationship with your primary care veterinarian to ensure your dog receives proper care throughout the pregnancy. If a pet is suffering from dystocia, a c-section may be needed. This procedure may be required for any pregnant dog, so planning financially for this surgery is something any pet owner should be prepared for. Though dystocia is a possibility, knowing what to look for and early intervention should help provide the best outcome for both mother and offspring.