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As you get ready to welcome a fresh litter of cute puppies, it is important to know what to expect during labor. While most dogs give birth naturally and without complications, some dogs experience dystocia or birth difficulties.
What causes dystocia?
- Pelvic canal’s size and shape: The size and shape of the pelvic canal plays a major role in labor. If a dog has narrow pelvis because of a previous trauma, fracture or breed conformation, she can experience difficulties while delivering puppies. This is particularly true if the dog’s head is larger relative to the pelvis size.
- The Breed: Certain breeds including boxers, French bulldogs and British Bulldogs are predisposed to labor difficulties or dystocia.
- Uterine inertia: Uterine inertia is when the uterus is unable to contract to push out the puppies from the vaginal canal. Uterine muscle exhaustion is the cause of inertia and can happen at any time during labour.
- The puppies’ size: The size of the puppies also can play a major role in dystocia. If the litter consists of only a single puppy that is large, it may not fit into the birth canal. If there are multiple pups that are large, birth difficulties are common.
- Position of puppies: Just as humans, pups are typically born head first. At times they are also born rear legs first. If the position of the puppy is abnormal, that is, bottom first or sideways, they get stuck in the vaginal canal.
- Defects: Certain developmental defects in pups can lead to enlargement of some body parts which can complicate the labor.
- Death: If a pup dies in the uterus, it can cause abnormal positioning while affecting uterine contractions.
If you have a pregnant dog that is prone to labor problems or has had a fracture of pelvis, it is important to take your dog to the vet to ensure immediate medical attention during labor. Your veterinary surgeon performs a physical examination of the vaginal canal to see if there are any problems and to determine if the pups can pass through the birth canal. An x-ray can help the vet determine the number of pups, their size and positioning. Medications can be given to help with contractions if inertia is suspected.
If there is prolonged labour, there are dangers of low calcium and sugar levels in the mother’s blood. Your vet will treat this with appropriate sugar and calcium injections that can help with the contractions as well.
Caesarean section would be the logical option if it is not possible to achieve normal delivery for any of the above listed reasons.
While it is not possible to always prevent or foresee dystocia, being armed with the right knowledge about birth difficulties and what to expect during labor can help avoid complications. Prompt veterinary assistance is the best way to ensure your dog gets the best of medical attention and gets through labor safely.