Dystocia in Dogs

Dystocia is also known as abnormal birth and may occur in a low percentage of dogs. Dogs typically don’t need to be assisted while giving birth, but in some cases, veterinary help is required. It’s important to know what’s normal and when it’s time to call the vet during your dog’s labor.

The Stages of Labor in Dogs

In dogs, the labor will have 2 main stages:

  • The first stage will start up to 12 hours prior to the actual delivery; the dog will display symptoms such as hiding, decreased temperature and uterine contractions, but these won’t be visible
  • The second stage will start when the puppies move towards to the birth canal. The signs of this stage include periodical contractions

When the stage 2 of labor starts, typically you should start to see the first puppy within 1 hour. If no puppy appears, you should suspect that something is abnormal.

Causes of Dystocia

The causes of dystocia are not always known. Some dogs may not be able to deliver puppies normally due to:

  • Abnormal size of birth canal
  • A narrow pelvis of the mother
  • Uterine exhaustion, as the uterus may not be able to contract for more than a determined period of time
  • Young maternal age (under 12 months)
  • The mother is too stressed and stops the labor
  • The puppies are not in a normal position (feet first instead of the normal head first position)
  • The puppies are too large for the birth canal

Call the Vet

When the dog cannot deliver the puppies on her own, you need to call for a vet.

It’s important to call the vet when:

  • The pregnancy has lasted over 70 days and there are no puppies or signs of contractions (the pregnancy typically lasts 9 weeks or 63 days)
  • The first stage of labor lasts more than 24 hours and there are no signs of contractions
  • The second stage of the pregnancy has started and the dog hasn’t delivered a puppy in 60 minutes
  • The contractions are present, but they last for over 60 minutes and the dog hasn’t delivered any puppies
  • The dog has delivered a few puppies and has a few more to deliver, but takes a resting time of over 4 hours
  • The dog is feverish or lethargic and is vomiting

Veterinary Assistance during Labor

When the vet is called to assist the labor of your pet, he will examine the dog and establish if there are any abnormalities that may hinder the normal birth of the puppies.

The vet may administer a number of drugs that may calm the mother and induce birth:

  • Sedative meds such as acepromazine
  • Oxytocin, if the mother doesn’t have regular contractions
  • Calcium injections, which can stimulate the contractions of the uterus

A cesarean section may be needed if the birth won’t happen otherwise.