Cesarean Section

A Cesarean section, or hysterotomy, is the surgical operation for delivering young by cutting through the abdominal wall of the mother. Cesareans sections are often performed on an emergency basis, but may sometimes be scheduled if the female has undergone a previous Cesarean or if there is a foreseeable problem with the birth.

Some breeds routinely undergo Cesareans because of their anatomical structure. These breeds include French and English bulldogs, bred to have large heads and small pelvises, and dogs and cats bred to have pushed-in faces, including Boston terriers, pugs and Himalayan or Burmese cats.

Reasons for Cesarean Section

A Cesarean section may be necessary for a variety of reasons.Such surgeries are usually successful and recovery from the procedure is not lengthy. A prolonged difficult labor is more dangerous to the fetus than a hysterotomy and, even if a complete hysterectomy is necessary, the mother animal will still continue to produce milk for her young.

An unusually difficult labor, or dystocia, may be anticipated if X-rays have shown evidence that one or more of the young have skulls too large for the mother's pelvic canal, at times because the mother has sustained a previous pelvic fracture. Cesarean sections may also be performed for any of the following reasons:

  • Uterine inertia, failure of uterine contractions
  • Prolonged labor
  • Oversized fetus
  • Fetal death
  • Maternal toxemia
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Abnormal position or presentation of the fetus
  • Anatomical abnormality of the mother
  • Torsion, or twisting, of the uterus
  • Insufficient cervical dilation
  • Separation of the placenta

Risk Factors for Difficult Labor

While a difficult labor cannot always be predicted, risk factors may include:

  • Advanced age of the mother
  • Mothers of brachycephalic or toy breeds
  • Mothers delivering bulldogs
  • Maternal obesity
  • History of dystocia
  • Environmental trauma immediately prior to labor

The Cesarean Procedure

Cesarean sections are usually performed by two teams, one tending to the mother and one administering assistance to the young. An abdominal incision is made while the animal is under general or local anesthesia.

If general anesthesia is administered, it has to be given in as small doses as possible in order not to damage the young. Speed and precision are necessary to protect the lives of all the animals. If local anesthesia is used during the procedure, some general anesthetic is usually administered after all the young have been removed.

It is important that the puppies or kittens be taken from their mother while still inside their amniotic sacs with all vital blood vessels still attached. After they have all been delivered, all placental material is also removed and the incision is stitched closed.

Recovery from a Cesarean Section

The newborns are put in an incubator while the mothers recovers from the anesthesia, then the family is reunited. Since the mother is still recovering, it may be necessary to encourage nursing by putting the young at the teat and expressing a small quantity of milk.

It is desirable for the animals to return home as soon as possible so that the mother is less traumatized and more easily engages in proper mothering, but the situation should be closely monitored so that the mother, since she may not be fully back to normal, doesn't inadvertently injure her young.

It may or may not be necessary to remove stitches, depending on the variety of sutures used during the operation. Skin staples may have been used as an alternative. If removal of either stitches or staples is necessary, it will take place 10 to 14 days after the surgical procedure.

It is normal for the mother to have vaginal bleeding for a few days after a Cesarean unless she has also undergone a hysterectomy. It is also normal for the mother to eat twice her usual quantity of food while she is nursing. Antibiotics are not normally administered after a Cesarean unless there is an infection present or there has been contamination of the abdominal cavity during surgery.

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