My Dog Cries Out In Labor! Could It Be Dystocia?
Mon, August 15, 2022

My Dog Cries Out In Labor! Could It Be Dystocia?


Congratulations! Your dog is going to be a proud mom to a couple of pups. Your lips curved into a smile as you gazed at your expecting pet. Suddenly, the mom cries out in pain and starts licking its vulvar area. Why is your soon-to-be-mom pet having difficulty giving birth? In medical terms, it is called dystocia.

Dystocia refers to a difficult birth and a dog in labor may experience it because the fetuses are too large, particularly if it has a small pelvis, said DCVR (Dogs and Cats Veterinary Referral), whose mission is to provide each pet with individualized, quality care. Dystocia also occurs when fetuses are awkwardly position and cannot easily pass through the birth canal or when the uterus and cervix are unable to contract normally.

Dystocia In Bitches At Southwestern Nigeria (2011)

Oluwatoyin Oluwasola Ajala and O E Fayemi of journal portal Research Gate obtained clinical records from veterinary clinics and hospitals in Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Lagos, Ekiti States, Nigeria from 1999 to 2008 and distributed structured questionnaires to some dog owners, veterinary doctors, and breeders. After gaining detailed information on dystocia in canines, Ajala and Fayemi found that dystocia mostly occurred in Lagos (7.5%) and Osun (4.2%). They were followed by Oyo (2.4%), Ogun (1.7%), Ondo (1.5%), and Ekiti (1.5%).

On the other hand, other reproductive conditions and procedures were commonly documented in Ogun (98.3%) and Ekiti (98.5%). Following close behind the aforementioned states were Oyo (97.6%), Ondo (95.3%), Ekiti (95.3%), and Lagos (92.5%). The breeds with the highest incidence of dystocia were Alsatian (61.8%) and local breeds (23.8%). Meanwhile, a smaller proportion of Rottweillers (9.5%) and local Pit Bulls (4.8%) had dystocia.

Respondents sought veterinary help when their dogs had dystocia due to a lack of straining when pregnancy as termed (23.8%), weak straining (23.8%), and ceased straining (23.8%). The clients also cited “strong straining with no delivery of puppy” (9.5%) and “other reasons” (4.8%) as their rationale for seeking veterinary assistance. The causes of dystocia were maternal (52.2%) and fetal (43.5%). The maternal category was divided into debility infection (8.7%), infection (4.3%), uterine inertia (30.5%), and bad mothering ability (8.7%).

Meanwhile, fetal cases were divided into mal-positioning (13.1%), mummification (4.3%), fetal oversize (8.7%), and fetal death (17.4%). Regarding treatment options, dystocia was addressed using cesarian section (37.5%), oxytocin injection (33.3%), and calcium injection (12.5%). The authors conclude that many dog owners and breeders sought veterinary assistance when their dog had problems. More enlightenment campaigns should be spearheaded in Southwestern Nigeria to educate clients on the significance of routine veterinary care, as well as breeding.  The government should be more mindful of animal healthcare with regard to improving the facilities of veterinary hospitals.



What Are the Signs of Dystocia?

Dystocia is observed at home close to the date of expected birth or parturition, stated Pet Coach, whose objective is to provide the best care and attention to pets.  It occurs when your dog experiences 30 to 60 minutes of strong contractions without delivering a puppy or more than four to six hours have passed between puppies. Another sign of dystocia is when your bitch cries or licks its vulvar area excessively during whelping.

Green/black discharge from the vulva (lochia) is also a sign of dystocia, noted Blue Pearl, a company that was founded in July 1996. The discharge should be present for three hours with no delivery of a puppy. Bloody discharge from the vulva and copious clear discharge are seen when your dog struggles to give birth. Brachycephalic breeds like bulldogs, Pugs, and Boston Terriers are more likely to have dystocia because of their large head and shoulder size of the offspring. In fact, many breeders perform a scheduled cesarian section upon conducting bloodwork to determine the dogs’ day of ovulation.



How Is Dystocia Diagnosed?

In general, dystocia is diagnosed based on the bitch’s clinical signs. Tests may be conducted to ensure that dystocia was not caused due to a medical condition. Your veterinarian will obtain a complete blood count, calcium blood level, potassium blood level, glucose blood level during the evaluation. X-rays may also be done to assess the size and number of puppies. Moreover, x-rays are helpful when evaluating the puppies’ position and their size relative to your dog’s pelvic size.

How Is Dystocia Treated?

Generally, medical treatment is attempted first unless your veterinarian there is a reason for a c-section to be performed. Your veterinarian will recommend a C-section if your dog will birth a very large puppy, has a malpositioned puppy, has an abnormal pelvic bone structure that prevents natural delivery (previous fracture of the pelvis), or when your pet is completely exhausted. Medications to help your dog deliver its offspring include oxytocin to stimulate uterine contraction, as well as calcium and intravenous fluids containing electrolytes. A C-section will be performed if natural delivery is not possible. Your dog will be anesthetized and an incision will be made on the abdomen, exposing the uterus.

The puppies will be removed once the uterus is exposed. The puppies will be cared for by an intensive care unit technician to ensure their recovery. C-section may cost $2,000 or more depending on your pet’s size. Conservation treatments may cost below $500, however. Potential complications that may accompany treatment such as surgery therapy include anesthetic death of the bitch or puppies, stillborn puppies, infection, toxemia, and subinvolution of the uterus. The latter is observed when you see bloody vagina discharge weeks after the surgery

What Happens Post-Treatment?

Most pets will recover from dystocia if owners seek immediate veterinary help. Dogs that undergone C-section will recover in one to two weeks. Monitor any changes that your dog may exhibit post-treatment.  Watch out for poor appetite, fever, irregular discharge, or abnormal behaviors as these may indicate infection or trauma in the pelvic canal.  However, early intervention and treatment are still recommended to ensure the survival of your dog and its puppies.  



What Should I Do to Prevent Dystocia?

Bitches with narrow pelvic canals or have a history of dystocia should be not be bred. Prior to your dog’s due date, consider having its x-rays taken to see if it’s struggling to give birth or it has had all its offspring.


Brachycephalic dogs are more likely to have dystocia, so breeders have to perform C-section to safely remove the puppies. Consult your veterinarian prior to your dog’s due date to check the size of the puppies relative to its pelvic size.