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Dogs have been mating, carrying litters to term and delivering their own young for millennia without the need for human intervention, and yet over the last few decades, an ever-increasing number of dog breeds have come to require assistance with birthing.
For some dog breeds, caesarean section delivery is the norm rather than the exception – which means that if these dog breeds were left to their own devices, few of their number would be able to give birth naturally and these modern breeds as we know them would virtually die out within a couple of generations.
Caesarean section delivery can be risky for both the dam and her litter – particularly if the caesarean is not planned beforehand, and has to be performed in an emergency when the dam and pups may already be in distress. It is also a costly procedure to perform, and means that pups that need to be delivered by caesarean will tend to inherit the same traits from their parents that led to their dam requiring assistance with delivery and so, will likely need the same themselves if they are bred from or put to stud.
In this article, we will look at the dog breeds that are most commonly delivered by caesarean section, and why this is. Read on to learn more.
A caesarean section or C-section is a major operation that is performed on a dam who has carried a pregnancy to full term or near enough to term that the pups are viable to deliver and survive.
Caesarean sections are performed when permitting the dam to deliver naturally would place her and/or her pups at risk, or if complications arise during delivery that mean she cannot give birth naturally.
A caesarean section is performed by anaesthetising the dam under sterile conditions and making an incision through the upper layers of the skin and muscle and through the uterus, from which the pups are physically removed from the dam’s body before the incision is stitched back up.
This means that the dam is not conscious during delivery or during the very first stage of her pups’ life – which can cause problems such as the dam rejecting or failing to recognise her pups, as well as leaving her with a healing wound to contend with whilst she is caring for her pups. The risk of infection of the wound itself after delivery is another issue, all of which combine to mean that caesarean section is not considered to be an optimum way to deliver a litter, and should only be performed if a natural delivery is dangerous or impossible.
Next, we will look at the breeds that most commonly require caesarean delivery, and why.
The French bulldog is one of the dog breeds that most commonly requires caesarean delivery – with around 80% of dogs of the breed delivered in this manner. This is due to a range of factors pertaining to the conformation of dogs of the breed, particularly those that are ultratyped or that have highly exaggerated features.
The narrow hips of the dam combined with the large heads of the pups, and the brachycephalic faces of both dam and litter mean that a natural birth is usually impossible, and would place the health of the dam and litter at risk.
The English bulldog is also at the top of the scale in terms of caesarean section delivery frequency, again coming in at around the 80% mark. English bulldogs are brachycephalic and often have very flat faces that can cause breathing difficulties even at rest, as well a having very large heads and wide necks.
The head size of English bulldog pups means that few dams are able to deliver naturally.
The Boston terrier is the third dog breed with a really high chance of requiring a caesarean section, again, falling at around 75-80% of all dogs of the breed. Like the French bulldog, these dogs have large heads and narrow hips, although these traits are less pronounced in the Boston terrier.
Again, natural delivery is often impossible for dogs of the breed, meaning that caesarean delivery is generally recommended.
The Scottish terrier is a small, lively dog breed that is short and sturdy-looking, and they don’t share the core traits that most other breeds that require a high number of caesarean sections do – they are not brachycephalic nor highly muscular.
However, the head of the breed is still rather large compared to their hips, which means that around 60% of Scottish terriers are delivered by caesarean section.
Chihuahuas come in two core variants – known as “apple head” and “deer head.” The apple head is the one that most people think of as the breed norm, and this is a very large, highly domed head that is quite disproportionate compared to their bodies.
This means that apple head chihuahuas with particularly exaggerated heads often have to be delivered by caesarean section, although this is rarely required in the more proportionate deer head variant.
The procedure can be particularly challenging in giant breeds like the mastiff due to the sheer logistics of performing a major operation on a dog of this size, and so delivery is often rather stressful for both the veterinary team involved, and the dam herself.
Because of the inherent risks involved in caesarean delivery and the fact that the need for it indicates a conformation problem within the affected dog, the Kennel Club will not register litters born to a dam who has already had to deliver two litters by caesarean section.
This is in order to discourage people continually breeding from a dog whose health may be compromised by the procedure, and to help to slow down the spread of ever-more dogs that inherit the same conformation traits that necessitate caesarean delivery.
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