Dog Surgery Risks During Pregnancy

With the risk of potential complications, deciding on surgery for your pet is a daunting task. It is an even harder decision to make when your dog is pregnant. Not only do you have to think about the welfare of your dog, but also of the young pups that it carries.

It is often better to wait until after the pregnancy, but in some situations, time is of the essence, and a quick decision is needed to possibly save your dog’s life.

In this article, we have outlined the potential risks of surgery and, in particular, the risks of anesthesia to help you make an informed decision. So with that being said, let’s get into it!

Dog Surgery Risks During Pregnancy

Just like any surgery outside of pregnancy, many complications can occur during and after the procedure. However, the chances of these complications are usually minimal, and the complications that most commonly occur are, in most cases, not life-threatening.

The most common complications of surgery are:

  • Risk of infection post-surgery
  • Fluid under the incision
  • Incision not healing properly
  • Loss of blood
  • Focal tissue trauma/nerve trauma
  • Complications associated with the specific procedure
  • Reaction to anesthetic (mild swelling/anaphylactic shock/death)

Most of these complications are minor and can be treated. When the surgery is carried out by a trained, knowledgeable, experienced veterinarian, it is said that there is more chance of your dog being in a car accident on the way to the vet than their surgery being fatal.

In most surgeries, the anesthesia is usually the riskiest element, although only 1 in 100,000 dogs adversely react to the drug. However, when your dog is pregnant, the administration of anesthetics becomes much more difficult, and the risks increase.

Some dogs require help from a canine rehabilitation therapist to ensure a full recovery from their surgery. Rehabilitation therapy can aid your pet in their recovery and help them get back to their usual, happy selves as soon as possible.

Anesthesia for the pregnant dog


When a dog is pregnant, there are physiological changes that occur, just like in a human. These changes, such as weight, blood pressure, and the ratio of the proteins that make up the blood, can make surgery slightly more complicated for your vet, increasing the risk of complications.

Administration of anesthetic is the trickiest part of surgery with a pregnant dog. It is vital to give the correct dosage of anesthesia, and this is harder to do when there are more factors to consider.

As the level of protein in the blood of a pregnant dog changes, so does the way the anesthetic interacts within their system. When these proteins decrease, the anesthetic has fewer proteins to attach to, and so this increases the amount of active anesthetic in the blood.

It’s also important to consider the direct risk of anesthetic to the fetus. It is a drug that is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, and therefore it is also able to pass through the placenta and into the puppies.


Tests can be done prior to the surgery to determine the best method of anesthetizing the animal, such as the amount that is required. For example, suppose a blood test finds increased levels of progesterone and progesterone metabolites. In that case, the amount of the drug used is reduced because these are positive modulators of the receptors, meaning the dog will be more receptive to the anesthetic.

In any case, when administering the drug, the dog is closely monitored throughout the procedure. Extra precautions are taken when dealing with a pregnant dog, with some surgeries even calling in a specialist.

Post-surgery symptoms of the pregnant dog

Pregnant or not, the speed of recovery is usually dependent on the age and fitness of your dog, the type of operation, and the length of surgery. So it is essential to keep these factors in mind when observing your dog’s symptoms.

Pregnant dogs may take slightly longer to recover than they would typically because their body is working overtime growing puppies.

The following symptoms are typical for your pregnant dog after surgery:

●        Disoriented/groggy for a few hours after receiving anesthetic

●        Not as alert for 24 hours

●        May need help with balance when feeding or going to the bathroom

●        May sleep for more extended periods

It is important to remember that each dog recovers differently from surgery, just like humans. You should closely monitor your dog, and if they experience any abnormal or prolonged symptoms, it is wise to consult your vet to be safe.

As a final note, remember that your vet will not decide upon surgery lightly. As professionals, they observe the potential risks and weigh them against the potential dangers of waiting until after the pregnancy, taking all factors into account.

Emma Thompson

Hi, I'm Emma Thompson. Welcome to The Pet Town! I'm a Pet lovers like you and please feel free to get in touch with any questions. Enjoy your stay!

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