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Diagnostic imaging: an essential tool in the successful management of canine dystocia
  1. Erin Runcan
  1. Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA
  1. email: runcan.1{at}

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Dystocia is relatively common in dogs, with an incidence of approximately 5 per cent of parturitions.1 The incidence of dystocia is highly variable between breeds, but it is extremely high for brachycephalic breeds, especially bulldogs.2 Because neonatal mortality can be high (upwards of 20 per cent in some cases), many breeders choose an elective caesarean section to help mitigate the risk to the pups.3 However, in all breeds, dystocia remains a common reason for evaluation at primary emergency care facilities, and caesarean section is often recommended to resolve these cases.

Dystocia can be due to either fetal or maternal factors. The most common reason for dystocia in all breeds appears to be uterine inertia – the failure for the uterus to appropriately contract. The exact aetiology of this condition is unknown, but associations have been made with a lack of circulating oxytocin, elevated progesterone, hypocalcaemia and genetics.4

In the case of brachycephalic breeds, a large head in relation to a narrow pelvis appears to be the main reason for obstructive dystocia. Recent computed tomography studies of bulldogs showed an overall shorter pelvis and pelvic canal and a narrower pelvic outlet, which are likely to contribute to the high risk of dystocia found in this breed.5

Veterinary management in cases of dystocia may include medical treatment and/or surgical intervention. The decision to perform a caesarean section may be influenced …

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