A breeders nightmare......a bitch carrying a singleton puppy can have a number of problems.

I have found far too often that vets are telling breeders to go home and wait for nature to take its course, but this can lead to the puppy dying and the bitch having to have a C section and no puppy to wake up to.

If in doubt, always have a Reverse Progesterone Test which can be beneficial in knowing when to intervene. If the progesterone level has already fallen and the bitch has failed to whelp, most vets should intervene and carry out a C section.

I have scanned a number of singleton puppies, and have had my own singleton (below).
Owners are often unaware their bitch is even pregnant as they show no signs of weight gain, and it is for this very reason I always recommend an ultrasound to confirm, as you don't want to get to 63 days gestation to find your bitch is in distress trying to deliver a singleton puppy that has got stuck in the birth canal.

(I have had this happen with a frantic client who called me early one morning, the puppy had got stuck and unfortunately was born dead)

Knowing the problems others have had, and after discussing it with my vet, after an examination of my bitch, and determining the size of the puppy, I chose to have an elective section which was planned at 63 days after the last mating.

Singleton puppies are not typically a reflection on the sire or dams reproductive capacity and more likely due not mating at the most fertile time, either too early or too late meaning the semen has only just managed to fertilise an egg by surviving and waiting for the egg to mature, or by racing to it super quick before the egg died. 

I would highly recommend that should the female be bred from again, that a form of ovulation testing is used such a vaginal cytology swabbing or the more accurate Progesterone blood testing.

From the feedback I have been given of singletons I have scanned here, only 8% have whelped naturally, but of those born naturally only two puppies survived more than 7 days, 100% of the puppies born by elective section survived.

My bitch went into labour, (which is often not the case with singleton litters), at 61 days, and even though she was pushing, I was taking no chances and rushed her to the vets. She was home two hours later, as bright as a button and full of the joys of spring, and you would not have known she had had anything done. The vet gave her Oxytocin to bring the milk in, and although she didn't take to motherhood immediately and wanted to continue life as normal with the other dogs, the puppy was feeding as soon as I got her home.

As there is a higher percentage of re-absorption wth singletons, I always recommend at least two scans, one when pregnancy is confirmed, and another between 6 - 7 weeks. Very few of the singleton litters I have scanned have been born naturally, the bitch has either had a pre planned elective section, or been rushed to the vet during labour.

Data shows that puppies that naturally whelped and survived were on average born around 62 days gestation, the survival rate decreased from 63 days. Most singletons are larger than average, and for some the labour stages are prolonged and difficult. 50% of owners who have chosen to opt to try a natural whelp have said they would not recommend others going through the same experience have an elective section on the due date.

The majority of owners have no issues with milk production or the need to hand feed or supplement, although most vets will give Oxytocin to bring in the milk, some won't and breeder sometimes have to have to hand rear.

Most puppies born by c-section that surivived are born around 61 - 62 days, the survival rate decreases from 63 days onwards. Some owners feel their vet delayed the option of a c-section which compromised the puppy’s viability. The majority of owners who decided to c-section was because their female had shown partial signs of labour then stopped. Suggesting a more complex labour, possibly due to a stuck puppy or wrong positioning.

In the majority of cases, when a bitch is rushed into the vets with whelping complications, puppy's are born sleeping or as they have been distressed, not survived longer than two days after birth. . Of the owners that had veterinary agreement to elective section on their due date 100% of these puppies where born alive.

In summary.........Singleton puppies can be whelped naturally, however, mainly due to puppy size, positioning or lack of contractions the chances of c-section increases significantly, but the survival rate reduces significantly too when the section is left to become an emergency.

Only a pre-planned elective c-section increased the survival rate above being whelped naturally. Risk can be managed by allowing the female to whelp naturally up to her due date and should she go more than 1 day over, have an ultrasound scan to check for foetal heart beat and if confirmed, opt for an elective section. Although you also run the risk of a puppy being stuck, which then means an emergency c section.

Puppies born 2 or more days after their due date have significantly less chances of surviving in both whelping methods. There is a high chance that financially you’ll need to cover the costs of c-section, given that a “unscheduled” emergency c-sections result in a higher mortality rate, realistically booking an elective c-section ‘in hours’ increasing the puppies rate of survival and keeping operating cost to a minimum, along with your anxiety and any stress on the female.

It’s generally advised not to change the dam’s diet during pregnancy, because the puppy has ‘wombspace’ to grow and develop, changing the dam’s diet may entice the puppy to overgrow due to having no competition with littermates for nutrition or space. Being restrictive on food will hopefully prevent any excessive and unnecessary growth.

Even if the puppy is a typical size and the dam is maiden you are still unaware of her ability to deliver naturally due to her pelvis size or strength of contractions. Raspberry leaf supplement is said to aid birthing and should be considered along with any veterinary agreement to calcium supplements or Oxytocin should contractions weaken.

The lack of contractions or weakening contractions is called inertia, with solo babies it can happen in the first stage of labour due to the puppy not stimulating or applying enough pressure on the uterine wall and cervix to trigger a natural birth. The second stage is when contractions were existing but stopped, mainly due to an oversized puppy and the muscles have become tired trying to push the puppy out.

It could be easy to miss primary inertia so I strongly recommend tracking the dam’s temperature before and up to her due date. You also have the option of ‘Reverse’ Progesterone testing, if the numbers are low this confirm the puppy is ready for birth, so you can confidently c-section. If you Progesterone tested on mating, then you would have confirmed ovulation before breeding so your due dates will be reliable to work with for possible c-section. Not all puppies will can be seen moving or even felt, especially on deep set breeds, I strongly recommend checking the puppy for a viable heart beat with ultrasound before deciding on a c-section.

Surviving singleton puppies develop like a typical puppy into adult dogs. Many commented the puppy ended up larger than the breed standard or then their Dams. Solo pups tend to be more demanding when it comes to play and stimulation due to the lack of siblings/playmates. This can mean they are more dependent on human interaction and if not handled correctly can become over demanding and dominate.  

I introduced my singleton to the young adults at five weeks and they played with her really well, although she is definitely very 'needy' and needs me to tell her how special she is on a regular basis!

Update August 2020
I don't know if vet protocol has changed recently, but have found they are very reluctant to do an elective section now, even for singleton pups. Unfortunately one bitch I scanned who had a singleton was on day 73, and vets would still not intervene, and when she went into labour the puppy was born dead. She had been scanned at day 70 and the puppy was alive with a good heartbeat. So it may be a case of ringing round and finding a vet who will help you should you choose to go down the safest route of an elective section with a singleton litter.




A wide range of cat, dog and other pet supplies