As an owner, how do you stop your intact dog from breeding?
With shelters and rescues bursting at the seams with unwanted dogs, it is every owner's responsibility to ensure their dog isn't part of the cycle of unplanned pregnancies swelling the dog population. Remember, it takes two dogs to make puppies, so this is down to keeping tabs on your male dog as well as the female.
While spaying or neutering is the obvious answer, the evidence is shifting away from early surgery. Operating on an immature dog before their growth plates have closed can change the physical appearance of the adult and make them more prone to certain cancers or joint problems. So while removing their reproductive organs is the nuclear option, you may need other solutions while waiting for the dog to be mature enough for surgery.
Vigilance and Supervision
The male dog allowed to roam or the female dog unattended in the backyard are most likely to create an unplanned pregnancy. When dogs are adequately supervised and restrained they won't have the opportunity for a 'romantic' liaison.
Know Your Girl's Cycle: Be knowledgeable about the signs of heat, the estrous cycle, and when your girl is due in heat. Knowing simple facts such as the female ovulates when the vaginal discharge eases after 7 to 10 days, can stop you relaxing your vigilance too early.
Know Nature Will Find a Way: A female in heat gives off powerful pheromones that attract boyfriends from miles around. Avoid walking her in public spaces as this risks an embarrassing amorous entourage. Also, know that it's not safe to leave her unattended in the backyard. Athletic would-be beaus will find scaling even a six-foot fence no problem in order to meet a mate.
Keep your Male Dog Under Control: Dogs should never roam, the danger of causing a traffic accident is too great. But even in rural areas, a wandering male dog is a puppy-making machine with the freedom to fertilize. Keep your male dogs within sight (and on a leash if they don't have a rock solid recall) at all times.
Chemical Canine Contraceptives
If you have male and female dogs in the same house, then keeping them separate when the girl is in heat will be a monumental challenge. (And yes, brothers and sisters will mate.) If the time isn't right to desex, then consider temporary contraception as an answer.
Female Contraceptives: The options are limited for a first season. As a rule, this heat needs to run through without interference to avoid health problems later in life. For females that have had at least one season, then the injection Delvosteron, containing proligestone, is the best bet. Plan ahead, giving the injection before her heat starts, and a repeat dose every 3 to 6 months to prevent subsequents heats. This therapy carries a slight risk (3%) of encouraging a womb infection.
Male Contraceptives: A Suprelorin implant is a slow release hormone that renders male dogs infertile for 6 months. Once the implant has been fully absorbed, the male's fertility levels return to normal. This has been successfully used by many professional breeders who wish to wait before having the dog sire litters.
Spaying and Neutering
There are many factors to weigh up before deciding on the optimum age to neuter or spay your dog.
Spaying the Female: Traditional advice was to spay around 5 to 6 months of age. This provides protection against both mammary cancer and pregnancy. However, research in large breed dogs shows a tendency to an increased risk of bone cancer and certain hematogenous cancers. Therefore, owners of large dogs should consider waiting until their dog has finished growing, at 18 months or older. It is best to discuss the pros and cons with your vet, in order to ascertain what's best for your individual pet.
Neutering the Male: Again, the ground has shifted with regards to the need for male neutering and the timing. If a dog is allowed to roam, then neutering is best, period. For a dog that is closely supervised, there is no compelling scientific proof for the health benefits of neutering. Often cited is protection against prostate cancer, but in fact, this does not seem to be the case. Neutering does protect against hormonal enlargement of the prostate as the dog ages, but this problem responds well to treatment, including neutering at an older age.
Many Benefits of Prevention
Preventing dog breeding is important from an ethical standpoint, but it also has health implications for your dog. Pregnancy is not without risk for a dog, neither is giving birth. As well as the stress on her body, you could be left facing a large vet bill if she needs a cesarean. Indeed, no one should take a chance with letting their dogs breed and all owners have a responsibility to keep their dogs from producing accidental litters.