As children we are often given the nitty gritty of human reproduction. Whether it’s the birds and the bees speech, a nature documentary or awkward class in high school, by the time we have reached adulthood the basics of how babies are made are fairly well known. Many pet owners, however, appear to be in the dark when it comes to their dog’s reproduction, namely when female pooches can get pregnant and what steps can be taken to prevent it.
Estrus is the technical term for a female dog coming into heat. Also referred to as a season, it’s this small window when dogs are fertile and can become pregnant. Estrus is often accompanied by discharge and can be quite the hassle for normal pet families to deal with. While estrus is a naturally occurring phenomenon, prevention is beneficial to prevent unwanted pregnancy and to help avoid many complications from heat cycles such as temperament changes and pyometra, a potentially deadly infection of the uterus that occurs after a dog comes into season.
Causes and Prevention of Estrus
Estrus in female dogs occurs approximately every six months and is triggered by biological shifts in hormone levels that occur naturally in intact animals. While male dogs are fertile continuously once they reach sexual maturity, female dogs can only become pregnant during a narrow window during estrus. There are several available methods for preventing estrus
Much like in humans, there are various medications on the market that can prevent female dogs from coming in season. These contraceptives are typically administered via routine injections in your veterinarian’s office.
The drug of choice for contraceptive is called Delvosteron. Your dog will typically need an initial injection with follow ups in 3 months, then four months, then eventually every five months in order to prevent your female canine from coming into estrus. These shots will need to be continued throughout your dog’s life since her reproductive system works much differently than humans and your dog may still be able to become pregnant well into their senior years.
Canine contraception tends to have less of a systematic impact on hormone levels with fewer side effects than other treatment methods. Since your female dog’s uterus and reproductive system are still intact, she may be susceptible to infections and ailments such as cancer, prolapse or pyometra.
Spaying Your Dog
The most classic, well-tested and reliable method for preventing estrus in your dog is through spaying or fixing. In this procedure, your veterinarian will perform a surgical operation on your dog in which the entire reproductive tract is removed. This will require your pet to be placed under anesthesia and pre-surgical blood work will be needed. Veterinarians perform numerous spay surgeries every year and, once performed, will need little to no follow up care, other than the removal of stitches if dissolvable thread is not used. Spayed dogs will not experience estrus, pregnancy and have no reproductive organs left to be infected by various conditions.
Like most surgeries, spaying can involve some complications. Your pet should be in good overall health and your vet may perform pre-surgery bloodwork to ensure this is the case. Surgical incisions can become infected without proper at home care. You should always follow your veterinarian’s suggest post-op protocol in order to minimize these risks. Modern technologies such as the use of lasers during surgery can help minimize blood loss and promote quicker healing of incisions.
Importance and Effects of Prevention
Not allowing your dog to come into estrus can help reduce the pet population and is also the primary way to reduce or eliminate severe side effects such as infection or cancer. Dogs that are not allowed to come into estrus have a highly reduced chance of mammary cancer, diabetes and helps prevent your female dog from gaining weight when she is older by reducing the hormone levels and their impact.