What's not to love about puppies?
On the plus side, puppies are cuteness pawsonified. On the minus, it means a lot of hard work for everyone, you and the mother.
Leaving aside the argument about unwanted dogs languishing in shelters, every responsible pet parent should have a compelling reason (other than "It would be nice") to breed from their female dog.
Pregnancy is not without risk for the mother and giving birth is painful and sometimes distressing. Then there's the strain on the mother caring for pups, who frequently loses weight and may suffer health issues such as mastitis.
Which all means that preventing pregnancy is essential for most of our family pet dogs. With that in mind, be aware of the pitfalls that await the unwary and how to swerve them.
Have you marked the calendar with when your fur-girl is due in heat?
As the saying goes: "It pays to be prepawed."
Being aware of approximate timing helps you keep an eye out for subtle clues. This is important since some dogs are super-stars at keeping themselves clean, and you may not get an obvious show of blood. Also, some dogs have a 'silent' heat, where they don't show many outwards signs but can still get pregnant.
Avoiding an accidental litter takes a few common sense steps:
Know your dog's reproductive cycle: Female dogs come into heat roughly twice a year. Keep a note in your diary. If the season is a no-show then look carefully for subtle signs.
Proactively watch for estrus: Pop a white sheet over your dog's bed. If she's good at keeping clean you'll spot telltale blood stains.
Understand her estrus cycle: The heat last 3 to 4 weeks, with a bloody discharge at the beginning and the end. However, when the discharge goes away after the first show, this is when she is most fertile. Many a pet parent has been caught out, thinking the heat was mercifully short. In fact, the dog lulled the owners into a false sense of security, only to mate and fall pregnant.
You only have to watch dogs sniffing each other to know they don't have the same inhibitions as people. This also applies to fur-brothers and fur-sisters. It's a simple equation. One intact male and one intact female dog in the same house equals a litter of puppies.
So how can you prevent this?
Neutering: Neuter either the male or the female, will prevent sibling pregnancy. Just be aware the male can carry fertile sperm for around 3 to 4 weeks after surgery, so plan ahead. Indeed, neutering the female has health advantages to her, such as eliminating the risk of pyometra in later life.
Chemical Castration: If you may breed from the male or female at some point, then ask your vet about a Suprelorin implant for the boy. This takes two weeks to work and renders the male infertile for around six months. After that time it wears off, meaning you can still use him as a stud dog should you chose to.
Injectable Contraception: Consider giving the female a one-off shot of a progesterone derivative, in order to postpone her heat. This is controversial, as there is a slightly increased risk (3%) of pyometra after treatment.
You may be smart but Mother Nature is smarter!
You keep your female in heat under lock and key, only allowing her out in the yard to toilet. But then that athletic stray leaps over the six foot fence and has his wicked way. What's to be done?!
The 'Morning After Pill' for Dogs: 24 to 48 hours after mating, the female can have a course of two injections, which ensure the pregnancy doesn't progress. This is not ideal, but better than unplanned puppies finding their way into overcrowded shelters.
Lock, Key, and Leash: Literally, don't let the dog out of sight. Keep her on a leash so you are connected to her at all times!
Neutering: This is risky during the heat, so plan ahead! Don't let lethargy trip you up, instead, book her in for surgery well ahead of her expected heat.
By being a responsible pet parent you make life easier for your dog. She won't miss what's she's never had, and you've saved her the discomfort of carrying a large litter and giving birth. If you flinch when you tread on her paw, then know this is nothing compared to the drawn out effort of whelping.
Key to preventing pregnancy is not to leave things to chance but take control of the situation. You have options as long as you plan ahead. Be proactive and keep everyone happy, the dog included.