If you own a female dog of breeding age that you do not intend to breed from, there really is no excuse for not having her neutered. Left unchecked, dogs of all types will breed prolifically, and a female dog that is not spayed must be closely monitored at all times when she is in heat to avoid the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy. Neutering your female dog removes the risk of unwanted pregnancy, and also provides a range of health benefits that make it more than worthwhile.
Nevertheless, even responsible dog owners who do everything that they can to avoid their un-neutered bitch becoming pregnant unless this is planned, may occasionally find themselves faced with the dilemma of an unwanted or unexpected mating. Perhaps you keep your pedigree dog un-neutered, as you plan to breed from her in the future, or perhaps your bitch simply reached sexual maturity early, before you had scheduled the spaying surgery. Even if you intend to breed your dog, dogs of all breeds are very industrious when it comes to mating, and you may find yourself faced with a mis-mating incident with a sire that was not your bitch’s intended mate. Of course, there is always the issue as well that when you buy or re-home an adult female dog you may be told or it is assumed that she is already spayed, but this turns out not to be the case.
Regardless of the ultimate sequence of events that leads up to an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy in the bitch, if you find yourself at that point then you have a number of options to consider. In this article, we will explain what your choices are and how to make the right decision for your own dog and situation.
The most obvious and natural course of action to follow if you find your bitch pregnant is of course to allow her to have the puppies. This may seem like the path of least resistance, but are you sure that you can cope with this? Will you be able to find good, responsible homes for all of the puppies, especially if you are not sure what breed or type of dog the father is? Rehoming centres and dog welfare organisations are overwhelmed every year with the litters produced by unwanted matings, and there are always more dogs than there are homes to go round. You may find it difficult to find a shelter that will take your unwanted puppies at all, and this option is of course by no means ideal, both from the point of view of being a responsible pet owner and of caring for the future puppies’ welfare.
Are there likely to be any issues with the delivery, for instance if the sire’s breed or type is much larger than that of the dam, or one of the breeds with a large head such as the Bulldog or Staffordshire Bull Terrier?
Having your bitch spayed during pregnancy is a viable option to consider if you do not intend to breed from her in the future. Spaying involves the removal of the ovaries and uterus of the dog, and when this operation is performed during the early stages of pregnancy, means that the formative cell clusters that become the foetuses and eventual puppies are removed as well. Spaying during pregnancy carries some elevated risk factors compared to regular spaying, as the blood vessels that serve the ovaries and uterus become enlarged and carry more blood during pregnancy, making them harder to sew off and more prone to bleeding.
The surgery takes longer and is a more specialised procedure than standard spaying, and usually carries an additional charge. The scar left by a flank spay during pregnancy will generally be longer than a normal spaying scar, although this will of course be covered by the dog’s fur when it re-grows over the surgical field.
A mis-mating injection of Alizin, an antiprogestagenic compound, can be given to a bitch that is pregnant or suspected to be pregnant up to 22 days after conception. Given by this stage of the pregnancy it is usually 100% effective, although it can be administered later on too, but the success rate during the later stages of pregnancy falls exponentially. Usually, an ultrasound examination of the bitch will be necessary to confirm that the injection was successful.
The most extreme potential option open to the dog owner and one choice that is never undertaken lightly is to arrange a veterinary abortion for your bitch. This may be necessary if the pregnancy is not viable or must be terminated, but the owner wishes the bitch to be left entire for potential future breeding. Veterinary abortion may be performed as a surgical procedure, or by means of the administration of abortifacient medications. Veterinary abortion by either means is complex and places a lot of stress on the bitch, and may well require an inpatient stay of anything up to a week to supervise the procedure.
Veterinary abortion should only be considered as an option if the pregnancy stage is too far along for other termination methods to be considered viable.
Dealing with an unwanted pregnancy in the dog can be difficult for the owner on both a moral and logistical level, and there really are no easy answers. However, the issue is entirely avoided if the dog in question is spayed. If you do not intend to breed from your dog, have her spayed at the earliest available opportunity, and avoid the inherent stress and risks that an unwanted pregnancy can bring.