One of the many decisions that you will have to make as a new pet owner is whether you should desex your female dog. Desexing a female dog means to operate to remove the ovaries and uterus so that she cannot come into season and will not fall pregnant.   In this article I will give you a bit of information about female dogs to help you make your decision.

A female dog or ‘Bitch’ generally comes into season for the first time between 7 and 12 months of age, though some as late as 14 months. She will have another season roughly every 6 months after this- even if she has puppies. At her first season she is capable of becoming pregnant and having pups, however it is not the ideal age as she will still be growing. The extra stress of pregnancy and feeding pups can limit a young dog’s growth. The ideal time for breeding is when she is over 18 months- at least the second or even third season. By this time the bitch is fully matured and will have reached her full height and weight potential.

A dog’s season, or heat, lasts for about 3 weeks. In the first 7-10 days she will have vulval swelling and bleeding- male dogs will be attracted to her but she will not mate and is not ovulating. In the last two weeks of her season the bleeding decreases and she will let males mate with her. Generally the more times she mates, the greater the litter size. During those weeks she can mate many times, with many different males. The pups, when born can therefore be from different fathers depending on whom she mated with during her season.

play time goodThe best way to prevent your bitch becoming pregnant in the first season is to lock her up securely. Leaving her in a fenced yard is unfortunately not secure enough. Most male, and female dogs for that matter, are very resourceful when a bitch is on heat. They will dig, jump or climb their way into a yard to get together. It is often not much fun being the owner. Locking her up in a secure room such as the garage, laundry or bathroom is generally the best solution. However I have seen a male dog break through a glass window to get to his loved one!!

There are injections that can be given to postpone/ stop a season but these are not recommended until the dog’s second season. Dogs given these injections in their first season have a high chance of developing a uterine infection. After the first season they are quite safe. If you wish to stop her coming into heat they can be given on the first day of her second season then repeated every 4 months. There are also mis-mating injections. If she has accidently mated and you don’t want the puppies you can give her an injection to stop her becoming pregnant. I recommend waiting until her heat has finished then bring her in for 2 injections a day apart. These injections are safe and very effective however they are quite expensive and it is often much cheaper to desex her.

If you know you do not ever wish to breed from your bitch it is best to desex her at 6 months of age before she comes into season. It is not necessary to let her have a litter before you desex her. She will not become silly or aggressive or one of the many of the other reasons I have been told by owners. In fact desexing at 6 months has many advantages, including decreasing the incidence of mammary cancers and uterine infection to almost zero and decreasing aggressiveness towards other female dogs and people. You also don’t have to worry about all the male dogs hanging around and fighting in your yard at night keeping you awake or all those pups you have to try and find homes for later. A small percentage of female dogs will become incontinent after desexing. This usually occurs after 5 or 6 years of age however some can become incontinent at a younger age. The incontinence is generally easily fixed with hormonal tablets given once a week or even only once a fortnight. The other disadvantage is weight gain. After desexing some female dogs have a slower metabolism. If they are fed the same amount of food as before the operation they can gain weight. However, if you are aware of this you can decrease the amount of food given to prevent this.

I hope this makes your decision easier- if you need any further information just call the Vet Clinic on 25702.

By Dr. Karin O’Connor from Port Vila Vet Clinic.