Dogs will decide to mate on their own if given the opportunity. Forty percent of females get pregnant after only one mating. If you didn't make the choice to breed your dog, you could end up with a litter of unwanted puppies. It may seem like nothing can be done once the mating takes place, but multiple ways exist to terminate a pregnancy.
Spaying, also known as having a female dog fixed, is the best way to prevent pregnancy. The dog's ovaries and uterus are removed during the spaying process, so there's no chance for a pregnancy to develop. Female dogs who will not be bred should be spayed before their first heat to maintain optimum health. Dogs who are spayed later in life have a higher risk of developing infections of the uterus and certain types of cancer, such as mammary cancer.
Although pregnant dogs are sometimes spayed after mating to avoid an unwanted pregnancy, this practice is not always safe for the mother. Your veterinarian must assess how far along the pregnancy is and the individual health of your dog to determine whether or not spaying is appropriate after mating. Some veterinarian clinics will not spay any dog that is visibly pregnant or lactating until after her puppies are born and weaned.
Veterinarians have other methods for terminating a pregnancy when spaying is not an option. Injectable estrogens are one of the most common medical treatments. The estrogen injection prevents fertilized eggs from migrating and implanting in the uterus if administered shortly after the unplanned breeding. Your vet can determine whether or not it is too late to use this termination method. Side effects of estrogen injections include uterus infections and bone marrow suppression, a condition that causes severe anemia, low white blood cell levels and low platelet counts. Bone marrow suppression is often fatal.
Some of the other terminations methods veterinarians use include natural hormones known as prostaglandins and a drug known as dexamethasone. Prostaglandins reduce the levels of progesterone, which is required to maintain pregnancy. Side effects are typically mild and include panting, trembling, nausea and diarrhea. Dexamethasone is in a class of drugs known as glucocorticoids, which are often used to terminate late stage pregnancies. Dexamethasone is not always effective, and it is unclear exactly how it works. Side effects include panting and excessive drinking and urination.
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