Do Dogs Who Have Had Litters Live Longer?

by Sarah Dray
    Dogs can be happier and healthier without the burden of pregnancy.

    Dogs can be happier and healthier without the burden of pregnancy.

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    Whether spaying is a good idea is a common question among pet owners. You'd like to know if depriving your dog of a chance to have litters is going to hurt her in the long run. All surgeries carry risks, but that doesn't mean letting your dog have puppies is a healthier alternative. In fact, spaying early tends to increase longevity.

    The Myth of "One Litter Before Spaying"

    Although experts can't explain why, a myth proliferates that dogs should be allowed to reproduce at least once before they're spayed. Many owners feel spaying their dogs is a bad idea, so they prefer to let them breed -- maybe because they feel it's "natural" or better for the dog. According to WebMD, there's no scientific backing to the theory that dogs need to have at least one litter before they're spayed.

    Risks of Pregnancy and Birth

    Both pregnancy and birth carry risks. Sure, dogs have been having puppies for thousands of years -- but that doesn't mean complications don't exist or won't happen. C-sections for dogs exist for a reason. On top of that, a dog can experience false pregnancies, which can affect her behavior and cause health issues. Intact females have a higher risk of developing pyometra, an infection of the womb that can be fatal, than spayed dogs. Pyometra can happen between pregnancies and affects more than 22 percent of all unspayed females, according to the Petside website.

    Benefits of Early Spaying

    According to WebMD, the best time to spay your furry friend is before she goes into her first heat. Going into heat -- which of course must happen for Doggie to have a litter later on -- greatly increases the risk of developing mammary tumors. Based on this alone, you can say that dogs who don't reproduce have a better chance of making through life without at least one type of cancer. Also, spaying requires removing the uterus, eliminating the possibility of another type of cancer.

    The Final Word

    There's no way to say whether a dog will live longer because she's been a mom. However, a number of health issues and risks are associated with pregnancy and delivery. So, technically, preventing a dog from having puppies will also eliminate those risks. All things being equal -- good-quality food, vaccines and good vet care -- a dog without puppies has a better chance of living longer than a dog who's not spayed and goes through pregnancy.

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    About the Author

    Sarah Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including "Woman's Day," "Marie Claire," "Adirondack Life" and "Self." She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.

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