Animal mating happens naturally, and one effort to curb the pet overpopulation is to spay and neuter.
What do you do if your dog becomes pregnant before then? There are a few scenarios where pet owners may decide to terminate the pregnancy. For example:
Marlene has been overwhelmed lately at work and home. She keeps meaning to have her dog, Sadie, spayed at the vet’s office. She keeps putting it off, and one day she calls Sadie back inside from a potty break. Sadie doesn’t come and on further investigation, Marlene finds that a stray dog has locked onto Sadie in the back yard. As Marlene thinks of puppies and what she would do with them, she also wonders, “Can dogs have an abortion?”
Marshall breeds Labrador Retrievers. He keeps them separated during heat cycles, but one day a neighbor’s dog that he thought was neutered locked on to one of his dogs. He thought nothing of it at first, until he found out from the neighbor later that evening that the male was not fixed. Marshall does not want to cross-breed puppies and considers his options.
There are options to deal with unwanted canine pregnancies, and yes, dogs can have an abortion. This depends on your beliefs and if your veterinarian is willing to perform the procedure. The first step is correctly diagnosing your dog’s pregnancy.
Many dogs presented for abortions may not even be pregnant. It is important to verify your dog is pregnant before having any treatment administered. Some drugs that induce abortion have side effects that could cause health problems for your pet, and this can be serious if the treatment is unnecessary.
- Was the dog in heat? If the dog was not in heat, there is a reduced chance the dog is pregnant. Vets can test for this with a vaginal smear.
- Was there enough time for it to happen? Mating usually takes 20 to 30 minutes on average. If your dog was gone for only five minutes, the chances of pregnancy are greatly reduced.
- Was the dog mated? The vet can check for signs that the dog is pregnant. Options include swab tests for sperm if shortly after the mating was suspected, ultrasounds, checking for fetal heartbeats or performing a pregnancy test. Pregnancy test kits are also available for sale (around $120 for a pack of five).
Various drugs may be used depending on your dog and the vet’s experience.
- In recent years the uses of estrogen injections and pills have been reduced because of their side effects. Estrogen injections may be done soon after the mating, but its side effects can include bone marrow suppression, anemia or pyrometra (uterine disease). These health issues can be serious or even fatal to your dog.
- Another injection sometimes used is Dexamethasone. This injection is administered by your vet. Side effects include panting, excessive thirst and/or excessive urination.
- Prostaglandin F2 alpha (PGF) is considered a natural hormone your vet might administer. Side effects include panting, trembling, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and excessive drooling.
- Another option is having your dog spayed. This process will remove the fetuses and prevent future pregnancies. If having puppies in the future is desirable for your dog, discuss your options with the vet on the best course of action.
Side effects are possible with any form of treatment. Pain, discomfort and bleeding are possible with any abortion, spontaneous or planned. Monitor your dog closely for side effects, consider pain management options and have a plan in place to manage future pregnancies or spay your dog.
Be wary of any medication described for ending pregnancies in dogs that are available for purchase. You have no way of knowing what you are getting, and some medications can be absorbed by human skin. This adds the risk of human health issues. Any treatments are best left to your vet in a clinical setting. Additionally, never give your pet medications made for humans without consulting your vet — they could be lethal.
- LSU School of Veterinary Medicine: Pregnancy prevention in dogs
- Johnny D. Hoskins, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM: Mismate management
- Mar Vista Animal Medical Center: Pregnancy termination