We are at the end of the series of TPC articles dealing with ailments associated with reproduction, and with the male and female reproductive organs. Today, we’ll discuss pregnancy prevention and later we’ll deal with what can be done about accidental pregnancies.
There are five possible and realistic ways of preventing your bitch/cat from becoming pregnant.
Firstly, you can opt for surgery. I’ll deal with this in more detail the week after next. For now, however, allow me to just make this passing reference to the surgical procedure, through which both the womb (uterus) and the ovaries are removed. This surgical intervention is called ovariohysterectomy or spaying.
Of course, if your dogs (male and female) live within the confines of a well-secured yard, you may also wish to castrate the male (surgical removal of the testicles), so that he cannot produce sperm and impregnate the bitch. This is less invasive surgery (and it is cheaper and presents fewer complications during and after surgery). Interestingly, 99 out of 100 clients would opt for the more complicated spaying exercise. Let’s not get into the debate as to why this is so.
I should mention that once the female is on heat, male dogs from all over the immediate neighbourhood and beyond will be attracted to her. These amorous suitors will attempt (facing all odds – fences, owners armed with 2 by 4 sticks, other male dogs in the compound, etc) to impregnate her. I read somewhere that a male dog can pick up the scent of a female in heat half a mile away.
Before I conclude today’s superficial reference to the surgical possibilities, let me also make reference to the tubal ligation, as opposed to the complete spay. Later we’ll discuss the tying off of the ‘tubes’ in more detail.
Secondly, one can use birth control drugs. Well, you have heard and read me arguing against this option of hormonal intervention, because of the possible repercussive effects. Up to last week, when I was writing about the causes of pyometra, it was emphasized how much damage the ‘pill’ or hormone injections could cause.
Thirdly, there is an Intravaginal Device (IVD) that can be used to combat conception. This device is not the same as the Intrauterine Device (IUD) that women use. The IVD is placed inside the vagina and prevents intromission. In other words, the male cannot insert his penis into the vagina of the bitch on heat. This method is not as satisfactory as the spay. If it is not placed correctly, and sometimes even if it is, the IVD can be removed by the bitch or her ardent suitor. If you have the intention of breeding your she-dog at some later date, then the IVD may help in preventing immediate pregnancy, but allow sexual intercourse and the consequential pregnancy later on. I don’t know of any vet that keeps IVDs in stock, so you would have to inform him or her long before the heat period is due to arrive (remember your female dog usually only comes on heat twice a year). You would then have more than adequate time to consult with your vet so that he/she can order the IVD.
Fourthly, there are masking sprays and tablets on the market, which are supposed to disguise the ‘heat’ odour that receptive bitches exude. Chlorophyll tablets used to be a regular ‘discouraging device’ sold over the counter. I have seen ‘anti-mating’ sprays on the local market. Well, unless you can keep the level of camouflage constant and high, discerning bull dogs will know that the female is on heat and come a-calling. In other words, the scent-diminishing devices, whether sprays, rubs or tablets, do not work well to prevent sexual encounters. They are just not effective birth control measures.
Finally, there is that age old and very logical method of physically keeping the males and females apart. Well, it is difficult for thinking human parents to keep their supposedly thinking offspring from falling in ‘like’ (infatuation, love, whatever). In the case of cats and dogs, they too will find a way to copulate.
One can confine the female to her yard. Well, that fence better be high, and let’s hope that the gate is grilled. I had once adopted a street orphan. She possessed great dexterity in mating through the grillwork of the closed gate. It was almost comical to see them ‘stuck’ − she on the inside and he on the outside.
Also, you could lock up your female dog in a kennel. Or, if you have a male dog in the compound, you may lock him up too – or alternate their lock-up and release periods. But just believe me, don’t do that, unless your nerves are good. During the heat period, dogs (both male and female) go berserk when locked up. We have known male dogs to gnaw their way out of a greenheart and metal kennel. Females (and males) would howl through the day and night, while fighting to escape the kennel imprisonment. In the end, the most effective method for prevention of pregnancy is the spay. We’ll deal with that in TPC next week.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.