If your 10-year-old dog is pregnant you are likely very concerned. One important consideration though is your dog's size.
Smaller dogs live longer and therefore a pregnancy at the age of 10 is not as bad as a larger dog being pregnant at the same age. Still though they need close monitoring and guidance from a vet.
Regardless of your dog's age, it's therefore important having a veterinarian follow your dog's pregnancy so to ensure everything is going smoothly.
Can a 10-Year Old Dog Get Pregnant?
A 10-year-old dog can certainly get pregnant, but it may not be as easy as when dogs are young.
Many dog owners are often surprised to learn that female dogs do not go through menopause, as it happens in women.
"Unlike women, there is no period in the dog's reproductive cycle that could be called or be similar to menopause as it happens in women," explains veterinarian Dr. Ivana in her article: "do dogs go into menopause?"
What happens though is that it may become more and more difficult for older dogs to get pregnant as their cycles get farther and farther apart.
Indeed, advanced age can be associated with less frequent cycling in some female dogs, explains veterinary theriogenologist Dr. Margaret V. Root Kustritz in the book: " The Dog Breeder's Guide to Successful Breeding and Health Management."
How difficult can it be though? Basically, females between the ages of 8 to 9 years (small breeds of dogs), and after 6 years (for large breeds of dogs) have an extremely low probability of fertilization.
According to some studies, the percentage is as low as 0-2 percent, further points out Dr. Ivana.
Did you know? According to rules set by the American Kennel Club, a female dog must be at least 8 months old, but not more than 12 years old at the time of mating to be bred.
Is Your 10-Year-Old Dog Really Pregnant?
To further complicate things is the fact that dogs often undergo what's known as a false pregnancy, and all the signs and symptoms closely mimic a real pregnancy.
Here's what's going on: at some point, around a month or two after going into heat, several hormonal changes take place in the female dog's body.
Not knowing whether she is pregnant of not, the female dog's body will err of the side of caution and undergo necessary changes so to maintain a potential pregnancy, regardless of the outcome.
If the female dog managed to breed and mate successfully with a male dog, her changes are likely due to a real pregnancy, but if the female dog was away from male dogs and is not expecting puppies, then her changes are very likely due to a phantom pregnancy.
This feature of female dogs is often frustrating for dog owners as the symptoms of a false pregnancy and a real pregnancy are quite the same.
Even many experienced breeders fall for it, so please don' feel bad if you were convinced your female dog was pregnant when she was not!
As the days go by though, once the female dog's body realizes that pregnancy didn't occur, her hormones will return to normal levels and every thing goes back to normal anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks.
Risks for Pyometra in Older Dogs
Owners of older female dogs need to be aware of a potentially life-threatening condition that is known as pyometra.
Pyometra is an infection of the uterus which can take place about 60 to 70 days after a heat cycle. Pyometra may be open or closed, with closed pyometra being the most dangerous.
Dog owners may confuse the signs of pyometra with the signs of pregnancy. Affected dogs suffer from vaginal discharge that accompanied by pus or blood, lethargy, loss of appetite, increased thirst and urination, fever, vomiting and diarrhea, and abdominal swelling
Dehydration, shock and death can occur when pyometra is not treated aggressively.
How to Determine Pregnancy in a 10-Year Old Dog
Sadly, there are no urine pregnancy tests for canines. If you ever wondered whether pregnancy test for humans work for dogs, the answer is unfortunately no.
If you want to find out whether your dog is pregnant or not, you need to make an appointment at the vet’s office. Here are several tests that can be carried out.
Relaxin test: The earliest this test can be done is at the beginning of the second trimester, so around 22 to 27days for an accurate test. The hormone relaxin is produced by the placenta, and its levels remain elevated throughout the course of the pregnancy. Female dogs undergoing a false pregnancy will have a negative relaxin test.
Ultrasound: An ultrasound can be done at 20 to 22 days post-conception, but it is most reliable when done at least 30 days into the pregnancy. Earlier can result in a false negative. The ultrasound will check for the puppies' heartbeats, although it doesn't reliably give a count of how many puppies are present.
Palpation: You can have your vet palpate your dog's abdomen to detect the presence of pups as early as 28 days into pregnancy. This is best done by the vet, as rough palpation by dog owners can be harmful. At this stage, puppies may feel like small walnuts.
X-rays: with an x-ray you can know how many puppies your dog is going to have. Also known as radiographs, these images can be taken any time after 45 days. At this point, you can see the mineralization of the puppies' skeletons, providing a count for how many pups to prepare your home for.
Can Pregnancy in a 10-Year -Old Dog Be Terminated?
Although there are some pregnancy termination solutions similar to the morning after pill in humans, the decision to terminate a pregnancy should never be taken lightly.
For example, both DES and ECP are estrogen-based formulas that can terminate a pregnancy. Estrogens work by preventing the fertilized eggs from travelling and implanting in the uterus.
The main issue with estrogen-based treatments is that their effectiveness cannot be fully confirmed. This inconclusiveness is mostly due to the fact that not all treated females were actually mated. And even if mated, they may not have been pregnant.
Another problem is the high incidence of side effects. The most common side-effects include: pyometra – antibiotic resistant uterine infection that can only be solved through surgical sterilization, bone marrow suppression – severe anemia, downsize of white blood cells and low levels of platelets.
Lutalyse is a prostaglandin-based drug that can be used before pregnancy is recognized and can be injected to abort the pregnancy, although it's not commonly used.
Risks in Letting a 10-Year-Old Dog Give Birth
It's a known fact that older dogs are more likely to experience complications during labor. Due to this, it's imperative to have your vet's phone number on speed dial making sure of his/her availability.
One complication is not being able to successfully push, a condition known as uterine inertia. If this happens, the puppy can get stuck in the birth canal which can be dangerous a situation for everyone involved. If the puppies are healthy, oxytocin can be given to stimulate labor.
On top of risks for uterine inertia, breeding older dogs can increase the likelihood of stillbirths and older dogs may need C-sections more often.
Retained fetuses are also a possibility requiring an emergency spay. Not to mention, old dogs may not be in optimal health to bear puppies and nurse them for several weeks. Puppies might not be physically perfect and some may be born with birth defects.
Older dogs are also more prone to mastitis. The most common symptom of mastitis in dogs is a swollen or painful breast.
Can you Spay a 10-Year Old Pregnant Dog?
Yes, you can have your 10-year old dog spayed which means surgically removing her uterus and ovaries. This is also a form of abortion if your dog is pregnant, considering that the puppies cannot be born.
However, this is best done earlier than later. Waiting too long can mean more challenges for the surgeon considering that, with more advanced pregnancy, the blood vessels will be greatly enlarged and the uterus will be more prone to tearing. In addition, there is an increased risk of bleeding.
Not to mention, it's more challenging emotionally once the fetuses are more developed resembling more and more full-term puppies.
Helping a 10-Year Old Dog Give Birth
Giving birth and going through labor can be hard on an older dog's body, but it's possible that your dog can successfully go through all of that without major problems. This may especially be the case with smaller dogs.
If your vet has found your 10-year-old dog to be pregnant and in good health, you may consider letting her have the litter. Consider that dog pregnancy lasts about 63 days.
Place her on a high quality puppy food through the pregnancy at least until her puppies have been weaned, suggests veterinarian Dr. Larson.
Always keep in touch with your vet and have x-rays done prior to whelping so to know how many puppies to expect. This way you know when she has finished whelping and whether she may have a retained puppy inside of her.
If you need help with placement of puppies, make sure to contact your local shelters and humane societies and place several flyers in veterinary offices so get the word out about puppies needing new homes.