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Dealing with Unwanted Pregnancy in Dogs

Dealing with unwanted pregnancy in dogs is certainly no fun. You care about your dog but you don't have the means to raise a litter of pups and find them all new homes. You may therefore wonder what you can do.
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If your female dog happened to breed with your neighbor's dog, you might be wondering if there is a way to stop an unwanted pregnancy in dogs. 

You might be hoping there is a morning after pill for dogs or that at least you can schedule your dog for an abortion. 

While there are some options to stop your dog's pregnancy most come with certain complications which can make their use undesirable. 

On top of that, to make matters worse, not all veterinarians carry the drugs that can stop a dog's unwanted pregnancy, and if they do, it can get quite costly.

 Following are therefore some options to deal with an unwanted pregnancy in dogs.

dog silent heat

Is Your Dog Really Pregnant?

Accidental breeding in dogs are unfortunately very common and they are a main contributing factor to the abundance of unwanted pets found in shelters nowadays. Stopping an unwanted pregnancy in a dog is often something that dog owners wonder about.

An important consideration before taking steps to stop an unwanted pregnancy in dogs is determining first whether the dog is really pregnant or not.

First off, what are the odds that your dog is pregnant? According to a study, as much as 62 percent of dogs were not pregnant after mating.

Did you actually witness the dog breeding? Consider that the average mating time in dogs from courting to end may take up to 30 minutes, so if your dog went missing for only 5 minutes, the chances she had an opportunity to mate are generally low, explains, veterinarian Johnny D. Hoskins.

If you witnessed your dogs attempting to breed, there are still a few things your vet may do to help you determine the odds of your dog being pregnant.

 A cytology smear done up to a day later after the unplanned deed can tell if your dog was in heat, and whether there is the presence sperm. Although, it's important pointing out that absence of sperm doesn't necessarily mean the dogs didn't breed.

And for the record, witnessing a tie doesn't necessarily mean that a dog is pregnant. There are dogs who tie and not get pregnant, while there are dogs who tie and not get pregnant. A tie is not a guarantee of pregnancy!

The best way to determine pregnancy in dogs with accuracy is by ultrasound, which can be performed as early as 20 to 22 days after breeding. Consult with your vet about this option if you are willing to wait.

Did you know? Human pregnancy tests do not work on dogs so determining pregnancy in dogs entails different options.

Morning After Pill for Dogs

Many dog owners wonder if there is a morning after pill for dogs. 

The answer is that the only products that can be used to abort unwanted pregnancies in dogs consist of "mismate injections," but they are known for causing major side effects.

Many of these dog abortion drugs are no longer available in the United States because of safety issues, but they still may be available in other countries. 

Perhaps the only mismate injection available in the United States is estradiol cypionate (ECP)which needs to be used immediately while the dog is still in heatbut very few vets will suggest its use.

Such injections work by preventing any fertilized eggs from implanting, but they make the heat last longer and there is a high risk for the dog contracting a uterine infection (pyometra) which can be very serious and treatment involves spaying the dog.

 Other side effects of these shots include infertility and severe anemia. 

On top of these risks, the drug is often ineffective and must be used as soon as possible after the unplanned breeding, which doesn't allow the allotted time to determine whether the dog was ultimately pregnant in the first place.

And for those wondering whether you can use the morning after pill used for people to stop an unwanted pregnancy in dogs, consider that it won't work because dogs have a reproductive cycle that is very different than in humans.

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"There is nothing very safe on the market in the U.S.. There are a few hormone injections on the market but most vets do not use or recommend them."~Dr. Scott, veterinarian

A Later Option for Unwanted Pregnancy in Dogs

Because of the serious risks for side effects associated with using mismatching injections, many vets prefer to run a pregnancy test around three to four weeks after conception. 

This allows to determine pregnancy first before putting the dog through the risks associated with dog abortion drugs. Pregnancy can be determined at this stage via palpation and ultrasound.

At this stage of pregnancy, the drugs used to stop an unwanted pregnancy in dogs no longer act as morning after pills preventing implantation, but rather interfere with the hormones that help maintain pregnancy (progesterone), but again, these drugs may not be available in the United States.

 A prostaglandin drug often used in farm animals is Lutalyse which has also been known to cause abortion in dogs.

Protaglandin drugs to stop unplanned dog pregnancy are safer than mismating shots but require a four-to-seven day hospitalization period (due to severe side effects) along with a follow-up ultrasound to ensure its effectiveness. 

A dog abortion treatment as such can get quite costly (often costing up to $ 2,000) and there are still risks for pyometra, but there appear to be no reports of infertility according to PetPlace veterinarians.

It's important to note that once a dog's pregnancy is over 40 days, termination is something most veterinarians do not recommend, considering the trauma associated with the expulsion of premature puppies.

"The best thing to do at this point is to wait for 30 days, so that it can be confirmed via a blood test or ultrasound whether or not she is pregnant. If she is in fact pregnant, then the drug Lutalyse can be used to induce premature labor."~Dr. Drew, veterinarian

Preventing Future Pregnancies

Another option that is permanent and safer and that can stop an unwanted pregnancy in dogs is getting the dog spayed. This will prevent the dog from ever going into heat again and sustaining any further unwanted pregnancies.

Spaying the dog is a good option for dog owners who do not plan to breed their dog. It is also a good option if the dog belongs to a breed known to have difficulties whelping or who happened to mate with a dog much larger, which in both cases can result in an emergency c-section for dogs.

When is the best time to spay a potentially pregnant dog? Owners should consider that canine pregnancy is about 63 days long. 

The earlier the dog is spayed the better. It is best to wait at least a few weeks after the dog goes out of heat, as spaying a dog in heat, is more complicated and costly.

If you wait too long though consider that the cost of spaying a dog that is pregnant may be higher and that there are more risks to the dog.

mother dog

Taking Care of the Litter

Another option of course, is allowing the pregnant dog to go through the pregnancy.

 Pregnancy in dogs lasts about 63 days and if you allow your dog to have puppies it will therefore be your responsibility finding them homes.

Unwanted puppies often end up in shelters where they risk being put down if nobody adopts them within a certain time frame. As cute as they are, there are too many unwanted pets in shelters.

On top of finding homes for puppies, you will have to take steps to prevent your dog from having another unwanted litter. You will also have to keep into consideration that intact female dogs are also prone to uterine infections (pyometra) which can be life threatening and the treatment can be costly.

As seen, there are several options for stopping an unwanted pregnancy in dogs. It is best to discuss with your vet and consider which situation can have the best or worst outcome. Is it better getting the shot, getting the dog spayed or allowing the dog to go through the pregnancy?

 The choice of what to do with an unwanted pregnancy in dogs is often based on several factors such as what dog owners intend to do with their dog, the health of the dog and the chances of finding homes for the puppies.


  • DVM360: Ask questions when dog presents for mismate management
  • Petplace: Pregnancy Termination for Undesired Matings in Dogs
  • Colorado State University: Pregnancy Termination in Dogs and Cats

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