Is there a morning after pill for dogs? If you are asking this question, most likely your dog had an "oops moment" with the neighbor's male dog, and now you are looking for an effective way to prevent your dog from becoming potentially pregnant. If that's the case, rest assured you are not alone. Countless dog owners deal with these accidents each year, and vet's offices are familiar with the frantic phone calls coming from concerned dog owners. So is there a morning after pill for dogs? Veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec provides desperate dog owners with some answers.
How to Tell if a Dog Has Mated
If you suspect your dog might be pregnant, the first thing to do is to take her to the vet’s office. Rule number 1 is to confirm beyond doubt that there actually is a pregnancy to be terminated. The sooner you visit the vet, the higher the chances of taking control over the situation and balancing your options.
The vet will determine whether the dog is really bred and pregnant. As in any other visit to the vet’s, the examination starts with a thorough interview. For starters, the vet will ask you if you saw the dog mating and whether the so-called "tie" occurred.
If the dog went missing or was left without supervision, you will be asked for how long. This is important because if the female was gone for less than 30 minutes, there is not much to worry about (a successful mating usually takes more than 30 minutes).
Once the interview is finished, the vet will visually and physically examine the external parts of the dog’s reproductive organs to check for signs of heat. The next step is cytology. Cytology is performed by taking a smear which will be analyzed under a microscope.
The procedure allows the objective determination of whether the dog is in heat, and in some cases, if it mated. If the obtained vaginal sample contains sperm cells, the female was definitely bred and the smear is considered positive. However, not finding any sperm cells does not rule out breeding. For accurate results, the smear should be taken as soon as possible after the suspected mating (a day later tops).
A method for determining whether the dog is pregnant is through abdominal ultrasound. Unfortunately, abdominal ultrasound does not give accurate results unless it has been at least 20-22 days since the suspected mating.
Is There a Morning After Pill for Dogs?
Is there a morning after pill for dogs? Well, as complicated as it may sound, the answer is both yes and no. The answer to this paradoxical question depends on several factors such as: your veterinarian, the state you live in and the availability of certain drugs in your country.
After completing the examination, if the vet can objectively determine that the dog was bred, there are several dog pregnancy termination options. Each option comes with a long list of instructions, health risks and precautions.
Diethylstilbestrol (DES) tablets – these tablets are popularly known as "morning after pills for dogs." They are effective only if the dog was brought to the vet’s office immediately after the mating. That is because they should be administered for 5 days after the mating. Unfortunately, DES tablets are not available in all countries and they have certain side-effects (most commonly blood issues). In the past, an injectable form of DES existed. However, today, the injectable form is not available.
Estradiol cypionate (ECP) – popularly known as the "missmate injection," this drug is often combined with DES tablets. The combination is used in cases where it has been more than 5 days since the mating. Used on its own, ECP is effective if administered within a 72 hours time-frame after the mating. ECP is not approved by the FDA for use in dogs. However, it can be legally prescribed and used by licensed veterinarians as a prescription extra-label drug. ECP is associate with some serious side effects such as pyometra and bone marrow suppression.
Mifepristone (RU486 or Mifeprex) – this is an abortion pill formulated for humans. Sadly, due to its possible side-effects and the lack of assurance of its positive outcome, it is not labeled for dogs. Additionally, it is rarely available, and if available, it is quite expensive.
Glucocorticoids (Dexamethasone tablets) – they are potent enough to cause abortion even in the later stages of pregnancy. On the flip side, this option is not consistently efficient. What is more, the use of glucocorticoids is associated with certain side-effects such as excessive thirst and frequent urination. Luckily, the side-effects disappear once the treatment is finished.
Prostaglandin F2α – prostaglandins work by destroying the so-called yellow body which is responsible for maintaining the pregnancy. Although the use of prostaglandins for pregnancy termination purposes is still in its experimental stage, many veterinarians prefer prostaglandins over estrogens because they are safer and associated with fewer side-effects.
Progesterone antagonists (aglepristone) – as a progesterone antagonist this drug attaches to the progesterone receptors on the uterus and blocks the progesterone’s effects. The progesterone is essential for embryos implantation and pregnancy maintenance. The prime benefit of this treatment option is that it is effective for up to 45 days after the mating. The treatment includes two injections administered 24 hours apart. Sadly, this option is extremely expensive.
Surgical abortion in dogs through spaying – this is possible if it has not been more than 2 weeks since the mating. By this time, the uterus is still very small and the procedure is almost same as the preventative spaying.
Risks of Dog Pregnancy Termination
Although there are many pregnancy termination solutions, the decision to terminate a pregnancy should never be taken lightly. Their effectiveness may be questionable and there are certain risks associated with using certain dog pregnancy termination drugs.
For instance both DES and ECP are estrogen based formulas. 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. The bone marrow suppression is irreversible.
Also, infertility – although it rarely occurs it remains a possibility and other problems such as impaired blood circulation, skin problems, urinary infections and behavioral changes.
However it should be noted that whether planned or unwanted, terminated or carried to term, pregnancies can lead to a plethora of individual, social and even cultural issues. If indecisive on how to fix your dog’s "indiscretions," do not hesitate to talk to your trusted vet.
All in all, if you do not want puppies from your dog, the best option is to have her spayed before accidents occur. Spaying or surgical sterilization is the only foolproof and permanent solution. The ideal spaying time is another topic and it should once again be discussed with your trusted vet.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.