Forest Lodge Veterinary Practice Ltd.

New Milton Surgery      Lymington Surgery

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Preventing Season in Bitches

We are often asked whether it is a good idea to stop bitches coming into season and, if it is, what is the best way of doing it. What we will try to do in this leaflet is to set out the options to help you make an informed choice.

Should we stop seasons?

The advantages of stopping seasons are that it prevents unwanted pregnancies, is more hygienic in bitches that live in the house, prevents false pregnancies, stops you having to confine the bitch during the time she is in season and  prevents dogs hanging around the house and garden causing damage and making a nuisance of themselves. Spaying, which is surgically removing the ovaries and womb, stops the development of ovarian/uterine cancer and infected wombs (pyometra), reduces the incidence of sugar diabetes and, if done before the second season, reduces the incidence of mammary cancer by 50% and helps to prevent the bitch getting overweight when older.

The disadvantages of stopping seasons are few and seem to depend on the method chosen.

Should they have a litter first?

We do not think that there are any advantages in allowing most bitches to have a litter first, especially as there are already far more dogs about than families want. Taking into account the increased health problems, especially mammary cancer, in bitches that have had puppies when compared with bitches which were spayed before their first season, we would certainly not recommend it.

What methods are available?

There are basically two methods available: Spaying and Delvosteron Injections.

Spaying. For most bitches, especially if it can be done before her second season, this is the method of choice for the reasons given earlier.  The disadvantages are that the coats of springers and setters are likely to be affected and become thicker and more woolly and there is also an increased chance of spayed bitches leaking urine as they get older. This is especially common in Weimeraners, Dobermans, Spaniels, Setters, Old English Sheepdogs and some other traditionally docked breeds. Urinary incontinence, however, is usually easily controlled by medication.  If bitches are spayed when they are very young they can get a bit “leggy” owing to delayed growth plate closure. Further if a bitch is spayed before her vulva has developed properly are likely to have problems with urine scalding of the skin when they are older.

Bitches spayed when they are older are prone to putting on weight and must have their food controlled very strictly.

Delvosteron Injections. These are a type of hormone injection that control seasons well with very few problems. Bitches on routine injections are less likely to put on weight and can lose it if dieted. Springers and setters keep their fine coats and bitches are no more likely to leak urine than untreated dogs. It increases the incidence of Pyometras from roughly 17.2% in normal bitches to 17.4% in treated bitches, which, we feel, is basically negligible. If we decide to use the drug we need to give one injection to start with, repeated again in 3 months and again in 4 months and then she needs routine injections every 5 months. We recommend continuing the injections indefinitely, and we have certainly seen 13 year old dogs get pregnant if we stop them. We routinely send out reminder cards when the next injection is due and a further reminder a month later if we have not seen you.

The disadvantages are that a few dogs develop false pregnancies a month or so after the injection and will have to have another injection then. Also we have known dogs to develop white patches or bald spots where the injections have been given. This is usually confined to whippets and greyhounds and in these breeds we often give the injection over the tummy.

Unfortunately a few dogs find that the injection stings for a few minutes after it has been given and  they get very worried about coming to the surgery.
We recommend these injections in bitches where we decide that we want to prevent seasons but for some reason do not want to operate.

Want to Breed later?

We would strongly recommend that you do not use any form of drug to prevent seasons. We have seen a few occasions when bitches treated with any of the above drugs do not come back into season for years, and we know a number of breeders who feel that the injections cause a long term reduction in fertility.  The manufacturers of Delvosteron have a lot of evidence to show that bitches do come back into season and usually conceive normally, but we feel that you are taking a risk and cannot recommend it.

We therefore recommend spaying bitches before their second season if you do not plan to breed from them.

If for some reason we decide it is in the dog's best interests not to spay, we would recommend Delvosteron injections as long as you do not plan to breed from her later.

In this we are supported by the British Veterinary Association, the Pet Health Council, the Companion Animal Study Centre at Cambridge University, the RSPCA and other knowledgeable bodies.

When to Spay?

We recommend that you make an appointment three months after your bitch’s first season.