Whether your dog is male or female, one thing you need to consider is birth control. You might not want puppies right now, you might not want them at all, but accidents happen, and it only takes literally minutes whilst you’re out on a walk during your female dog’s ‘season’ for the inevitable to occur. The next thing you know, you’re looking at a dog who is expecting her first litter.
Of course, it could also be that you have a male and a female dog, and in that case, you need to think about sorting some kind of protection out on both sides.
To help you understand more about the world of birth control for dogs, as well as your options, let’s explore the main areas, to help you make an informed and sensible choice for your particular pet.
- Is There Birth Control for Dogs?
- Male Birth Control Options
- Female Birth Control Options
- Spaying & Sterilisation
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- My Dog Ate My Birth Control Pill, What Should I do?
- How Effective Are Contraceptive Methods For Dogs?
- Will Birth Control Stop a Dog’s Period?
Is There Birth Control for Dogs?
Yes. There are several options for both male and female dogs, and it really comes down to choosing the option which is most suitable for your dog.
Not every option is suitable for every dog, and it’s really very similar to the human list of choices – not every woman is suitable for the pill, and not every man is suitable for vasectomy. It’s about weighing up the pros and cons and reaching a sensible decision.
Whilst spaying and neutering have always been the most traditional methods of birth control, these are still operations which your dog will have to go through, and will involve an anesthetic.
Many owners don’t want to put their dog through this type of stress, and as a result, many other non-surgical methods of birth control have been developed over the last few years, including the birth control pill for female dogs.
Male Birth Control Options
You might not be as concerned about unwanted pregnancy with a male dog, unless you have a female living next door or in the same house.
Having said that, preventing your dog from ‘sewing his seed’ without prior permission should really be something you think about! If your dog is one which tends to wander off on his own exploration missions, birth control is also something you should have high on your importance list.
As with females, there are a couple of options you can think about for your male dog, although surgical neutering (also known as castration) is still the number one go-to choice.
You may hear some people mention that neutering a dog can calm him down, i.e. if he is very excitable or has the habit of becoming aggressive when near to a female dog, particularly one which is in season. This totally depends on the dog himself. Yes, it can work for many dogs, but similarly, it doesn’t have the same effect for some others.
The term ‘neutering’ is actually an umbrella term for both sexes, however, for males, the correct word is ‘castration’. Because of the negative thoughts which tend to pop into the mind, related to this word, for that reason, most people tend to stick to the less worrying sounding neutering!
There are two versions –
- Chip-aided hormonal castration
- Surgical castration
Chip-aided hormonal castration is the newest kid on the block between the two options, and it renders the dog infertile, by delivering hormones. In this case, a chip is placed into your dog, just underneath the skin (the same as with a location chip), and this then releases hormones on a regular basis.
These hormones work to stop sperm production and the amount of testosterone within the body, and it works over around a 4-6 week period. After this time, your dog is rendered infertile.
The chip will need to be replaced every 6-12 months, to keep the fertility dormant, and if the chip isn’t replaced in the right time, fertility will return to normal and your dog will be able to impregnate a female once more.
This type of birth control is ideal for older dogs or those who you don’t want to put through an anesthetic or surgical procedure. There are some known side effects, e.g. changes in fur and changes in appetite, but these are purely hormonal issues which should rectify over time.
On the other hand, we have the more commonly known surgical castration procedure. This cannot be reversed once done and consideration should be given carefully beforehand.
In this surgical procedure, your dog will have an anesthetic, and a small cut will be performed, in order to remove the testes. It is much easier for a male dog to recover from castration, compared to a female dog undergoing the same type of permanent procedure, and recovery should only take a day or so.
The other perks of undergoing surgical castration, aside from avoiding your dog becoming the neighborhoods’ most prominent impregnator, is the chance that he will be calmer and more even-tempered, as well as protection against cancer of the testicles. The downside is that your dog may undergo fur changes, lethargy, appetite changes, and of course, the risks of anesthetic overall.
Female Birth Control Options
There are hormonal methods to prevent pregnancy in female dogs, and the final, irreversible surgical options. The major plus point of hormonal choices is that you can reverse the effect if you decide that you want your dog to have a litter of puppies in the future, and you also don’t have to put your dog through the operation and anesthetic.
Having said that, not all dogs are suitable for hormonal methods, so this is something to discuss with your vet very carefully.
There are birth control pills and drops you can give your dog to prevent pregnancy, but these are specifically designed for dogs, and it is not possible for you to simply give your dog the same pills that you are taking yourself!
There are certain risks which go alongside birth control pills for dogs, and your vet will want to do a thorough examination of your dog, as well as knowing about her general cycle, before agreeing that the contraceptive pill is the right option for her.
These can be given as a pill, which you would need to ensure she takes every day via her food (something which could be difficult if your dog is averse to taking pills), or it can be given as a liquid variety. The type really depends on how best you can administer this to your dog, in the most reliable way. As with the human birth control pill, if the tablet isn’t taken correctly, and at the right time, pregnancy is not protected against, and your dog could be open to pregnancy at any time.
Just as humans, female dogs are able to have a contraceptive injection to prevent pregnancy. The injection is given after the ‘season’, or ‘heat’ period, and it is repeated at the same time every five months. If an injection isn’t given on time, your dog will become fertile almost immediately.
There are downsides to the shot, and they include lethargy and tiredness, lack of energy, and it can also mean your dog gains weight, which has extra health risks associated with it. Again, this is a very similar side effect pattern which a female human would be facing if she was thinking about having the contraceptive injection, and it is all down to the hormones which are being administered.
Anti-Hormones are given after sex has taken place, and is basically the canine version of the morning after pill for humans. This shouldn’t be used as a regular form of contraception, but it is useful to know if your dog isn’t currently on any birth control, and an accident happens.
In this case, if fertilization has happened, the anti-hormones will prevent the egg from settling into the uterus, and thus ensure that pregnancy doesn’t progress. This is effective up until the 45th day after sex has taken place, and is effective in around 90% of cases. There are risks and side effects to anti-hormones however, so this should only be used in cases which are rare.
Spaying & Sterilisation
The two surgical procedures you will read about for a female dog are sterilization and spaying. Both require a general anesthetic, and both are major operations for your dog to go through. For this reason, do not take the decision lightly, and always talk to your vet in detail before making a decision.
Of course, the major plus point of an operative procedure is that there is no chance your dog is going to become pregnant. The downside could be that it is irreversible, and if you change your mind in the future, there’s no going back.
Sterilisation is the process of severing the ovaries, to ensure that ovulation cannot occur, and therefore neither can pregnancy. Out of the two main operative procedures, sterilization is less invasive and therefore, has a lesser recovery time. Your dog will still have a cycle, e.g. they will still go into ‘heat’ because the hormones are still produced, but there will be no chance of pregnancy occurring as a result of it.
The most invasive procedure is therefore spaying. This means the ovaries are removed completely, and therefore it is a completely irreversible, permanent procedure.
There are other reasons why you might consider spaying your dog, such as the predisposition to female genital tract cancers, mammary tumors, or inflammation of the uterus. If your dog constantly has troublesome periods of being in ‘heat’, then the symptoms of this will be reduced and eradicated by spaying.
There is more downtime associated with spaying, and there are some side effects, such as a possible increase in weight, due to increased appetite, your dog becoming less active, and some dogs also show a higher level of anger or aggression towards other female dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
My Dog Ate My Birth Control Pill, What Should I do?
Human birth control pills and canine versions are completely different, because of the major differences in hormones and cycles between the two creatures! Human birth control pills will not work for dogs, and in some cases, they can even be toxic. Having said that, your dog would need to consume a very large amount of your birth control pills to create a problem or danger.
How Effective Are Contraceptive Methods For Dogs?
The operative methods are 100% effective and totally irreversible. The hormonal methods completely depend upon compliance, e.g. how reliably your dog takes the method, or how reliably you take her to the vets for her regular shot.
The same can be said for the chip version of castration – you will need to ensure that you take your dog to the vet for replacement on time, otherwise the risk of pregnancy will become higher.
When taken correctly, hormonal methods are very reliable indeed.
Will Birth Control Stop a Dog’s Period?
Some methods will, and some won’t. The operative methods will stop the period, however, they may not stop the associated behavior, e.g. sterilization will still allow your dog to show the same kind of sexual behaviors that she would have done had she not been sterilized, it’s just that she won’t become pregnant. Other methods, such as hormonal shots and pills, won’t stop her period.