How Can I Boost My Dogs Sperm Count?
A lot of it’s going to depend on the breed of the dog and the age of the dog. Once we see dogs over the age of five, we do see a decline in fertility because of aging, because of testosterone changes in the testicles, because of prostate disease. I think there’s a lot more to nutrition and fertility in the male and the female dog than we really recognize. If you’re feeding Purina or a Royal Canin product, that’s what I would be recommending and where I’d be putting my money, on one of those two products. We know that those products do help us with good fertility. It’s difficult to read the package of a label of a dog food and really understand the micronutrients. The macronutrients are easy, the fat, the protein, and the carbohydrates. Those are easy. Those are numbers you can really understand, like 30, 20 means 30% protein, 20% fat. I mean, those are easy things to remember and understand. But the micronutrients, meaning the things like zinc and salt and magnesium and some of the really tiny little bits of things, they’re not well reflected in the nutritional profiles that are listed on the bag of food. I would be very careful with food if I were feeding a raw meat diet or an off brand that you haven’t had good fertility with or you don’t have a background on. I’d be switching to Royal Canin and Purina.
Once we get those two things taken care of, the age, the prostate health being part of age and the nutrients, then I would start looking at some of the male nutritional supplements. We have Breeder’s Edge Oxy Stud, which is going to help bring up his sperm count. Breeder’s Edge In Between for Him is going to help with semen quality, and it’s also going to help with overall health. I think that I would be looking at those supplements. I also use the IESB CF-Plus. So that’s again, another product that’s meant to help with male fertility. I think there’s some nice products out there, but I would really look hard at nutrition.
And then, of course, housing environment, is a dog under a lot of stress? Dogs that are traveling on the road for dog shows or dogs that are in stressful kennel situations. Those will tend to have lower sperm counts. And you want to be really careful with the kind of disinfectants and other products that the dog is coming in contact with, like their scrotum. If they’re sitting on the concrete and you haven’t adequately rinsed the disinfectant off, we can see chemical burns on the skin of the scrotum and that, of course, causes inflammation. And inflammation is not healthy for more sperm production. So there’s a lot of things I’d be looking at environmentally and nutritionally.A small dog, like a cavalier is only going to have about 200 million sperm in a collection that’s absolutely normal for a small breed dog. We normally can multiply their weight by ten and get a pretty good idea of what their sperm count should be. So a 60-pound golden retriever should have 600 million sperm. Cavalier may have 200 million, and that should be enough to get a female pregnant, assuming that the semen is good quality. The other thing to remember is it takes 62 days to grow a sperm from start to ejaculation. It can take close to three months before the nutritional supplements and the diet and the other things that you’re doing environmentally will make an impact on his semen quality.
Do Pregnant Dogs Need Any Vitamins?
Again, it gets back to what you’re feeding. You can’t make a crummy diet great by adding nutritional supplements, but you can certainly enhance those diets. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I really do like the Purina and the Royal Canin diets. I personally feed Royal Canin. I would not feed anything other than those two diets to my breeding dogs. As far as nutritional supplements, I think most of the time we don’t need to add anything. If you do have brachycephalic breeds, the bulldogs, the Frenchies, those kinds of dogs, I think adding folic acid such as that in Breeder’s Edge Oxy Mate Prenatal can be helpful in reducing the risk of cleft palates and I think DHA is a nice nutritional supplement because we know that improves the development of the eyes in the brain, especially on females that have had more than one litter. We know that their DHA levels are depleted. There was a study done at Canine Companions for Independence, which is a service dog organization in California. They’ve been in this service dog business for about 35 years, and they did a study on 5,900 puppies, so it’s not a small study. They looked at was their graduation rate. The females with their first litter had a graduation rate of 50% of their puppies. And by the time these girls got to their fifth litter, they were down to a 25% graduation rate. So they started dissecting that apart and determined that it was a DHA issue. So by adding DHA, we know that we’re going to improve brain and eye development. We know it’s not detrimental to their joint and bone development from other studies that were done and published in the AVMA journal. Calcium should not be supplemented until the female goes into labor, and then the calcium gel such as Breeder’s Edge Oral Cal Plus gel are useful during labor to improve uterine contractility. But you want to be really careful that you’re not over supplementing calcium earlier. And then, you don’t really need to supplement if you’re feeding an appropriate all stage or pregnancy diet. The only pregnancy diet on the market is Royal Canin’s HT-42d. It’s a great product and it does have the micronutrients in it that are necessary for good development of the follicles so that the eggs are being produced. It helps with placental development, it helps with fetal development. If you’re struggling with fertility, I would start on the HT-42d diet. HT means you feed it from the start of the heat cycle and 42d means you feed it until the 42nd day of pregnancy. And on day 43 then you switch over to the mom and baby dog or a puppy diet so that the female gets adequate nutrition.
What Should Dog Progesterone Level Be For C-section?
Typically, we consider anything less than two nanograms. That’s what the NG stands for, nanograms per milliliter, anything less than two is probably safe to do a C-section. That being said, I had a dog that was in our practice this weekend and her progesterone was 0.46, and she was not due until the 19th of November.
So she was about 11 days from her due date when we saw her. She was in the process of unfortunately losing the litter. Even with appropriate antibiotic and supplementation, it was too late to save those puppies. So you can’t use a hard core number. Two generally means that it’s safe. Two or below generally means it’s safe. I have done C-sections when the progesterone is over ten, and as long as we have good timing on the front end and we know when the ovulation happened, we’re okay with that. We’re good with being able to say that she’s due in 48 hours when progesterone is a ten. If you have a bulldog and you’re at the clinic and you want to make sure she doesn’t go into labor overnight and you end up at the emergency clinic and you have great timing on the front end, you know what day she ovulated you’re probably okay at ten, but you got to have really great timing on the front end.
If you don’t have great timing, then you’ve got to do what we refer to as reverse progesterone. Now I’ve seen females that don’t have timing sit at three for ten days. If we’d taken them at three, we would have lost the entire litter because they would have been born ten days too early. You only get a 48-hour window, two days either side of the whelping date to have a successful later outcome. If it’s more than two days early, the puppies are premature. They can’t breathe or die. If it’s more than two days late, the placental attachment starts to fail, and you lose puppies because they’re in the uterus without any oxygen and they die inside the uterus. So you have a two-day window either way. I cannot overemphasize the importance of doing good progesterone timing at the time of the breeding and not waiting until the end to do your quote unquote, reverse progesterone. Those make me crazy. They make most veterinarians that have to do them crazy. I think it’s really important that you do good timing at the beginning. Know your numbers. Know when she’s due. Write it on the calendar. Don’t count on the breeding date because according to breeding dates you can have a pregnancy last between 58 and 70 days: that’s a 12-day range. That won’t get you a lot of puppies.
You have to have good timing on the front end and then it’s great if you have a veterinarian that can do a progesterone in house and get your results within an hour. But many veterinary clinics don’t have that. They have to send the lab samples out which means that you’re not going to get results fast enough to make a decision on your progesterone to cut out a C-section so please, please, please, time your girls.
How Do You Use Chilled Dog Sperm?
It’s important that you have good quality semen and good timing. If you’re not timing it, you’re guessing, I just had a client this week that said, well, I know she usually got pregnant on day 14, so I’m not going to progesterone test or I’m just going to ship semen. I’m like, Okay. I hope it works for you. But you really need to know what day she ovulates. So we breed two days after ovulation. Ovulation, meaning five on most people’s machines. So if we know what does she ovulated, we put fresh chilled semen in two days later. If you’re struggling with not getting good insemination outcomes, then you want to make sure that the semen quality is good so that there’s no question that the semen is getting there in good shape and that the sperm count is good. It’s important to get a sperm count on dogs. And a lot of veterinarians can do this, but not all of them. I’ve seen sperm counts come in where I’ve gotten a note on the paperwork that says, better collection than last time, two squirts instead of one. That’s not a sperm count, folks. I need to know how many sperm, how many billion sperm were in the ejaculate, so I know I’m putting in at least an insemination dose. So semen quality, semen count, good timing. And then, of course, the female has to have good nutrition. And you need to have a good semen delivery system so you can sometimes do fresh chilled with a fresh chilled with a pipette and just put it in vaginally. And it may work out well for you, but there may be other times that the semen quality isn’t good or the female’s fertility isn’t good, and you need to go directly into an intrauterine insemination, which can mean either a surgical insemination or a transcervical insemination. That’s when the endoscope is used. If you don’t have good semen quality, good semen delivery, you’re going to have trouble. Now I see people handling their semen with latex so latex gloves, latex artificial vaginas, and latex black rubber stoppers in the syringes that we handle semen with, those can all damage sperm and cause it to die. So you need to make sure that you’re using latex free products and make sure you’re not using a spermicidal lubricant, as well. I suggest Breeder’s Edge OB Lubricant. It is safe and promotes sperm motility. There are some lubricants even if they’re labeled that they’re not spermicidal, I’ve seen them be spermicidal. So check all your equipment. Look under the microscope if you have one to see what the semen looks like after you’ve put it in the pipette after it’s been in the syringe, after you’ve handled it, just to make sure that you still have swimmers. Because if you’ve killed the semen, you’re not going to get a pregnancy.
When Should You Worm a Pregnant Dog?
Typically if you’ve had the female dog on Panacur during the pregnancy, the last three weeks of pregnancy through the first two weeks of lactation, generally you don’t need to do any additional deworming unless you have either giardia or coccidia. So it’s not a bad idea to do the Nemex at two, four, six and eight weeks, but typically you don’t need it. I would be spending a little bit of money on fecal analysis on some litters and see what you’re getting for results because you may actually not need to do anything else if your deworming is working well. So fecal analysis is really important. There are a couple of labs that run the fecal analysis that includes not just flotation, which your veterinary clinic can do, looking under the microscope for worm eggs, but they also do the ELISA testing for the parasite protein. So it’ll pick up giardia much more effectively than a flotation. It’ll pick up roundworms and hookworms very effectively as well. So you may be actually doing more deworming than you need to. It’s never a bad idea to spend the money on a fecal analysis. You want to send puppies out of your facility clean. You don’t want them to go to their new home with their first trip to their veterinary clinic and a stool sample that the client takes in to the veterinarian with parasites in it because that doesn’t reflect well on you as a breeder.
The other thing that I like to do is during the transition, the last three days at your house through the first three days of the new home is I send those puppies home on Albon. Albon is going to help with coccidia. It does reduce bacteria in the GI tract. The main reason we’re doing it is to stabilize the bacteria in the gut. The point being that when you do that, you actually have a lower risk of the puppy’s contracting parvo during the stress of adjusting to their new home, their new food, their new water, all those changes that take place. So those would be the things that I would use as resources.
Can You Treat a Pregnant Dog for Coccidia?
Coccidia is kind of tricky. I use Albon. That’s the only product that I will use for coccidia. However, if you give it around day 45 of the pregnancy, you will create midline defects in the puppies. It interferes with the metabolism of folic acid, the B vitamin, folic acid, B9. And when you do that, then midline defects like cleft palate and open abdominal walls and spinal bifida can all occur. So you don’t want to use it during pregnancy or if you do during pregnancy, it’s just got to be the last couple of days, like very, very, very close to the time that she’s going to have the puppies. There are lots of protocols floating around on the Internet about other drugs that people are using. And I’m not really sure why people are so enchanted with using drugs that are not FDA approved in the dog. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that we’re using a drug off label so far off label that it’s never been approved in that species in the United States for that use. I’m not going to mention any specific drugs, but I think if you look online and you don’t recognize this as an FDA drug, if it’s not Albon, or trimethoprim sulfa, which is a drug that similar to Albon, I just don’t think that it’s safe. I don’t think that there’s any value in it, and I think it’s just a bad idea.
I’ve had people do things like chlorid where they mixed it in with the pregnant dog’s food. Bad idea. It’s not labeled for dogs, much less pregnant dogs. So you’ve got to be super care for what you’re putting into your pregnant dogs. The only thing that should go into a pregnant dog is if it’s going to make her and her puppies healthier. I just I’m just not a fan of using anything for coccidia during that time period. If you do need to stabilize your gut flora, you can use a probiotic such as Doc Roy’s GI Synbiotics. Those are safe. And what I think is kind of interesting is that coccidia doesn’t usually cause much disease in adult dogs. It’s primarily a disorder that we see causing puppies to have diarrhea, not generally adult dogs. So if you keep her healthy, you keep her on a good nutritional plan with a good quality diet and you have her on a probiotic. I think you’re going to have very little need to do anything for coccidia during the pregnancy.
What Can You Use on a Pregnant Dog for Fleas?
Not all flea and tick prevention is safe for a breeding dog. The Revival Flea & Tick Finder is a great tool to help you find safe flea and tick prevention for pregnant and breeding dogs and cats. You can also call our Revival Pet Care Pros at 800.786.4751 and they can help you with if you have a specific question about a product.
That being said, for flea and tick prevention, there’s some topicals that are safe and some topicals that are not. Frontline is safe, so the fipronil products are safe. The Vector product, which contains three active ingredients, which is why it’s called Vector3. It is not safe during pregnancy. The Seresto collar is not checked for safety in pregnancy in the United States. It is in Europe, but not in the U.S. So you really have to look at the topicals very carefully because they will translocate. The way that the topicals work as they are applied to the back of the neck and then they translocated across the dog skin by getting down into the oil glands of the skin, down on the hair follicles and then it moves across the body. As soon as it moves across the body of the female, it’s going to move across the body onto the puppies as well as soon as they’re born. So you want to be really careful that what you’re using is labeled for pregnant and nursing dogs.
So number one, check your topicals. Some of them are safe, some of them are not. So be really careful with your topicals. For the orals. There are four oral flea and tick preventatives. That’s Bravecto, Credelio, NexGard and Simparica. Of those, only Bravecto has been tested and found to be safe during pregnancy and lactation. So again, Bravecto is safe. Credelio, NexGard and Simparica are not tested. I can’t tell you if they’re safe or not. I have clients that tell me that they’ve been using them, but that doesn’t make me comfortable. I want to be using a product that the company has spent the money on, proven it to be safe, and that they are committed enough to a breeder that they’re going to do those tests and make sure that what you’re putting on your pregnant dog and in your pregnant dog is safe. So I’m pretty much heavy handed when it comes to this. I don’t want your litter of puppies to be the footnote in the paper that says, oh, and by the way, this product causes this and this and this.
For heartworm preventive, almost all of heartworm preventive are tested and found to be safe. So that’s going to be any of the ivermectin containing products like Iverhart Max, and Heartgard Plus. It’ll include ProHeart, which is the moxidectin injectable that lasts 12 months. It will include the Sentinel products, which is the milbemycin. It does not include Trifexis. So heartworm is a lot easier to manage in a pregnant dog heartworm prevention than flea and tick prevention.
Anything other than Trifexis for heartworm and the only oral for pregnancy is Bravecto. And then the topicals being the fipronil products. Many of these products are not safe. And just because it’s a natural product, so if you’re using one of the essential oils or the other types of products, natural doesn’t mean safe. Natural means natural. It may have come from a plant, but there are toxic plants out there. Don’t just reach for something that says natural and assume that it’s safe because some of those products are not.
Do Vets Recommend Raw Diet for Dogs?I never feed raw meat diets to dogs. I don’t really think that they’re safe. I don’t think that they’re nutritionally complete. I think the parasites in the bacteria are a problem. I am just not a fan, I avoid them at all cost. I think it’s a really bad idea. I don’t feed dogs raw meat diets. I don’t recommend that people do. We see a lot more C-sections in our females that are on raw meat diets. Their calcium-phosphorus balances off. We don’t think that they’re traditionally complete for pregnancy or for lactation. Dogs need carbohydrates to lactate. They need carbohydrates to grow puppies. And a lot of the raw meat diets are carbohydrate deficient. A lot of them are nutritionally deficient.
But the other concern isn’t just nutritional deficiencies. It’s also nutritional excesses. So if you feed too much liver, that’s going to have too much vitamin A in it. And you’re going to get back to that midline defect we talked about a few minutes ago. That’s where the cleft palate, the open abdominal wall in the spinal bifida lesions can occur. So you have to worry about nutritional deficiencies, nutritional excesses, and you have to worry about parasites and bacteria. There are multiple reports of puppies that are born and die after birth due to diseases caused by raw meat diets like neosporum and toxoplasmosis parasites There’s salmonella, shigella, campylobacter, a lot of bacteria that are in the raw meat products. And you’re also exposing your family to that by the dog having it in their mouth and coming over and kissing the kids and those kinds of things. I just avoid raw meat diets. I don’t think they’re appropriate for a dog that’s pregnant and nursing. If you want to feed it before it and after it, I can’t change what you do, but I would definitely not recommend during pregnancy and lactation for the reasons listed.
What About Using Anti-inflammatories During Breeding to Improve a Dogs Fertility?
This was introduced to me by Emmanuelle Fontaine, who is one of the Royal Canin veterinarians in Canada. He shared two studies that were done that showed that 50% of females that had previously been infertile and had no puppies with the use of anti-inflammatories have litters of puppies.
So the anti-inflammatories that are used are going to be veterinary products, which would be things like Medicam, which is meloxicam, and Rimadyl, which is carprofen. It’s used on days two, three and four after ovulation and again on days 15, 16 and 17 days after ovulation. And I think what makes sense is during the two, three and four day after ovulation time period, it makes sense that that will improve fertility because that’s when fertilization takes place in the oviducts. If they are swollen or scarred or anything like that, and the sperm and the egg can’t get together, you’re not going to have puppies. And then on days 15, 16 and 17, that’s when the placenta forms and attaches to the uterine wall. So without a happy, healthy uterus, we’re not going to have that. So the anti-inflammatory at that point makes sense that we’ve quieted down the uterus and make it a more hospitable place for the placenta to form and the puppy to continue developing.
So it’s days two, three and four and is 15, 16 and 17 post ovulation. Ovulation being in my lab, five nanograms per milliliter. We’ve had some good success with that protocol in our practice and it is safe to use on those females during that time period.
When is the Soonest Chance of Seeing Sperm After None Has Been Found?
If it’s a young dog, if he’s seven months old and you’ve collected him and he’s been happy to ejaculate, but there weren’t any sperm in it, I think that he may just be too young to be mature. Some dogs aren’t mature until they’re 12 months old. Some of the large breed dogs, the really big ones, the Bernards, the mastiffs, they may not have sperm until they’re 15 to 18 months old just because they needed more time to mature.
If you’re talking about after some kind of treatment, like there was an injury, he had a fever, he was sick he wasn’t on appropriate nutrition, any of those things that can affect semen quality, it’s going to take at least 60 days. You can certainly collect him during that time period. But I would not collect him every day. I would give him plenty of time to just rest and recover. I would probably check him about every 30 days and see if what you’re doing, if you’ve got him on antibiotics, if you’ve got him on a nutritional supplement, if you’ve got him on any of those things to see if quality is improving. I would only use an antibiotic for a male dog with fertility issues if it had been something prescribed by the veterinarian that had done the semen analysis.
How Do I Stop My 2 Week Old Puppy from Having Diarrhea?Lots of puppies have diarrhea during that time period. It is not unusual. It is not surprising. Green and seedy is not normal. Yellow and seedy is that’s absolutely normal for it to be yellow and seedy. So if you’re taking stool samples in, first of all, you want them to do more than just a flotation because a flotation is only going to tell us if the eggs are present. And in puppies under two weeks of age, they can have a parasite that isn’t mature enough yet to be producing eggs. You can absolutely miss a positive sample because the parasites in the puppies are not old enough to make eggs. That’s when you want to do the test that does the ELISA test or the PCR to assess further what you’re going to have for parasites. That’s the first thing to do is don’t just get a flotation, get a PCR test. Secondly, if you’re seeing abnormalities and they’re not finding any parasites, you can do a stool culture, That requires a special test that they send out of the veterinary clinic. It’s can take up to five days to grow the bacteria that may be present. For sure, you want to give them a chance to do a stool culture.
As far as managing it, I use yogurt and baby rice cereal mixed together that you can feed to the puppies to help slow down the diarrhea. That baby rice cereal that comes in those boxes, that flake a baby rice cereal, you can mix up with yogurt and help syringe that into the puppies. You can use probiotics such as Breeder’s Edge Nurture Flora. It is a really nice one that comes in a paste and is formulated for puppies from birth to three months of age. Easy to put on the tongue of a puppy. Easy to get them to swallow so you can easily get a probiotic into them. I would not reach for an antibiotic until I knew if I had the need for it. But I use a lot of kaopectate. Do not use human kaopectate or Pepto-Bismol in young puppies. I don’t use it in pregnant dogs. I don’t use it in young puppies. It’s an aspirin product and that’s not safe for them. But kaolin pectin, the veterinary one is basically clay and it’s an absorbent, so it will help to absorb some of the toxins. It will help slow down the GI tract so that it’s got less fluidity to the stool. You can very easily give a CC of that kaolin pectin, the veterinary version, not the human one.
You can give that to a young puppy. You can do it through a feeding tube, or you can syringe it slowly into their mouth so that they’ll swallow it. And I have good success with that. But don’t get too alarmed. I mean, the stool should be yellow and seedy. That is a normal color.
If you see blood, that’s signs of sepsis. If you see white stool, they’re probably overeating. And frankly, a lot of puppies do have diarrhea because they overeat. At every one of my C-sections, I send home kaolin pectin with my clients, the veterinary product, because I say to them, somebody is going to have diarrhea. It may be the female, it may be the puppies, might be you. But at some point, everybody during this first two weeks of puppyhood is going to have diarrhea. Do not reach for antibiotics. Don’t reach for antidiarrheals, like Imodium. Not at all safe in young puppies. Probably not at all. So stick to your kaolin and pectin, and your baby rice cereal and your probiotics.
How Do I Find a Canine Reproduction Vet Near Me?
If you are looking for a veterinarian that does a lot of canine reproduction, there is a website, therio.org. That is the association that veterinarians that do a lot of reproduction join. Now, they may do all species, they may do horses and cattle. So therio.org has a find-a-vet feature on it. If you go to that and you put in the species like canine or feline, you put it in your zip code, you can find veterinarians in your area that are breeder friendly.
There’s also a believe it or not, breeder friendly Facebook group. If you’re struggling to find a veterinarian that understands you as a breeder, those are great resources to find somebody. Otherwise you find a veterinarian that’s willing to work with you, that is willing to help you outfit yourself with some products to have at home for emergency use. I think it’s really important that you do have a well-stocked but small and appropriate pharmacy so that if something happens in the middle of the night or on a weekend when you can’t get hold of your veterinarian, you are equipped. And most veterinarians will help you with reasonable amounts of medication. They may not want to send you a 500-count bottle of an antibiotic, but they may send you 14 of them to get you through a few days that you might need help with. So work with a veterinarian and get a good relationship. If you’re grouchy and horrible to your veterinary team, they’re not going to help you. You need to be nice to these people because they are most days skipping lunch, staying late, coming early. They’re working really hard to keep up with all the pet supply demand. So be really nice to your veterinarian and you would be surprised how much better things go.
How Much Weight Should a Puppy Gain Each Day?
The formula for this is one to two grams per day, per pound of anticipated adult body weight. I know that’s a mouthful. I practice this regularly, so I can say that. It’s one to two grams, so one grams to two grams per pound of an anticipated adult body weight. If you have a dog that’s going to weigh 60 pounds, the puppy should gain 60 to 120 grams per day.
Basically, puppies should double their birth weight in seven to ten days. They should always be gaining. If they lose more than 4% of their body weight during the first few days of life, they have a lower survival rate. We used to say they could lose up to 10%, but now from the neo care work out of France, we know they shouldn’t lose more than 4% if they lose any at all. Keeping them well-nourished is very important. They should double birth weight in seven to ten days. And typically, like a golden retriever puppy is going to gain one to two pounds a week.
Heartworm Shots for Dogs vs Heartworm Chewable
The heartworm shot is safe during pregnancy and lactation. It’s been tested. We know it’s safe. The advantage to it is that there’s better compliance. You weren’t going to forget to give the chewable on the first of the month. You’re not going to have the dog spit it out behind the couch and you don’t find it for three weeks until you pull off the couch and vacuum behind it. So absolutely, the injectable is fine and it’s safe. There are some reports of dogs that get sick after the injection. You should only give it to dogs that are healthy. I have personally not used it because we just don’t see enough demand for it in our practice that we would go through enough vials of it. It is a sustained release product. So, what you put in the dog is going to be there for 12 months. You don’t want to use it on a dog that’s not healthy, a dog that’s not feeling well. But the reports are that it’s safe and effective. It depends on what kind of dogs you have. It depends on how hard it is to medicate them. And of course, then you have to look at the bottom line on cost, whether it’s more cost effective to do that or the chewable. Personally, for my own dogs, I use the monthly chewable, but I have no objection to using it during pregnancy and lactation. It is labeled as safe.
What is the Best Age to Spay or Neuter Your Puppy
I like to wait until they are skeletally mature, meaning that they are mature enough that they’re not going to grow anymore. That’s going to be after a heat cycle. That’s going to be after puberty. That’s going to be in small breed dogs ten to 12 months of age and large breed dogs, 15 to 18 months of age. That is the earliest I like to see spaying and neutering done. That is not the mainstream. That is not what a lot of veterinarians like to do because they like to spay when they’re young and skinny and easier to spay because it’s a simpler procedure for the veterinarian. But I think from a perspective of reducing the risk of cancer and reducing the risk of other diseases, we are better off to wait until they’re older. In the Pandemic Puppy book that I wrote, it goes through all this information. You can check it out there. And we also have a web page on our website called The Spay and Neuter Controversy at SmallAnimalClinic.com. You can take a look at that. It’s got links to a lot of articles that reflect that important piece of research that shows how much safer it is to wait until the dogs are older.
We see less obesity in females, less urinary incontinence, less puppy vaginitis leading to urinary tract infections. If they’ve had a heat cycle before they’re spayed, less cruciate ruptures. It’s four times more common to have a cruciate rupture in a golden retriever that spayed at a young age than it is in a dog that’s not spayed. Four times! Cruciate surgeries are between three and three and $5,000 a knee. So that’s a $10,000 decision that you’re making when you spay young. Less hip dysplasia, less allergies, less thyroid disease, and less bone cancer, which is osteosarcoma. The spleen cancer, which is hemangiosarcoma and less lymph node cancer which is lymphosarcoma. So, all across the board you can see that there are a lot of medical advantages to waiting.
The reason I think a lot of breeders like to see their dogs spayed or neutered young is because they don’t want people going out and breeding dogs that were not sold as breeding dogs. But you have to weigh the benefits and the risks. And if you’re selling dogs to people that you don’t trust, then you probably should be selling them to different people. So, I would be looking really hard at that research.
How Do You Know When to Switch From Puppy Food to Dog Food?
I feed puppy food until the dogs are at a mature size. So it depends on the breed. If it’s a toy breed, they’re going to mature around six to eight months of age. If it’s a large breed dog, it’s going to be closer to 15 to 18. It depends on the breed. It depends on the puppy’s weight. If you have a fat little Labrador puppy, you may need to switch to an adult food earlier, or if they’re having bone joint problems because of growth, that kind of stuff, you may need to change sooner. But generally, puppy food can be fed up until they’re somewhere between ten and 15 months of age, 18 months of age, depending on the breed.
Do You Recommend Spaying Females After They are Retired From Breeding?
I do. We see about 25% of females that are retired, whether they’re breeding dogs are not breeding dogs, with pyometritis. Pyometritis is serious, life-threatening uterine infection. It’s very serious. It’s very expensive. The rule in veterinary medicine has never let the sun set on a pyometra because it is that serious a disease.
So, yes, once she’s retired, you’re not using her anymore for breeding, spay her. Let her live the rest of her life at your home or in a pet home and just let her relax and not have to worry about that infection in the uterus. Pyometra, it’s a dreaded, dreaded disease. It’s right up there with bloats and hit by cars as far as the things veterinarians and their clients dread to see.Have a specific pet health question or want help solving tough pet health problems? Call our Pet Care Pros at 800.786.4751.
Written by: Marty Greer, DVM
Director of Veterinary Services
Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.