Being responsible for your pet's reproduction



Photographs: Unsplash

Text: Tarek Abu Sham


As responsible pet owners, we should take the time to better understand the process of reproduction and how it can affect the health of our pets. Therefore, before deciding to breed or sterilize your pets, we recommend that you consult with your veterinarian for more information specific to your animal.


When your cat is in heat, it's usually pretty noticeable. they tend to be more talkative and in your face.

Cats and dogs have different menstrual cycles than their human counterparts. They can cycle several times during their breeding season, and until they are bred, they won't release an egg. Each "heat" lasts on average 6 days, and if not bred, they will go out of it for a short time. An entire cycle could last on average from 3-6 weeks. When your cat is in heat, it's usually pretty noticeable. They tend to be more talkative and in your face. They may even consistently demand your attention and rub themselves against you or other objects. Cats will often roll around on the ground and arch their back and hindquarters. Menstrual blood is not commonly seen, as it would be with canines. Female cats may start to spray objects or increase the frequency of urination. Once successfully bred, the cat will go out of heat.


Dogs are a bit different. Smaller breeds could go into heat around 4 months old, but generally, it isn't until around 6 months old for most dogs. Each cycle lasts about 2-4 weeks and happens about 2-4 times a year. Physical signs are more noticeable in dogs, with less obvious behavioural signs than cats. Their vulva will enlarge and, depending on the animal, may or may not be as obvious. During their cycle, they will have some amount of bleeding. This can vary between dogs, some of which may go unnoticed.


During estrus, your pet can get pregnant. If you have an intact male in your home or close by, it's best to keep them separated. The two animals will often "tie" together during mating and stand butt to butt. They may be stuck together for 5-45 minutes, with an average of 20-40. It is not recommended to interfere even if you didn't anticipate breeding during this time, as it may hurt the animals. After a short while, they will separate independently without fuss, and you can address the accidental breeding then.


Gestation

Gestation in both species lasts about 9 weeks (63 days), with cats sometimes taking a little longer. During this time, your pet's caloric needs will increase and often, they are transitioned onto kitten or puppy food to provide more nutrition. Most will continue on this until the babies are weaned. Extra supplementation with calcium or commercially available vitamins is not recommended unless recommended by your vet. At any time, if you find your pet pregnant, whether planned or not, it's best to seek out their advice.


Before your pet gives birth, we recommend checking with your veterinarian. At 45 days or later, fetal skeletons are visible on radiographs (x-rays). Therefore, having a count before birth is vital. For example, if you expect 5 puppies and only get 3, you know there is a problem. This is also a good way to check the size of fetal heads compared to the pelvis to make sure they can fit when the day comes.


Pregnancy prevention

The most definitive solution is to spay or neuter your pets. A spay removes the uterus and ovaries (or just the uterus), which will prevent pregnancy, vaginal bleeding, and estrus. Neutering male involves removing their testes. If you find yourself in a situation where you have an unwanted mating or pregnancy, there are a few options. Sterilization during pregnancy is possible but is more difficult because of the enlarged uterus and vessels. In some countries, the "mismate" shot may be available through your veterinarian just after breeding to try and prevent pregnancy. However, prevention with sterilization is a safer, more practical, and more definitive option. Sterilization has health benefits as well for your pet. So whether you are interested in breeding or sterilization for your furry loved one, contact us today for an in-home consultation for more information.

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