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One Litter Before Spaying?
Question: We got our puppy in May of '98 from the pound, and she is a mix. She is such a joy for our family. We want her to have one litter of puppies and then get her spayed. Is that a good idea or not? How can I tell when she comes in heat, and when is a good time to breed her? Also, how long are dogs pregnant for? Please let me know! -- D.F, via the Internet

Answer: With no shortage of surplus pets in this country and a situation where even "valuable" purebreds die for the lack of a home, considering such a casual breeding is irresponsible at best. What will you do with the puppies? Keep them all? Drop them at the shelter? Finding homes for a mixed-breed litter is difficult. Are you prepared to deal with the reality that some or even all of the babies you will watch come into the world will be die as unwanted?

Have you considered the expenses and the difficulties of raising a litter properly? Under normal circumstances, raising a litter is a lot of work. Sometimes it can be heartbreaking. A friend of mine recently went through a breeder's nightmare. In a litter of 12 puppies, four were stillborn, and all but two died one-by-one in their first week of life. They could not be saved, and she was absolutely overwhelmed and saddened by the experience. I just saw the two remaining puppies (cleverly named Sur and Viver) and marveled at the effort it took just to keep two puppies clean and socialized.

The health benefits of spaying your dog are also well worth considering. If your pet has not come into her first heat, you can protect her from mammary cancer by spaying her now. Even after her first heat, spaying eliminates the possibility of other reproductive system cancers. The behavior benefits of altering are more pronounced in males, but spaying your female will spare you the drippy mess of her twice-yearly heat as well as the company of persistent suitors.

You'll be able to tell when your dog is coming into season mostly because of an increase in her licking herself in an attempt to keep clean. As the heat progresses, you'll see bleeding (and will likely want to put special britches on her to catch the drips). She'll reject suitors -- sometimes violently -- until she's ready to breed (usually five or six days after bleeding is noticed), and then will flip her tail over if touched near her rump, indicating interest. Pregnancy in dogs runs an average of 63 to 65 days.

Talk to your veterinarian about your plans, or, even better, about scheduling a spay for your dog. If you want another dog, revisit the shelter. Otherwise, please don't add to the problems of overpopulation by breeding your pet.


Write to Gina at Write2Gina@aol.com! Letters may be used for her syndicated column, and may be edited for space and clarity. Pet Connection content is copyright by the Universal Press Syndicate, all rights reserved. For information on subscriptions or reprints, call (816) 932-6600.

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