It's extremely important to spay your female puppy before she is able to conceive—which may be a lot sooner than you think. Contrary to what some believe, a puppy can become pregnant before she reaches actual adulthood at around 1 year of age. Unfortunately, puppies under a year are still babies themselves, making them marginal mother dogs. If your puppy becomes pregnant as a juvenile, she's apt to have more complications during her pregnancy than an adult dog.
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Young Pup Pregnancy
According to SpayFIRST, depending on your puppy's breed, she could go into heat as early as 5 months old. If your little one mates during this time, even once, she could wind up pregnant. With a canine pregnancy lasting only 63 days, this means the pooch will give birth to a litter of pups when she's only 7 months old. At this age, she's only one-half to three-quarters the size she will be as an adult, according to the Doberman Pinscher Club of America. Because of her small size, she may not have the room in her uterus to allow her pups to develop properly, leading to a spontaneous abortion or miscarriage of the fetuses.
Because she's so young, your potential puppy mother's immune system isn't fully developed, meaning that she's more susceptible to infection and disease than an adult dog would be. Bacteria including Brucella canis, Escherichia coli, streptococcus, salmonella and Campylobacter can all infect your pup's reproductive tract, the PetWave website warns. These bacteria can cause abortions, miscarriages, stillbirths and even death of infected puppies born alive. In addition, the canine herpesvirus can infect pregnant young dogs, leading to birth defects, miscarriages and stillbirths, as well. If your little pup isn't fully vaccinated when she becomes pregnant, she's also open to additional conditions that can sicken both her and her unborn pups.
A dog can die when she gives birth; the chances of this happening are increased with non-adult canine mothers, warns VeterinaryPartner.com. Because she's not fully grown, a young pup's pelvic canal may not be big enough for her puppies to fit through without endangering her life and those of her babies. This means that your pooch may need a Cesarean section, according to the Long Beach Animal Hospital. This surgical procedure can increase the chance of complications for a mother dog after birth, due to infection. A young mother dog is also more likely to abandon her pups than an adult, failing to care for them after birth, which lowers their survival chances.
Most vets recommend spaying pups between 5 and 7 months old, the Pet Informed website asserts. If yours goes into heat before she's spayed, keep her indoors and away from male dogs who aren't neutered, to prevent mating; have her spayed after she's no longer in heat. Common myths that dogs should experience a heat cycle or give birth to puppies before being spayed are completely false, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and essentially all pet authorities. Pregnancy early in life can lead to permanent illness due to the stress of birth and can cause unwanted temperament changes in the mother, VeterinaryPartner.com warns.
By Susan Paretts
SpayFIRST: How Early Can My Cat or Dog Get Pregnant?
Mar Vista Animal Medical Center: Care of the Pregnant Dog
Hilltop Animal Hospital: Taking Care of Your Pregnant Dog
Pet Informed: Veterinary Advice Online: Dog Spaying (Spaying a Female Dog)
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: How Will Spaying Change My Dog?
VeterinaryPartner.com: Breeding Your Dog
PetWave: Possible Complications of Pregnancy
VCA Animal Hospitals: Estrus Cycles in Dogs
Long Beach Animal Hospital: C-Section (Canine)
Doberman Pinscher Club of America: Growth and Development
About the Author
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, crafts, television, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared in "The Southern California Anthology" and on Epinions. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.