Even in these days of routine, early spay and neuter, every now and then pet owners can still find themselves in the uncomfortable situation of having a female dog or cat that goes into heat under circumstances that might result in an unwanted pregnancy. This situation brings up a lot of questions about what actions are possible and what interventions are appropriate either personally or medically.
[Editor’s Note: Cats can become pregnant when they are only four months old; if you’re not a breeder you should set up a spay appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.]
Let me start by stating that the purpose of this article is to provide general medical information and not moral guidance. In addition, any choices you make (even if you decide to let your pet have a litter) should be supervised and directed by your veterinarian. Your vet knows you and your pet and can better tailor any recommendations for the best possible outcome. Furthermore, there is no point in compounding one mistake by putting your pet at any unnecessary risk.
Is it too late to spay?
We will first work under the assumption that you do not want puppies or kittens — not now, not later. Regardless of whether you saw your female being bred by a male or you simply suspect she might have been, it may not be too late to spay. Wait until she is finished with her heat cycle and then have her spayed as soon thereafter as your veterinarian wants to schedule the surgery. Spaying your pet early in a pregnancy is not significantly more difficult or risky than spaying her without pregnancy. If you wait, however, and do the surgery later, it definitely does become harder for everyone involved including your dog or cat.
What are other options to terminate pregnancy?
If you absolutely want to try and retain the breeding integrity of your dog or cat, surgical sterilization is not an option; however, medical intervention is still an option. Before any type of medical abortion is attempted, the first step is to be sure that your pet is actually pregnant. Your veterinarian can confirm a pregnancy via ultrasound about 15-30 days after breeding. Alternatively, radiographs can diagnose a pregnancy about 35-45 days after breeding. If your pet is in fact pregnant, then your veterinarian can discuss your medical options with you. There are several effective abortion-inducing drugs for dogs (and a few for cats) but they all differ in cost, efficacy, side effects and risk. Only your veterinarian should be administering these drugs to your pet.
[Editor’s Note: If you are interested in breeding your dog, click here to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons>]
Finally, and this cannot be stressed enough—no attempts to induce abortion in your pets should be made without the counsel, direction and careful oversight of your veterinarian.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.