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Preventing pyometra in dogs

Tony Buckwell advises a concerned reader

Fox-red Labrador

A fox-red Labrador

Q: I understand that having puppies will prevent a bitch from developing pyometra. My springer is now five years old. Should I let her have a litter or is she too old? (Read  how old should a female dog be before having puppies?)

Preventing pyometra

The vet says: Pyometra is a common infection in dogs that haven’t been spayed. It is important to understand that not all unspayed dogs will develop pyometra. It is more likely in bitches that show signs of false pregnancy or receive treatments to control their seasons. Each time a bitch has a season, she undergoes the changes associated with pregnancy, irrespective of whether or not she is pregnant. These changes make uterine infection more likely, especially if the bitch doesn’t subsequently become pregnant. (Read should I have my dog spayed?)

Bitches should be fully mature before they are first mated, and that will typically be when they are two to four years old. People generally avoid breeding from older maiden bitches, and not beyond the age of eight. While there is evidence to suggest that breeding bitches are less likely to develop pyometra, the number of pregnancies is critical. Having one or two litters appears to make little difference to the risk.

Breeding from your bitch on one occasion is unlikely be a way of preventing pyometra. Discuss the situation with your vet, and be aware that there are advantages and disadvantages of spaying. Spayed springers are prone to putting on weight and develop a fluffy coat that can be more difficult to groom. Advised by your vet, you should be in a better position to make an appropriately informed decision.