Is your dog’s heat cycle driving both of you crazy? We get a lot of inquiries about the feasibility of halting a dog’s heat. It’s understandable that pet owners may seek medical remedies due to the challenges that come with a dog in heat. Unlike humans, there is no such thing as birth control pills or oral contraceptives for dogs that can be used long term. Human birth control pills can be used for years. Birth control for dogs basically comes down to stopping their heat. We understand from personal experience that dogs are hard to deal with during the heat. So it’s no surprise people look for medical solutions to this.
The short answer is, Yes, there are several methods to stop a heat cycle in dogs.
However, owners who seek relief for their misery may be left slightly disappointed. Mostly, because the method involves severe risks to your dog’s health.
In this article, you’ll learn the methods of preventing your dog from going into heat, types of dog birth control, the benefits, and the potential risks of each.
Table of Contents
- What is a heat cycle in dogs?
- Why prevent a dog from going into heat?
- Methods for preventing a dog from going into heat
- Is stopping a heat cycle in dogs safe?
What is a heat cycle in dogs?
The dog heat cycle, also known as estrus or heat, is the natural reproductive cycle that female dogs go through every six to twelve months of age. During this period of time, the female dog’s body undergoes hormonal changes that prepare her for potential pregnancy.
The heat cycle consists of four stages:
For an indepth look at the dog heat cycle, please refer to our article Why do female dogs go into heat?
Why prevent a dog from going into heat?
There are several reasons you may want to prevent your female dogs from going into heat. These reasons include:
- Unwanted pregnancies: If your female dog isn’t spayed and is able to mate during her heat cycle, she may become pregnant and give birth to unwanted litters of puppies.
- Behavioral changes: Female dogs in heat may exhibit behavioral changes, such as restlessness, increased vocalization, and attracting unwanted attention from male dogs.
- Health risks: Female dogs in heat are at an increased risk of developing certain health issues, such as uterine infections and mammary tumors.
Methods for preventing a dog from going into heat
There are 2 primary types of birth control methods available to prevent heat and an unwanted pregnancy in dogs. These methods include:
Spaying: Recommended. Spaying is a surgical procedure that involves removing the ovaries and uterus of your dog. This surgical sterilization renders her unable to reproduce. Spaying is the most effective way to prevent a dog from going into heat as the reproductive tract is removed. Beyond the hassles of dealing with her heat symptoms such as the messy vaginal discharge, it offers numerous health benefits.
Spaying your female dog before her first heat cycle can significantly reduce her risk of developing certain types of cancer such as mammary tumors later in life. Additionally, spaying can reduce the risk of uterine infections and ovarian cancer.
It’s important to note that spaying your female dog is a permanent procedure. She won’t be able to reproduce after the surgery as she won’t go into heat. While spaying offers many benefits, it’s essential to consider the potential cons of spaying, such as weight gain and decreased energy level. When we spayed our first female, she was prone to weight gain. This made us watch her food carefully as she also had arthritic elbows. Through simple weight management, she lived a long and healthy life.
Please note that spaying is a major surgical procedure and should only be performed by your licensed veterinarian. Your vet can provide you with more information on the procedure and help you to decide if spaying is the right option for your dog. This is one of the first topics we discuss with every new puppy owner when they come to our veterinarian clinic. If you don’t plan on breeding your dog, we highly recommend it. While there are risks with any surgery, it’s one that is done regularly and with minimal post surgical problems.
Medication: Not recommended. There are several medications available that can be used as birth control for dogs. These medications work by suppressing the hormones that are responsible for the heat cycle. They can help reduce the sex drive of your pet but their primary use are forms of birth control. However, the use of medication for this purpose is not recommended for long term use and should only be used under the guidance of your veterinarian.
Megestrol acetate (commercial name: Ovaban) is a medication that can be used to halt the heat cycle and to treat a false pregnancy of your dog. Megestrol acetate is a synthetic derivative of progesterone.
Megestrol acetate is a synthetic derivative of the hormone progesterone. Naturally, the level of this progesterone starts to climb as the ovulation approaches. This is usually near the ninth day of the heat. The main consequence of progesterone is the lining of the uterus becomes receptive to implantation.
This hormone increases naturally as ovulation approaches. Administration of progesterone to a dog during the early part of her heat cycle leads to the suppression of estrogen output, which prevents ovulation. This results in early transition to the next phase and subsequent early termination of the heat cycle. This is similar to human birth control pills. The possible side effects may include increased hunger, gaining weight, lethargy, behavior changes, and coat changes. While rare, serious side effects can include infection of the uterine tissues which can cause vaginal discharge, breast tissue enlargement, breast tumors, and breast tumors.
Medroxyprogesterone Acetate is also a synthetic derivative of progesterone. You may hear it called by the common brand names Provera®, Meprogest®, and Proclim®. It can be administered either through an injection or pill form. Like all medications, there can be side effects. These can include increased hunger, thirst, weight gain, insomnia, or personality changes. Medroxyprogesterone Acetate has potentially serious side effects such as diabetes, reduced thyroid hormone levels, liver damage, uterine tract infection, even aplastic anemia and bone marrow suppression. Medroxyprogesterone acetate should be used be used with great caution if your dog is lactating.
Is stopping a heat cycle in dogs safe?
Stopping the heat cycle by using Ovaban sounds like an easy solution. However, there are things you should be aware of:
- Follow your vet’s instructions. We already mentioned you should use Ovaban with veterinary guidance only. Ask your veterinarian for directions and do not exceed prescribed doses. Additionally, keep your doc informed in case something unexpected happens.
- Contraindications. Megestrol acetate should not be used with pregnant dogs, dogs who have a uterine tract infection, diabetes mellitus or mammary tumors. Also, there should be caution using it for young dogs who have not developed a stable heat cycle (consecutive heat cycles) or for dogs who are under some form of stress. Contraindications, not mentioned here, must be discussed with your veterinarian.
- Aversive effects. Like most medications, Ovaban also has a long list of contraindications. They vary starting from increased appetite (and weight gain), fatigue, and ending with mammary tumors. The problem is, megestrol acetate is often used in the long run. Dogs come in heat twice a year, and regular use of the medication increases the risks tremendously.
- Keep your dog isolated during therapy. While the most common reason to use the treatment is to stop worrying about the heat, you still have to prevent your dog from mating during it. In most cases, the therapy lasts for eight days or more. If your dog mated during this period of time, you must cancel the treatment, unless your vet confirms it’s safe to continue.
- TIming is critical. It’s necessary to begin the therapy within the first three days of her heat cycle to stop your dog from ovulating. It’s not recommended to administer megestrol acetate to your dog if she’s already ovulated as it won’t be effective in stopping the heat cycle.
- No guarantee. It’s also important to note that the use of megestrol acetate is not a guaranteed method for preventing your dog from going into heat. Some dogs may still experience a heat cycle even after receiving the medication. Additionally, the medication isn’t a long term form of contraception and will only halt the current heat cycle.
- Consider spaying. If you use megestrol acetate (Ovaban) to escape worries about the dog coming in heat, and you do not intend to breed her, you should seriously consider spaying your dog.
Preventing your dog from going into heat can be achieved through various methods, including the use of medication and spaying. While medication may seem like a simple solution, it is essential to use it under the guidance of a veterinarian and be aware of the potential risks and side effects associated with its use. Spaying is a more permanent solution and offers numerous benefits. It is the most effective method but it is a major surgical procedure that should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian. Spaying a female dog is recommended for responsible pet owners to prevent her from going into heat. Ultimately, the decision on which method to use should be made in consultation with your veterinarian and based on your dog’s overall health and individual needs.
You’ve learned the methods of preventing your dog from going into heat, types of dog birth control, the benefits, and the potential risks of each. With this knowledge you can make an informed choice with your veterinarian’s guidance. This will go a long way towards a healthy and happy life with your pet dog. And keeping your Pet Happy is what we all want.
This article is a part of a series about dogs in heat.
Question: What is the most effective method to prevent a dog from going into heat?
Answer: Spaying. This is the most effective method to prevent a dog from going into heat and an unwanted pregnancy. It involves the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus of the dog.
Question: What are the potential health risks for female dogs that aren’t spayed?
Answer: Female dogs that aren’t spayed are at an increased risk of developing uterine infections and mammary tumors.
Question: Are there any long term birth control medicines for dogs?
Answer: No. There are no long-term birth control methods for dogs. The only way to prevent pregnancy for the life of your pet is spaying.
Question: What is the recommended age to spay a female dog?
Answer: The recommended age to spay a female dog is between 6 and 12 months of age, before their first heat cycle.
Question: Can medication be used to treat a false pregnancy in dogs?
Answer: Yes, medication such as Megestrol acetate can be used to treat a false pregnancy in dogs. It can also be used to halt the heat cycle.
Question: What are the potential side effects of using medication to prevent a dog from going into heat?
Answer: The potential side effects of using medication to prevent a dog from going into heat may include increased hunger, weight gain, lethargy, behavior changes, and coat changes. Serious side effects can include infection of the uterine tissues, vaginal discharge, breast tissue enlargement, and breast tumors.