ROUTINE PREVENTIVE PROGRAM FOR THE INTACT BITCH
Mary C. Wakeman, D.V.M.
Ashford Animal Clinic
Canine Fertility Center
269 Mansfield Road
Ashford, CT 06278
Basic canine preventive care for the bitch in this practice, which deals
mainly with the kennels of breeders and exhibitors, and so differs greatly
from the usual pet environment, consists of vaccinations given as detailed
below, and monitoring uterine health as well as the usual yearly exam and
fecal, and dental care as needed. VACCINATIONS
- Distemper, Hepatitis (A2), Leptospirosis, Parainfluenza and Bordatella
once a year.
- Parvo and Corona twice a year.
- Lyme in April, and where needed also in October.
As an example, we give distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, corona
in April, with a heartworm test and fecal exam. In October, bordatella,
parvo and corona are given, with a second lyme shot in appropriate areas.
We try to give spring shots one month before Lyme season (70% of lyme
is transmitted in the months of May and June). We give fall shots prior
to the beginning of the indoor show season. Bitches to be bred are boostered
Due to the rural nature of this area, we still advise giving leptospirosis
to adults and older puppies.
Regarding spaying and keeping an intact bitch when an imminent breeding
is not planned,the breeder frequently has a different point of view than
that of their veterinarian. It may be that this bitch will be bred to a
young dog not yet old enough for breeding. It may be that the appropriate
male for this bitch has not yet made itself known . Whatever the reason,
there are important medical considerations to be monitered even in those
seasons when a breeding is not planned. It is also of great importance
for the breeder to understand that there are acceptable medical treatment
programs for bitches with uterine infections which will return over 75%
of individuals to reproductive health, able to produce more litters. In
all but the most severe instances these treatments are totally acceptable
alternatives to spaying.
An intact bitch is perpetually at risk from endometritis or pyometritis.
When a bitch is in heat, due to hormonal influences, resistance to infection
is decreased. Since our dogs do not habitually wear clothing, the vulva
is at most times in close contact with the ground. The ground, no matter
how fastidious our cleaning habits, has traces of fecal matter on it. Additionally,
at the time of estrous, the cervix is open, allowing easy migration for
organisms which may already be present in the vaginitis, perhaps causing
a vaginitis, to obtain entry to the uterus. Many of the most troublesome
organisms involved in uterine and vaginal disease are of fecal origin.
Routine testing of the bitch’s white blood count is essential to be certain
that organisms have not established themselves behind the cervix (i.e.
in the uterus). Many bitches routinely show signs of cystitis and vaginitis
at about 3 weeks after estrous, so this is an excellent time to test the
WBC. If the white count is normal or moderately elevated, the worst case
scenario is vaginitis or cystitis, which are merely troublesome (unless
an E. coli vaginitis is present in a bred bitch). With a higher white count,
an endometritis or pyometritis (inflammation of the endometrium of the
uterus, or frank pus in the uterus) is likely. A vaginal discharge may
signal either condition, as it stands to reason that if there is a uterine
infection, there is also a vaginal infection.
The presence of pyometra usually means that we will need to use Prostaglandins
to open the cervix and expel the infective contents. A culture and sensitivity,
in any case with an elevated white count, will help us choose an appropriate
antibiotic which will be effective against enteric (fecal origin) bacteria.
A vaginal culture, obtained from the area of the cervix with a guarded
culture instrument, is more useful than a urine culture. Urinary tract
infections are sometimes part and parcel of the greater picture, and the
organisms will be similar to those found at the cervix. NOTE: it is essential
that a cervical culture be taken properly for the information gained to
be reliable. The culture should be taken with a 'guarded culture instrument'
(the horse ones are great) or through a stainless steel speculum of 4 inches
or longer. They MUST NOT be taken from the area of the vulva or through
an "ear speculum" of black plastic, which is virtually impossible
to sterilize. We once had a culture taken on one of our patients which
lived 3 states distant by their local veterinarian. The sample was sent
to my lab and reported to my account. The organism isolated was that of
an ear fungus. I called the lab to report that there must have been an
error, and they reported that they had a second such result on a similar
specimen – from the same vet. On questioning the dog’s owner, we found
that the culture had been taken through a non-sterile "ear speculum".
If your vet can’t get appropriate materials, suggest that a 3cc syringe
case with the end cut out, or the tube from another "culturette"
could be used as a sterile speculum long enough to reach the cervix.
GENERAL HEALTH MATTERS
If the bitch has had difficulty conceiving, is unthrifty looking, or
is 5 years of age or older, a thyroid test (T4) may be indicated. Generally
we want to see the T4 levels in the upper 30% of the normal range to assure
that low thyroid doesn't contribute to infertility later. After the age
of 5, most animals will show t4 levels substantially lower than were present
in the dog at a younger age. This is not a sign of geneticallylowthyroid
in itself, but should be taken as a normal aging event in dogs of 5 and
older. Supplementing l-thyroxine at this point can prolong the age at which
litters may be produced with no harm to the bitch.
The owner should perform routine dental prophylaxis as necessary, watch
the dog’s weight, and keep up daily exercise as indicated by the age of
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BREEDER VET INDEX
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