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 as appropriate.
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 the animal.
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