To Breed or Not to Breed . . .

Ericson, a practicing county veterinarian, is immediate past president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn

Q: Our 9-month-old silky terrier came into heat about two months ago. We are considering breeding her on her next heat period. What exactly should we look for in determining when to breed her? Should we wait until her third or fourth cycle? How will we know whether she is pregnant? We have never bred dogs before and are planning to get her spayed after having a litter.

A. Paddleford, Tustin

A: You first need to decide whether you really want to breed your dog and have puppies to raise. If the female is of good breeding quality and in good health and you already have potential homes for the puppies, then breeding her will be a rewarding experience.

However, do not believe the old story that letting a female dog have a litter of puppies will make her a better dog. This is not always true and only brings more unwanted pups into the world.

Make sure you have good reasons before you make your decision. When your dog comes into estrus (heat) again, she will be around a year of age and will generally be mature enough to raise a litter of pups. Waiting for her third or fourth cycle will depend on her condition and overall health. Have her examined by your veterinarian to help you decide.

Your pet's heat cycle will generally have four phases, and you will need to be very observant. The first phase is proestrus and will last four to 12 days. The vulva will enlarge, and a bloody discharge will develop.

The second phase is estrus and will also last from four to 12 days. The discharge changes to a clear to slightly yellow mucus-like secretion. This is the phase when your dog can breed. The last two phases are metestrus and anestrus, when she will not become pregnant. Be sure to have the breeding male already chosen before the heat cycle begins.

If you have questions concerning the phase of estrus that your dog is in, have your veterinarian examine her. You should also have your silky checked about four weeks after breeding to see whether she is pregnant. In some cases, that can be determined earlier with a sonogram. Good luck.

Q: We want to buy a female African gray parrot and eventually breed her to raise birds. How can we tell whether the bird we buy is female? We want to get a young bird so we can train her ourselves and not let her develop bad habits. What do you suggest?

Stewart Walton, Garden Grove

A: With most parrots, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to determine male or female by just looking at the bird. When you go to buy a bird, either get a written guarantee that the bird is a female or a right to return the bird after it has been sexed.

In most cases, these birds have to be "surgically" sexed--that is, examined with a scope into the abdomen while under anesthesia to look for gonads. Considering the price of many of these parrots, the procedure is worth the cost.

Got a question about your pet? Write to: Dr. Glenn Ericson, Ask the Vet, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626.

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