Dr. Jeff Grognet DVM & Dr. Louise Janes DVM April 2009
Dr. Ruth has Gone to the Dogs?
by Jeff Grognet, DVM, BSc (Agr) and Louise Janes, BSc(Agr), DVM
As veterinarians, we get asked questions all day long, some open and frank, others reserved and coy. Not surprising, the latter ones are often about sex. People find it difficult to describe their concerns about sexual organs because they can’t or won’t say the correct anatomical names. Most questions on reproduction need to be translated before they can be answered. In many cases, we hear something like “she is licking a lot, you know, down there!” Down there, of course, means vulva. Peoples’ inability to discuss the facts of reproduction may explain why there is so much superstition and misinformation circulating on the topic of canine sex.
The following is a potpourri of questions that we have been asked over the years. Perhaps you have asked these questions yourselves or perhaps you wanted to but never did.
Q: Why does my male dog have nipples?
A: My answer is always – for the same reason that men have nipples. A male dog has two rows of nonfunctional nipples on the lower surface of his body, one row on either side of his midline extending from beside the prepuce to the chest wall. It is not uncommon for nipples to be mistaken for skin tumours by people unfamiliar with the anatomy of male dogs.
Q: My dog was neutered a week ago and he just bred a bitch. Can she get pregnant?
A: Definitely! Though his testicles are gone, his vas deferens – the tube that carries semen from the testicle to the urethra – is still intact. Because this structure can contain some residual sperm cells, which can remain viable for a month or so, a dog can still be fertile for a while following castration.
Q: Once a bitch in heat stops bleeding, is it safe for her to be around intact male dogs?
A: Absolutely not, unless you want puppies! When a bitch’s vaginal discharge changes from bloody clear, she is ready to ovulate. If bred at this time, she will likely become pregnant.
Q: If an undesirable male breeds a bitch, will it taint her future litters?
A: No. It was once believed, and printed in many “authoritative” texts, that when an unfavourable stud bred a purebred female, her future litters would not be “pure”. The male presumably injected “something” into her that would put her future litters in jeopardy. Because a fetus is a combination of the genetic material from an egg and a sperm cell, and because sperm implanted in a bitch’s uterus during mating will die within days, the next litter (months later) can’t be affected by a previous breeding. This one is definitely an “old wives’ tale”.
Q: My male dog has a green discharge from his prepuce. Does he have an infection?
A: Not necessarily. Discharge from a male’s prepuce can be clear, yellow, or even green, and still be normal. If he is licking at his prepuce or urinating frequently, and has a preputial discharge, there may be something wrong.
Q: When my dog has an erection, there are two swellings beside his penis. What are they?
A: The two bumps, one on each side of the penis, which can be described as “ping pong balls” is the blood-engorged bulbus part of the glans penis that swells with an erection.
Q: I thought that neutering stopped males from having an erection – why does my dog still get “excited”, even 10 years after he was neutered?
A: About 20 percent of dogs will continue to get “excited” even if they have been castrated because erections are controlled not only by hormones (the majority of which are taken away by neutering) but also by neurological factors.
Q: Is there something wrong with my male dog if he doesn’t lift his leg to urinate?
A: No. Lifting a leg to urinate is often a learned behaviour. If a male grows up with female dogs, he may never figure out that he should lift his leg.
Q: Is there something wrong with my bitch if she lifts her leg to urinate?
A: No. If a female dog grows up with males, she may learn to imitate their urination behaviour. She may also be a dominant female who likes lift her leg to mark territory with urine, like a male.
Q: Can a litter have two fathers?
A: Though possible, it is not commonplace. A bitch must be bred by both males at the peak of her fertility (which is unlikely to occur in the canine world where breeding is well controlled). In cats, however, a single litter of kittens commonly has more than one father because several toms are usually around when a queen is receptive to breeding.
For more information contact Dr. Jeff Grognet or Dr. Louise Janes at
Mid-Isle Veterinary Hospital
5-161 Fern Road West
Qualicum Beach, B.C.
Tel (250) 752-8969