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10 Questions I’m Most Asked about Dogs in Heat
1. What is heat?
The heat is more correctly called the estrous cycle. During this cycle, female dogs can become pregnant. It is equivalent to human menstruation.
2. What are the symptoms?
Females bleed from the vagina sometimes with vulvar swelling and increased urination. Do not expect bleeding comparable to a human female.
For small dogs, it’s usually not much, and you may have to pay close attention to your puppy to recognize his first cycle. In addition to bleeding, the most obvious symptom may be
male dogs hanging around your house.
3. When does a dog come into heat?
The average female dog has her first cycle around six months of age. A few dogs start earlier and a few dogs later, even after 14 months.
If you have a new female puppy, you should watch her and note when she goes through her first cycle. If she is 14 months old and still not in heat, you should take her to the vet.
4. How long is the heat cycle?
The average is three weeks or 21 days. In some dogs, it lasts only two weeks and in others four weeks.
5. How often will he be in heat?
Most female dogs have regular cycles usually every six to eight months. It is very typical to be in heat twice a year.
6. When can she get pregnant?
She can only get pregnant when she is in heat. Some breeders
test for progesterone levels to determine the most fertile days, but the rule of thumb is that the most fertile days are 11-15 of her cycle.
Note – when in heat, the average dog will allow any male
dog to raise her. Few females, however, will accept a male when
they have no heat.
7. Can she get pregnant on her first cycle?
Yes. However, responsible breeders generally will not breed a dog this early. First, you have to do genetic testing, and some serious problems, like hip problems, don’t show up until a dog is about 2 years old.
8. Can I take her for walks during this cycle?
Yes, with care. She has no problem with exercise, but is a magnet for male dogs.
Even the best trained and well behaved female dog will succumb to hormones. You can’t trust her off leash or out of your control. Never let her out on her own, even in a fenced yard, if there is a possibility of male dogs being around.
For walks, if there are male dogs in your neighborhood, it is a good idea to take your dog in your car and drive to a remote area. Take her for a ride there and drive back home. Otherwise, the scent of her urine and vaginal secretions will open a path into your home.
9. When can I spay her?
The answer to this has constantly changed over time
I have been in the dog business for 25 years. People used to be told to let their dog go through at least one cycle or let them have a litter.
Today, vets do it much earlier. Some vets spay as early as 6 weeks of age! Talk to your vet about your dog and vet preferences. The state of veterinary medicine has also improved greatly over the past 25 years.
10. If I don’t spay her, will she go through menopause?
No. Her fertility may be reduced, but she will not go through a menopause comparable to that of a human. She won’t lose her ability to get pregnant even as an old woman, so if you don’t want her to have any (or more) litters, she needs to be spayed.
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