A Female Dog’s Heat Cycle

by Perfect Puppy Care

Over population of dogs is a big problem today. That’s why every owner of a female dog needs to make a decision about the future of their pet’s reproduction abilities.

Do you plan to allow your dog to have puppies? Do you have a thorough understanding of what is involved in breeding a dog and raising a litter of puppies? Do you have the financial means to support a pregnant dog and the puppies that will come?

If you answer “no” to any of those questions, it is probably best that you schedule an appointment to get your female dog spayed to insure against unwanted pregnancies.

Female dogs in heat can be pretty tricky. Their mind is on breeding and they are intent on accomplishing the mission. More than one litter of puppies have resulted from a person thinking that their bitch is lying quietly in another room while she really escaped unnoticed and is searching the neighborhood for the closest male dog.

It is important to keep in mind that even the most well-behaved female dogs will experience a bit of a personality change during the heat cycle. They are intent on breeding and everything else takes a back seat.

It used to be thought that it was best to allow a female dog to go through at least one heat cycle, which is also known as the estrus cycle, before spaying. That theory has been pretty much tossed aside and most veterinarians now advocate that female dogs that are not going to be bred be spayed before they ever come into heat. Experts now believe that spaying a dog decreases their chance of developing mammary tumors or pyometra. In addition, you won’t have to deal with bloody discharges.

Another advantage to spaying a female dog that you don’t intend to breed is that it helps to keep wandering male dogs away from your home. It is not at all unusual for male dogs to battle over a female canine in heat and the end results of dog fights are not at all pleasant.

In most cases, a dog’s heat cycle occurs two times a year. One cycle will probably happen between January and March and the second one will occur between August and October. The estrus cycle can depend on the size and breed of the dog.

Generally, a heat cycle lasts three weeks, but there can be variations. Some female dogs have been known to come into heat every four months. Others have experienced only one estrus cycle a year.

There are four phases to the heat cycle. Female dogs can experience variations in her cycles over the course of her lifetime. This is very similar to human females.

Phase one is known as proestrus and is defined as a 10-day period where your female will spot or bleed from the vaginal area.

The next phase is estrus, which typically lasts five to nine days. During estrus, the dog is ovulating and very willing to accept a mate. Conception will take place during this time.

The third phase is diestrus, which lasts six to ten weeks. During this time, the female dog will experience hormonal changes and the uterine walls will thicken.

Anestrus, the fourth phase, lasts for about fifteen weeks. The dog will not experience any hormonal activity or produce milk during this time. The female will have no interest in mating during this phase.

If you allow your female to come into heat without plans to breed her at that time, prepare to separate her from any male dogs for at least 21 days. Keep in mind that conception is most likely to happen a week or two into the heat cycle. If you do not confine the female for the entire three weeks of the heat cycle, you could end up with an unwanted litter of puppies.

Female dogs that experience abnormal heat cycles should be seen by a veterinarian. This can be an early sign of more serious health issues.

How do you know if your female dog is in heat? One of the first signs is a swelling of the vulva and vagina. Another is a vaginal discharge that begins as a salmon-colored liquid that changes to a bloody fluid. Some bitches will urinate in small amounts to mark their territory with their scent.

The behavior of any males that come in contact with a female in heat is another good indicator of the heat cycle. Male dogs will be beside themselves as they try desperately to convince the female dog to mate.

Some females will lift their tails and rub their vaginal area against objects such as a sofa, fence or wall. This behavior is referred to as “flagging.”

If you have not experienced canine female heat cycles and find it difficult to tell the difference between the phases of the cycle, you should ask the dog’s veterinarian, who is equipped to perform a vaginal cytology exam or take blood to check the dog’s progesterone levels.

Dogs can experience false pregnancies, which are known as pseudocyesis. False pregnancies follow the estrus cycle. During a false pregnancy, the dog’s hormone levels can remain high enough to support a pregnancy whether or not the dog has been bred.

False pregnancies are not at all uncommon among female dogs. They are not a life-threatening situation, nor do they constitute a medical emergency.

False pregnancies in canine cause behavioral and physical changes that manifest within six to twelve weeks after the last heat cycle. It is not uncommon for a female to shred blankets and other items at this time. They are trying to produce a nest.

Some females that suffer false pregnancies tend to “mother” toys, shoes and other household items. Frequently, the dog gains weight during a false pregnancy.

In many cases, a dog’s false pregnancy will end naturally after about three weeks. If this does not happen, it is best to have the dog checked by her veterinarian. Drugs may be needed to help the female return to her normal state.

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