As responsible owners we all need to know about dogs in heat; what it means for the dog and, importantly, how we can care from our pets during this time.
Like any other animals, dogs also undergo their own unique reproductive cycles. The cycle in dogs is known as the estrus cycle. This cycle is the time when female dogs display interest in mating and is the fertile period.
There are 4 phases in the female canine reproductive (estrous) cycle:
Males are attracted to the female dog starting with the proestrus cycle.
The reproductive cycles in dogs begins at puberty, generally when the dog is about 7-10 months of age. This is the average age of puberty and may vary according to the breed of the dog.
For small breeds, this process starts at around 5-6 months of age. While for the large breeds, it can start when the dog is about 2 years old.
Female dogs normally have only 2 reproductive cycles in a year.
During the cycle, they will experience bloody vaginal discharges that last for 4-9 days. After this duration, the female dog will begin to stand for breeding and accept the male.
Depending on the breed, this receptive stage can last for a couple of days to as long as 1-2 weeks. Counting from the first day of the vaginal discharges, the most fertile days are the 9th, 11th and 13th.
Female reproductive organs that are part of the female dog in heat cycle
The pictures in this section are reprinted with permission by the copyright owner, Hill's Pet Nutrition, from the Atlas of Veterinary Clinical Anatomy. These illustrations should not be downloaded, printed or copied except for personal, non-commercial use.
Females are very restless and receptive to males. They even have the ability to attract male dogs from far distances. You may notice that your female dog is always moving around and is sometimes very irritable.
First Week of Dog in Heat:
In the 2nd week:
In the 3rd week:
It is important to know how to handle female dogs in heat. As a responsible pet owner, you will obviously be concerned with their health and safety. Here are some ways on how to take care of your dog.
Most dogs should be sterilized that are not used for breeding due to the pet over population problem and the financial and time burden of raising puppies.
The best methods of dog contraception are spaying (OHE) for the female (called ovariohysterectomy) or neutering (castration) for the male dog. In OHE the female canine reproductive organs are removed. In males the testicles are removed. For males there is a medication called Neutersol that can be injected into the testicle with 99.6% effectiveness in causing sterility. No anesthesia is required for this procedure. Both can be performed at age 6 to 8 weeks with little health risk to the dog.
OHE is particular will prevent dog heat behavior and reduce canine medical problems such as uterine infection and cancer. Male dog castration reduces the tendency to roam, and eliminates the risk of tumors in the testicles.
There are prescription medications available that can temporarily prevent the dog heat cycle. The medications are based on the hormone progesterone and anabolic steroids. For example, the brand Ovaban claims a 32 day treatment. There are some side effects including:
After treatment stops, the dog will resume the heat cycle.
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