Understanding A Dog's Heat Cycle

As usual my new puppy is giving me something to write about. This time it is her first heat. By now a new dog owner should have made the decision to breed their female dog or not. Breeding is not a profitable endeavor, therefore it should be done only to propagate a breed of dog.

Having your dog go through the heat cycle is a messy stressful 3 week or more period. A dog usually experiences a heat cycle twice a year after she reaches 6 months of age. In larger dogs the cycle may be every 9-12 months. In some breeds like Basenji's it may only be once a year.

There are four stages to a heat cycle. The first is called Proesterus. The vulva swells and there is a bloody discharge. The bitch secretes pheromones which attract the males. This period lasts about 9 days and the dog will not allow a male to mount her. It has been recommended to me that even though some dogs may wash themselves frequently, to protect my carpet, clothes, and furniture, it would be wise to purchase protective panties and use mini-pads. The second stage is called Estrus. The female still has a discharge, but now she will allow a male to mount her. This stage lasts another 9 -12 days. The third stage is called the Luteal stage. It lasts 2-3 months whether or not the dog is pregnant. Some dogs who are not pregnant will experience a false pregnancy. Their mammary glands swell and will secrete fluid. They get nesting instincts and become possessive of their nesting or bedding area. The last stage is the Anestrus cycle. It is a stage of reduced hormonal or ovarian
activity. It's the calm before the next heat. During this period, if you are not planning on breeding, you should again consider spaying your dog. Always consult your veterinarian and your breeder for a course of action that is best for you and your dog.

Reprinted with permission by Terrie Simpson,

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.Terrie has been involved in the dog world for over 28 years and has achieved numerous awards with her Springer Spaniels in tracking and obedience. Over that time, she has amassed a good amount of knowledge about how to keep a dog healthy. She is now happy to give back by sharing her experience with other dog owners.

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