Season or Heat Cycle In Dogs
What Is a Season?
The "Season" can also be called "heat" or "oestrus".This is the time when the female dog can become pregnant
Care must be taken if you do not want a litter of unwanted puppies. It is not always obvious that the dog is in a season.
Especially when it is the first season. The signs may be quite difficult to spot. That is because the swelling and discharge can be almost non-existent.
When the first heat actually occurs, varies enormously from dog to dog.
An unspayed female dog can usually be expected to come into heat twice yearly, it normally lasts three weeks. Unfortunately, nature does not do usually. When it comes to seasons you cannot class all dogs alike.
Some seasons can vary in length from two to four weeks. The average three weeks. Always calculate it as four weeks if you are unsure, or you could be very unhappy with the outcome.
Some females only have one season a year, and others can have three. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to seasons. The giant breeds may have only one season every year, some have been known to be every 18 months.
What Age Does The 1st Season Normally Start?
Once again this has enormous variations. The average will start it when the female is between six to thirty-six months old.
Though the lower figure would normally be the smaller breeds. However, like all the others this can vary between different breeds and sizes.
In the picture on the left. Charlie, because he was neutered as a rescue before he was mature (A really bad decision) See (1) Paediatric Neutering.
He really does not know what is expected of him and is very confused.
Desperate for sex, Pip the female, mounts him to show what he should do.
I have known dogs to have their first season at five months and others as late as twenty-four months.
Having said that these would normally be the giant breeds, such as Wolfhounds or Great Danes.
The size of the dog normally means they will mature at different times. For instance, I would start to become a little worried, if the season does not happen until very late (after thirty-six months)
Have the dog checked out by a Vet if you are concerned that the season is delayed way past a normal time for that breed. It is prudent to check to make sure there are no underlying medical problems that could be affecting the onset of the first season.
What Are The Signs?
Sometimes you will see a yellow or white mucus type discharge from the Vulva. This is the area that links to the womb not where they toilet from. After a short period you may see a bloody discharge.
The dog may be licking around the genital regions more than normal, as she tries to keep clean. Her vulva will often become swollen; this once again can be different from dog to dog. Some can become very large, and therefore obvious, others almost unnoticeable.
Other signs are mood changes and increased urination. She may develop marking behaviour, in which she urinates small amounts on different objects, either at home or on a walk. She may show restlessness and reduced appetite. She can become skittish and show nervous behaviour, recall can become a real problem as she becomes fertile.
When Can She Get Pregnant
At the time the discharge becomes almost clear with some mucus, which acts as a lubricant, this is when she ovulates. She is now at her most fertile stage.
This will be the time when she may try and escape and look for a dog to couple with.
The dog’s genetics kicks in and she will actively stand for a dog and move its tail to one side inviting the male dog to mate with her.
If you look at the picture right you can see Pipsqueak in her second season standing for Charlie.
Whilst he looks interested, in reality, he has been neutered and has no idea why she is flirting with him and what she wants. The female can get very desperate at this time, if any door or gate is unlocked then she will be off.
The local lothario can also sneak in and have his evil way. If she has mated before she reaches this period in her season, she can still get pregnant. Sperm can survive for a week in her reproductive tract, therefore still capable of fertilising the eggs.
It is commonly believed that if the dogs do not “tie,” which the act of turning back to back whilst still, coupled together, then she cannot fall pregnant.
This is an “old wives tale” A dog can get pregnant, just as easily without becoming fully tied, with just normal coupling.
Can Dogs get pregnant when they are not in season?. The simple answer is NO. That is totally impossible unless the dog is actually in season and within the heat cycle where pregnancy is achievable, it simply cannot become pregnant.
I have also been told by numerous people that to stop dogs that are already copulating you should throw a bucket of water over them. This is a very dangerous old wives tale. If you dod this and it panics the dogs they could both be seriously injured internally.
Once they have tied like the picture below then there is nothing you can do. You must let nature take its course and they will untie eventually. The average time is about 20-30 minutes when the males organ subsides and they will part naturally.
If you have decided t0 have a litter of puppies. Then I have written an article especially for you. It is called (2) The Pregnant Dog Countdown to Birth
Commonly Asked Questions
1.If a dog couples can I get her a morning after pill?
Yes, there is a medication that can help to terminate a pregnancy up to a few days after coupling. However, it can have complications.
Having said that it can have in some cases severe complications, some vets are very wary of prescribing it.
2. How long is a pregnancy?
Pregnancy in dogs also called a gestation period, typically lasts 63 days (about nine weeks). The duration of a dog's pregnancy can fall in the range of 58 to 68 days.
3.Can a dog get pregnant in its first season?
The simple answer is yes. If the dog has matured enough to have a season, then it is perfectly capable of carrying a belly full of puppies. Though any good breeder would wait until at least the second season before even considering breeding.
4.Can I walk my dog when in heat?
Yes, you can walk your dog. But have some respect for other dog owners. Only walk the streets, not the park, and always keep her on a lead whilst in season.
5.Will my dog not miss having puppies?
This is a typical anthropomorphic question. It suggests dogs like humans will yearn after motherhood, especially if they cannot have pups. The only automatic yearning dogs have is to mate. During that 10 day period, the dog’s instinct is to couple to any male dog. Other than that time the dog will not miss or yearn for a family or puppies.
6.Do dogs have a menopause like humans?
Unlike humans, dogs stay fertile all their lives. The season may be missed occasionally as they move into old age. However, they can still fall pregnant at any age.
7.What are the early signs of pregnancy?
These include loss of appetite, lethargy, slight nipple growth and some behavioural changes. These changes come about because of the surges in hormones and can include the need for isolation or the opposite demanding to be cuddled.
8.What are the later signs of pregnancy?
After a few weeks, her appetite will improve and she will rapidly start to gain weight. Her abdomen will thicken and her nipples will enlarge, and she may start lactating a few day before birth.
In the last weeks, you can feel and sometimes see the puppies moving around inside the womb. On the left is Pebbles. She is pregnant and three days before actually giving birth.
The miracle of birth can be an amazing experience. I love dogs and always have done, that is why I am in this profession. However, I have never bred a litter of puppies, and probably never will.
Not because I do not want to watch them grow. I have followed many litters from birth to death. Whilst the rescue centres are screaming out for homes for unwanted dogs. and the likes of the RSPCA are euthanising thousands of perfectly healthy dogs.Then I am not prepared to add to that statistic.
75% of all the dogs I have owned have been rescued. The others I bought as puppies, to be trained as gun dogs or sniffer dogs. If it was a puppy then I needed to get them early and at the most important time of their learning period, this is between 0 and 16 weeks. If I choose wisely and pick the right breeder, then I will know that the 1st weeks of their lives will have been fine.
Read Charlies Background. Part of his story is in Fearful and Timid Dogs. When I finish my first book, I will write more about Charlie’s amazing fortitude, and his ability to overcome some of the worst starts in life I have ever heard of or had to treat.
I will also mention the brilliant work of a vet nurse, now a dog trainer, Who literally saved him from being systematically beaten to death, when others ignored his plight. Charlie's brother was kicked to death by this psychopath.
On the right is Pebbles with her three pups.
Flossie in all the other photo's with Charlie is her daughter, she is the one on the left.
I have not written about seasons and pregnancies in dogs because I want you to rush out and get your dog neutered.
I promise you that is something I would never recommend.
Before you consider that read Neutering the Real Story.
However, if I can get just one person to take on a rescue dog. Then I will have at least helped the hard pressed rescue centres, most but not all who do brilliant work.
I have very little time for the likes of the RSPCA and some of the other large rescue institutions. I like and support the small individual rescue centres.
Having said that the small RSPCA units, often do sterling work. It is the wasteful heads of these institutions that appear to get the donations, whilst starving the operations that do the real work. Look at the Blue Cross recently and the scandal that hit them.
The RSPCA's boss Gavin Grant has left for "health reasons". Don't they often say that when people are pushed? He was an absolute car crash of a man and did no favours to an organisation that has totally lost its way.
So my time and money will always go to the little ones. They are the ones that are struggling. Not the ones with a tranche of directors on six figure salaries and fleets of company cars.
ON your donations these people live the high life on salaries many of us only dream about. Charity should be for the animals, not the hangers on.
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Latest update April 2017
(1) Paediatric Neutering.