You’ve probably heard the term “going into heat” when it comes to dogs, but do you really know what it means? Heat, also known as estrus, is a stage in a female dog’s reproductive cycle. It’s during this time that mating with males occurs, as estrogen levels rise and then quickly decrease. This leads to the release of mature eggs from the ovaries.
When to Expect It and How Often Dogs Go Into Heat
If you’ve recently welcomed a furry friend into your family, you might be wondering when she will go into heat for the first time. Typically, this happens between the ages of 6 and 24 months, unless she is spayed earlier. Smaller breeds may experience heat earlier, while larger breeds might take a little longer than 24 months. On average, a female dog will go into heat at least twice a year.
How to Recognize the Signs
You’ll likely notice when your dog is in heat, as it can become quite messy. Here are some signs to look out for:
- Increased affection towards you and a heightened interest in male dogs
- Menstrual bleeding
- Excessive licking
- Changes in appetite
- Fluctuations in body temperature
- Behavioral changes such as agitation or anxiety
The Duration of Heat
Once the bleeding stops, you might assume that your dog is no longer in heat. However, that’s not the case. Each heat cycle lasts around three to four weeks, with visible bleeding occurring only during the first two weeks. The most fertile period is when the bleeding lessens and becomes clear or pink.
While dealing with bleeding might not be your favorite part of the process, it’s usually a small amount. You can use sanitary diapers designed for dogs to manage this. Keep in mind that some dogs may not even exhibit visible signs of bleeding.
Being Aware of Pyometra
Approximately two to eight weeks after a dog’s heat cycle, she becomes susceptible to pyometra, a dangerous uterine infection. During heat, the body prepares for pregnancy, even if that’s not the desired outcome. Infections can occur because the white blood cells that normally protect the uterus are absent, allowing sperm to enter and thrive. Progesterone then thickens the uterine lining, and the cervix opens for the sperm to enter. If the dog doesn’t become pregnant, she is now at risk of infection. An open pyometra infection occurs when the cervix remains open, while a closed cervix prevents pus from draining, posing an even greater risk and potentially leading to a distended belly.
To recognize if your dog has pyometra, look out for signs such as diarrhea, vomiting, restlessness, and fever. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s crucial to contact your vet immediately.
The Importance of Spaying Your Dog
Spaying your dog reduces the chances of mammary cancer, which is the equivalent of breast cancer in dogs. Make a habit of checking your female dog’s breast tissue regularly from the armpit to the groin, and consult your vet if you notice any unusual lumps. While it’s possible to spay a dog as early as six weeks old, many veterinarians prefer to wait until the dog is six months or older. It’s essential to ensure that your dog is not in heat during the spaying procedure, as her uterus will be engorged and bleeding will be more excessive. By spaying your dog, you not only eliminate the risk of pregnancy but also protect her from pyometra and certain cancers.
Ultimately, the decision to spay or not to spay your dog is a personal one. However, if you choose not to spay, it’s important to be aware of the potential health issues that could arise, and take the necessary steps to protect your female pup to the best of your ability.
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