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Dog Reproduction Questions

What should I do when my dog is in heat?

A dog’s heat cycle is made up of two basic phases. The first, proestrus, is when she is bleeding but hasn’t yet ovulated. That usually lasts anywhere from seven to 14 days. The second phase is estrus, when the bleeding slows down or even stops. This is when the dog is ovulating and is fertile.

This is important to understand, because many owners will keep their dog inside until the bleeding stops and then let her outside. Soon after, they have a pregnant dog. To be on the safe side, keep your dog indoors for at least two weeks after she stops bleeding. When she has to go out to eliminate, keep her in your yard and watch her very closely.

To protect your carpet and furniture from the blood, you can buy “doggie diapers” at most pet stores. They come in range of sizes, and most dogs adjust to them fairly quickly.

Unless you are planning on breeding your dog, you may want to consider having her spayed. There are several health advantages to spaying female dogs and cats.

What age should I have my pet spayed or neutered?

There are many factors to consider in selecting the correct time to spay or neuter your pet. Most veterinarians will suggest doing it shortly after the completion of puppy vaccines, which is around five months of age. In the case of male pets it may be an especially good idea to neuter them at this time before they develop bad habits, such as aggression.

To reduce the overpopulation problem in companion animals, the American Animal Hospital Association supports neutering of cats and dogs as early as eight to 16 weeks of age in animal care and control facilities.

How can we tell when our female dog is in heat?

You will probably notice some bloody discharge from the vagina and a swollen vulva when your dog is in heat. You may notice “mounting” behavior, also. The heat period can last from eight to 30 days with an average of about 20 days.

Most female dogs will be willing to stand for a male dog and permit breeding around 10 to 16 days after the beginning of their heat period. Some females will be a little more aggressive during their heat period, but most show no change in behavior and interaction with their owners.

Having puppies is great if you want the puppies or if you’re trying to develop a special line of dogs. But there is no behavioral benefit in letting the female have a litter before spaying. The normal canine companion will benefit greatly from being spayed at an early age before she has her first heat cycle. Problems that can develop later in life, such as mammary cancer and uterine infections, are virtually eliminated if an ovariohysterectomy (spay) is performed before she experiences her first heat cycle.

Is there such a thing as birth control for female dogs without having to have them spayed?

There are oral products on the market that your veterinarian can prescribe for birth control in your dog. The down side is that the drug’s literature says that it shouldn’t be used in animals intended for later breeding. That seems curious, since most dogs that are going to be kept intact are generally kept that way for breeding purposes.

If you are not going to breed your dog, there is medical benefit in spaying before the first heat additional to lifetime reproductive control. It has been well-documented that females that are spayed before their first heat have almost no chance of ever developing mammary cancer. Please discuss these options with your attending veterinarian as both options have their benefits and risks.

Will neutering a puppy at a young age stunt his growth?

Dogs’ size is mostly determined by their genetics, not their hormones. Neutering does dramatically reduce the amount of testosterone in a male pup’s system, which may give him a bit less muscle mass in the long run, but won’t affect his height or the size of his frame. Actually, studies have shown that dogs spayed or neutered early (at 16 weeks or younger) tend to be slighter larger than those altered later in life. So no, you won’t change your dog’s growth by neutering him as a puppy. Plus there are a lot of advantages to neutering your pup.

Can I have my dog spayed while she’s in heat?

It’s possible to spay a dog during estrus, or heat, but it’s not the best time. Most veterinarians prefer not to spay a dog in estrus because the uterine tissue can be swollen, fragile, and more prone to damage. Dogs also have a tendency to bleed more when they’re in heat. Because of this, estrus makes surgery more risky for dogs, as well as for cats.

Most veterinarians prefer to delay spaying a dog until she has been out of estrus for a month or so. And, since a recently spayed dog may still be attractive to males, performing the surgery during heat won’t do anything to keep the neighbors’ dogs out of your yard. The best thing for your dog’s health is to keep her safe inside for now and to have your veterinarian perform surgery in a month or so.


Information courtesy of The American Animal Hospital Association.