Heat in female dogs: rhythm, detection, precaution

 Heat in female dogs: rhythm, detection, precaution

Heat in female dogs: rhythm, detection, precaution

Are you wondering whether to sterilize your dog or not? This choice will of course have repercussions on the life of your four-legged companion, and on your daily life with her: indeed, heat occurs several times a year and can sometimes become an inconvenience...

Here is the essential to know to anticipate and detect heat in the female dog, and the precautions to take to best manage this period, for yourself and your animal.

What are heats?

Heat corresponds to the period of ovulation in the female dog, that is to say, that she is ready to be impregnated by a male. The sexual act is exclusively intended for the reproduction of the species, the heats simply mean that the female can mate at that time. In general, female dogs come into heat once or twice a year, with an interval of 5 to 12 months, more often between 5 and 7 months.

If the symptoms of heat are normally easy to detect, note that there is in some female dogs the phenomenon of "silent heat": they can completely procreate, but the heat does not manifest itself. This can then be problematic, because she may be pregnant without your knowledge... For this reason, sterilization is recommended if the female dog is not intended for breeding, but there is also canine contraception which makes it possible to avoid gestation without permanently removing reproductive capacity.

The heat cycle in the female dog

As in women, the female dog's heat follows a normally regular cycle, a guarantee of good health. This cycle can vary from one individual to another, but once established, it remains in principle the same throughout the life of the animal. The sexual cycle takes place under the influence of hormones and is made up of two main phases, pro-estrus and estrus: the first corresponds to the onset of heat (10 days on average, sometimes 20) and the second to the period. ovulation (7 days on average but great variability – up to 30 days).

During pro-oestrus, the vulva swells, and blood loss can be significant, but the female dog will still refuse the advances of males. It is during estrus, the period of fertilization strictly speaking, that she will accept the projection while the losses will be less abundant. The following phases, less remarkable, are the diestrus and the anoestrus which correspond respectively to the period of gestation if fertilization has (had) taken place, and to the phase of sexual rest (2 to 10 months) which will last until the next heat. Put end to end, the heat in the female dog lasts between 3 and 4 weeks.

When does the first heat appear?

It is at puberty that the first heat starts. Depending on the breed and the size of the female dog, this can occur from 6 months, and at the latest around 20 to 24 months in large breeds where puberty is often delayed. However, the average is between 6 and 15 months. Menopause for it does not exist in the female dog, it can reproduce all its life.

How to detect heat?

The observable symptoms before and during heat are both behavioral and physiological: the female dog undergoes certain physical changes, in particular fatigue and a certain weariness that can result in a lack of interest in play and activities.

On the behavior side, the signs can be variable according to the female dogs but we can notice for example that the female dog is more cuddly, even "pot of glue" and in great demand for attention. It may also happen that she squeals or "cries". Some will even tend to run away in search of a male in heat... Finally, others may show signs of irritability, and in some cases, show unusual aggressiveness that has nothing to do with dominance. During the heat, one can observe a swelling of the vulva and more or less significant blood loss, which can once again vary from one female dog to another and according to the moment.

Precautions against fertilization of the female dog

The main drawback to keeping an unspayed female dog is... the risk of pregnancy. To avoid the onslaught of interested males, it will be better to walk her at staggered times and in less frequented areas to minimize the risk of encounters. If you have a garden, however, this will not pose a problem, provided that it is properly fenced to avoid visits from wandering males and the sometimes possible runaways of your dog...

On the hygiene side, there are protective panties for dogs but you can also make one yourself with panties where you will drill a hole for the tail, and which you will garnish with a sanitary towel to change regularly. Also be aware that non-sterilization carries health risks for the female dog, including mammary tumors, nervous pregnancies, and uterine infections.

Do not hesitate to discuss it with your veterinarian to weigh the pros and cons: you will have to decide quickly because sterilization should preferably take place before the first heat. Indeed, it will always be possible to sterilize an adult female dog, but with age, she will be more and more exposed to potential hormonal disorders and to the risks that can be caused by general anesthesia. It is also possible to opt for the canine contraceptive pill, but this represents a certain cost (20 to 50 € per month excluding veterinary consultation costs).

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