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Monday, November 15, 2010

The Heat cycle, what's normal?

Reggie & Jason
When we got our very first dog it was a male shepherd mix and we named him Reginald Martinez Jackson. Yup, you got it, after the Yankee’s Mr. October! Reggie, as he was so fondly called, one day brought home a lovely little lady with a horrid odor. She looked to be a summer drop off. A summer drop off was a dog that  the city folk got as a puppy in the beginning of the summer to keep them company on the Hampton beaches, but then did not want to take the puppy back to the city at summer's end.

Of course with it being late in the evening, I kept her inside the kitchen for the night and the next morning I awoke to a pack of dogs laying all over my lawn! Ah yes, the heat cycle! The smell that can attract more dogs to your home than a well seasoned Chicago Steak!





So what’s normal in the heat cycle?

For those who have never had an intact female dog before, unless you do some research on the heat cycle, it can be a bit confusing. People think if the dog is bleeding she’s in her heat cycle. I think this myth comes from the male dog society! (A break off from the male human society!)



If an owner is not going to breed their dog, most will have the dog spayed at the age of six months. If they are planning on breeding then knowledge of the heat cycle is a must. As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and when something unexpected happens, you want that knowledge to give you the power to make a speedy decision if necessary.



So, if your intact female has not been in heat before, know that it is not normal for the female to bleed for months and that something more serious is going on if this happens. Urinary tract infections, bladder stones, or a life threatening, need help now infection, called pyometra may be affecting your girl and you should get her to your vet as soon as possible.



So let’s go through this together and keep in mind that the below is general and the amount each stage lasts can vary by a couple of days. Also know that some vets are starting to spay earlier than six months because dogs may come into heat sooner.  Dogs can go into heat every six months or every twelve months, but they should not be bred until they are at least two years of age and have had all health checks and certifications.

When the cycle starts, to be on the safe side, keep your lady inside for at least three solid weeks. If you take the dog on regular walks, be prepared to wake up to a yard full of male dogs as they will follow that scent all the way to your house.


The first stage of heat known as the ‘Get ready Babe, I’m gonna’ be bitchy’ stage is called Proestrus, and can last anywhere up to 9 days. You will see some bleeding during this time, but the dog is not yet ready to mate. She will probably not play nice to the male who tries to court her. (Hence the human male’s stereotypical view of the human female!)



The second stage of heat, aka the “okay babe, my headache is gone” stage, is called Estrus, this is when the bleeding and the discharge turn mostly a yellow /brown color (almost straw looking). This can last from approximately 5- 9 days and this is the time that the female will be receptive to the male and can become pregnant. She may move her tail to the side (called flagging) for a nearby male when she is ready. If you intend to mate, this is the time to bring the dogs together as often as possible. Also, just because the two do not tie, it does not mean the female did not get pregnant because there is such a thing as slip mating in dogs. This is when the male mounts the female and ejaculates but does not do so directly inside her. (Sorry mom, I didn’t know how to word it any more delicately than that!)

If an unintentional tie does happen you should never try to break the two dogs apart.


The third stage, aka ‘I’m a fatty boom~ba~latty’ stage, called Diestrus, follows the mating and can last up to 60 days if the dog is pregnant, and up to 100 days if the dog is not pregnant. This is also the stage in which you may see a false pregnancy. A false pregnancy will show all of the signs of a pregnant dog right down to milk leaking out of the teats. Some dogs will continue to have a slight mucoid discharge, but most dogs have no discharge. If you suspect pregnancy, call your vet and make arrangements to bring the dog in for a sonogram. This is also the time that the dog is more likely develop the life threatening womb infection called pyometra.


The last stage aka, ‘all is well with the world again’ is Anestrus and can last 4 to 5 months and the female will show no sexual interest in the male dog.


Again, keep in mind that the number of days varies from dog to dog in each stage and the above is a general guideline. Always monitor your dog throughout the heat cycle and keep records so you know what is normal for her. Take her temperature regularly as a fever can indicate an infection that needs attention.

The normal temperature for a dog is 100.5 to 102.5 and this may vary when the dog is in heat so know what is normal for your lady during this time.


Infection type problems to watch for:



If your dog seems to be bleeding longer than normal, is not acting right, is lethargic, has fever, is licking constantly, has a vaginal protrusion, or has dark pussy discharge you should have the dog examined ASAP  for these infection  possibilities:  Pyometra, vaginal prolapse, & other vaginal or urinary tract infections.

A Pyometra infection can require emergency care to save the dog’s life.

Vaginal prolapse info
 
Pyometra info

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