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1. What is heat?
Heat is more properly called the estrous cycle. During this cycle, female dogs may get pregnant. It's equivalent to human menstruation.
2. What are the symptoms?
Females bleed from the vagina sometimes with swelling of the vulva and increased urination. Don't expect bleeding comparable to a human female.
For small dogs, it's usually not much and you may need to pay close attention to your puppy to identify her first cycle. Other than the bleeding, the most noticeable symptom may be male dogs hanging around your house.
3. When does a dog come into heat?
The average female dog has her first cycle about six months of age. A few dogs start earlier and few dogs later, even as late as 14-months.
If you have a new female puppy, you should watch her and note when she has her first cycle. If she's 14-months old and still hasn't't been in heat, you should take her to a veterinarian.
4. How long does the heat cycle last?
The average is three weeks or 21-days. In some dogs, it lasts only two weeks while others go four weeks.
5. How often will she be in heat?
Most female dogs have regular cycles usually every six to eight months. It's quite typical to be in heat twice a year.
6. When can she get pregnant?
She can get pregnant only when in heat. Some breeders test for progesterone levels to identify the most fertile days but the rule-of-thumb is that the most fertile days are 11-15 of her cycle.
Note - when she's in heat, the average dog will permit any male dog to mount her. Few females, however, will accept a male when they're not in heat.
7. Can she get pregnant her first cycle?
Yes. However, responsible breeders generally would not breed a dog that early. For one thing, you need to do genetic testing and some serious problems such as hip conditions do not show up until a dog is approximately 2-years of age.
8. Can I take her on walks during this cycle?
Yes with care. She has no problem with the exercise but she's a walking magnet for male dogs.
Even the best trained and behaved female dog will succumb to hormones. You can't trust her off a leash or out of your control. Never let her outside by herself even in a fenced yard if there is any possibility of male dogs nearby.
For walks, if there are male dogs in your neighborhood, it's a good idea to take your dog in your car and drive to a remote area. Take her for the walk there and drive back home. Otherwise, the scent of her urine and vaginal discharge will blaze a trail to your home.
9. When I can have her spayed?
The answer to that one has changed continually over the 25-years I've been in the dog business. People used to be told to let their dog go through at least one cycle or let them have one litter.
Today, veterinarians are doing it much earlier. Some vets spay as early as 6-weeks of age! Talk to your veterinarian about your dog and the vet's preferences. The state of veterinary medicine also is much improved over the past 25-years.
10. If I don't have her spayed, will she go through menopause.
No. Her fertility may decline but she will not go through menopause comparable to a human's. She won't lose her ability to become pregnant even as a senior so if you don't want to her to have any (or more) litters, she must be spayed.
Louise Louis is a certified canine specialist and the creator of http://www.ToyBreeds.com, your online resource for Toy breed dogs.
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