You didn’t spay your female dog. Now she’s acting weird, and you are scared that she’s pregnant. “But wait, she’s not in heat”, “can a dog get pregnant when not in heat? You ask yourself. The simple answer is no! Dogs cannot get pregnant if they are not in heat.
Well, for big dogs, it’s easy to spot when they are bleeding and then conclude if they are in heat or not. The same is not true for small dogs. It’s hard to detect when they are bleeding. How then, can you ascertain when your dog is in heat without any doubts? Read on.
The Ovulation Cycle and Dog Pregnancy
The process of a dog’s estrus is called ovulation. It is not the same as a human ovulation cycle. In fact, a dog’s heat cycle is like the monthly cycle of humans and animals such as cows, sheep, goats, pigs and horses. In other words, it is controlled by the hypothalamus gland in a dog’s brain. This gland secretes chemicals that stimulate hormone production by the pituitary gland. This gland in turn releases luteinizing hormone which travels to the ovaries to stimulate egg production. Once the egg is produced, it enters one of two ways: (1) inside the uterus or (2) outside the uterus into fallopian tubes.
If you have ever seen an unspayed female dog around heat time, you may have noticed that she has a reddish-brown or pinkish-brown colored vaginal discharge known as vaginal lubrication or estrus fluid that appears during her estrus period or “heat” cycle. The purpose of this fluid is to help get sperm up into her uterus to fertilize an egg and create new puppies if she mates with another male dog. If there are no males around, the estrus cycle will stop and the vaginal discharge will disappear.
A dog in heat is said to be receptive to mating. If she is not mated during her heat cycle, she will come out of it soon after. If she mates during her reproductive cycle, she may have puppies.
During the first heat cycle, the ovaries will release eggs that can fertilize for the first time. The dog’s body will experience these three weeks as a prolonged period of sexual excitement and heat.
A bloody discharge is a usual sign of ovulation. However, vaginal bleeding can also be an early sign of pregnancy. Dogs may become irritable during the period of their ovulation. The best way to find out if your dog is in heat is to take her temperature. If the temperature is elevated, it means that she is in heat.
Is my dog in heat?
A dog can be in heat just once or twice within a year. The number of times a dog can be in heat varies due to the breed. However, from 6 months of age, if a female dog is not spayed, she will start experiencing the three-week heat cycle during which she can get pregnant. The first estrus cycle (proestrus) of every dog breed differs but it is quite faster in younger dogs than the older ones.
When you see these signs, then your dog is in heat and can get pregnant:
Change in dog behavior
The regular behavior of a female dog in heat changes. She will be more friendly to other dogs, especially males. She will readily attract male attentions and allow male dogs to hump without any resistance. When a dog owner spots this change, coupled with other signals, it’s a good indicator that a dog is in heat.
Also, a female dog may play less than usual and even refuse to be touched. This can happen due to swollen body parts like the nipples and vulva.
When a female dog starts to bleed, constantly urinating, and having a swollen vulva, that’s all the sign you need to tell if a dog is in heat. While these signs may be clearly evident in adult female dogs, you may need to take a close look for younger dogs.
When your dog is in heat, she will adequately gain weight and become slightly fatter.
What do I do when my dog is in heat?
It could be a confusing period when your dog is in heat. What should you do?
A female dog in heat will have swollen vulva and nipples. During this period, it’s best to avoid touching those sensitive parts either while playing or otherwise.
Be watchful of male dogs
During heat, female dogs will emit scents that will draw male dogs from around, and if your fence is low or there is none, there’s a problem on the horizon.
Keep close watch over your dog and don’t allow her to roam unattended.
Allow some behavior
Since the mood of your dog will change during this period, allow her some behaviors like: staying alone, reduced play, and staying in some places in the house.
Hormonal Changes, Pyometra, and the Risks of Spaying
Spaying of a female dog is called ovariohysterectomy. It is one of the most common surgeries performed on dogs. In a nutshell, the surgery is intended to stop the dog from going into heat and thus prevent it from getting pregnant.
The process of neutering removes hormones that stimulate a dog’s sexual organs and its brain as well as its reproductive system so that it can no longer go into heat. Thus, spaying or neutering your dog prevents unwanted pregnancies, thus eliminating unwanted puppies from your home.
Pyometra is a potentially fatal condition that develops in some female dogs if they are not spayed. Pyometra is a disease in which the uterine lining develops outside the uterus. The condition is most common in intact female dogs and is caused by the build-up of bacteria in the uterus. It can lead to severe blood loss, infections, and even death.
Spaying your dog will not only prevent her from getting pregnant but also from developing pyometra. If your dog develops pyometra after being spayed, she will need immediate medical attention. And she should be treated right away to prevent further complications. Preventative treatment is always a good idea.
Vaginal smears are another way to detect pyometra. However, this test is not always reliable because the inflammation and swelling that causes pyometra can change the appearance of the vaginal cells.
Spaying also reduces a dog’s risk of developing mammary tumors and certain types of prostate cancer. Some female dogs may also develop cysts on their ovaries or uteruses after being spayed.
The sexual maturity of a dog depends on its breed. Small breeds like poodles, cocker spaniels, and Chihuahuas tend to mature earlier than large or giant breeds like German shepherds, English mastiffs, and Great Danes. Pregnant dogs can also have a litter of puppies.
When can I spay my dog?
The act of spaying a female dog rids her of the ovaries and uterus. When this is done, it becomes impossible for the dog to get pregnant. So, breeders can rest assured and be less concerned about male dogs around additionally, no more heat periods, and other benefits like being free from certain illnesses.
Spaying doesn’t require a dog to grow to adulthood. Right from being weeks old, a dog can be spayed.
Note: Do not spay a dog while in heat. Medically, it’s best to spay a dog after the heat period to avoid possible excessive bleeding. Wait till the period has subsided, then visit a veterinary doctor to do it properly.
Whatever the reason for not spaying your dog, always learn to be watchful for signs that will help you know when your dog is in heat. As you see signs indicating that your dog is in heat, take the necessary precautions to prevent your dog from getting pregnant. Do well not to allow your dog roam unaccompanied since she will attract many male dogs around.
Overall, to avoid unnecessary worry, ensure you spay your dog quickly at a very young age.