Mating Season – Your Female Dog and the Springtime
Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, and new life is beginning. And, if you have a female dog who has not been spayed, spring is also the time of year when many animals come into “season”, or have a heat cycle.
A female dog’s heat cycle, also called estrus, is the time when her body is ready to reproduce. Most dogs begin coming into heat between 6 and 12 months (earlier for small breeds, later for larger breeds) and typically have a heat twice yearly.
During their estrus period, dogs may have several or no signs. You may notice the following in your dog:
Becoming more anxious or other behavioral changes
Urinating more than normal
Having a swollen vulva
Having blood or straw-colored discharge from the vulva
Ideally, pet dogs who are not going to be bred should be spayed before their first heat cycle. Here are a few reasons why:
Hormones can be a powerful thing, even for dogs. Intact female dogs are more likely to exhibit signs of aggression and may have behavioral changes during estrus. This is especially of concern when your dog is around small children.
Likewise, females who are not spayed are more likely to get out of the house and yard and may fight. Not surprisingly, male dogs around her are more likely to fight as well.
Unspayed female dogs are most definitely at a higher risk for health problems. These include:
Pyometra – This is a life-threatening infection of the uterus. About 25% of intact female dogs will develop pyometra at some point. This condition requires emergency surgery and, if not caught early enough, can result in deadly consequences.
Mammary Cancer – Approximately 1 in 4 dogs who are not spayed will develop breast cancer. About 50% of these are malignant, aggressive cancers.
It is not uncommon for female dogs to be bred while in heat, even unintentionally. The scent of a dog in season is a powerful one and can attract males from miles around. Consider the following:
Birthing and raising a litter can be considerably taxing on your dog, depending on her overall physical condition and health.
The financial and personal investment an owner must make to raise puppies is substantial. Sometimes Caesarean sections are necessary or puppies must be bottle fed (by you!) through 6 weeks of age.
About 2.7 million healthy pets are euthanized in shelters every year, many being the offspring of family pets. This number could be drastically reduced if owners spayed and neutered their pets.
Despite popular myths, there are no health benefits to allowing your dog to have a litter of puppies or go through a heat cycle before spaying. Overall, spayed pets live longer, healthier lives and fit better within the family environment in which they live.
If you have questions or concerns about spaying your dog, it is important to talk it over with your veterinarian in order to determine the best course of action for you and your pet.
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