Caring For A Bitch In Season

When do dogs come into season?

Depending on the breed, most un-neutered females come into season every six months. Small breeds can cycle three times a year and the very large breeds, e.g. Great Danes, may only cycle every 12-18 months.

When a young bitch comes into season for the first time it can often be a ‘silent’ season. This basically means it may not be obvious at all and may not be evident that she is even bleeding. It can sometimes take over a year for a bitch to develop a regular cycle. Looking after an entire bitch in season is more involved than caring for a neutered bitch.

How do I know when my bitch is in season?

The season begins with the first signs of a discharge from the vulva which will be blood tinged. The vulva will be swollen and she will be spending more time licking this area to keep it clean.  It will remain swollen until the end of her season.

A bitch in heat is going through the oestrus cycle and when she is in this phase she will be extremely attractive to male dogs and will give off scents, including pheromones in her urine. Her season will last around three weeks on average and she will be able to conceive during this time. The most fertile time of the three weeks is around days ten to fifteen.

The bitch will be attractive to male dogs from the beginning of her season but she may not allow mounting until a week to ten days into the cycle.

Are there any behavioural changes?

There may be slight mood changes that the owner picks up on with the bitch becoming ‘needy’.

These types of behavioural changes are also seen in pseudo- pregnancies (false pregnancy). A pseudo -pregnancy may occur regardless as to whether or not the bitch was actually mated. They tend to happen four to nine weeks after the end of a season. The bitch will display nesting behaviour and will often carry her toys around as if they were puppies, putting them in her bed.

For the bitch and owner alike it can be a stressful time as the bitch will also be producing milk. A false pregnancy will generally resolve on its own after two to three weeks. However, when a bitch has suffered with this condition once it is likely it will happen again, so neutering is recommended.

But, wouldn’t it be nice for her to have a litter before she is neutered?

There is no benefit to the bitch at all to make her go through a pregnancy because ‘it would be nice for her to have a litter before she is neutered’. There are plenty of unwanted dogs in rescue centres without adding to them!

A bitch is usually spayed from six months old. If she has had a season she would be spayed three months from the end of her season. This is safer for the operation as all the blood vessels to the reproductive organs will have shrunk back down to their normal size reducing the risk of haemorrhage during surgery.

If there is no intention to breed then spaying is part of being a responsible pet owner. Having a pregnant bitch that is about to have puppies is hard work.

Out and about with a bitch in season

When walking a bitch in season it is best to do it when no other male dogs are around or it could become a challenge for both sets of owners. Keeping her on the lead at all times is essential; it is not worth the risk. If the bitch is accidentally mated by a dog DO NOT try and separate them. If the dog has tied with her you will injure both the dog and bitch.

The bitch should seek veterinary attention for a course of mis-mating injections to halt the development of the pregnancy.

Age restrictions on breeding

A bitch will not go through the menopause as she gets older, so if she is pregnant at seven years old it would be the equivalent of a fifty-year old woman falling pregnant and it would be a risky pregnancy for the bitch.