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Heat cycles for breeding dogs

Here is a quick run down of how to know when your female dog is in heat. We outline the 4 distinct stages of your female dogs, also called a bitch,  heat cycle.

If you are considering breeding your dog, we would strongly suggest that you get your bitch thoroughly checked by a vet before you try. Also it is important to take into account the heritage of both dogs involved.

Stages of a dogs heat cycle

  • Proestrus: the first stage, where your dogs generally will start to have some vaginal bleeding/discharge and swelling of the vulva. Your bitch cannot get pregnant in this stage. This stage can be as short as 1 day, or as long as 19 days. There is no easy way to predict how long it will last. On average your dogs proestrus stage will last 9 days.
  • Estrus: the second stage, this is when your dog is most fertile for breeding. Depending on your dog this window for breeding can be as big as 21 or as little as 4 days. Your dogs discharge will become a lighter redder colour, even to a light skin colour . This is when most experts say your dog is ready to be bred. Your dog will also start to flag, this is where she will lift her tail high, and start to rub her anus around the garden or house. Ovulating occurs during the estrus stage.
  • Metestrus : the third stage, is where the dogs uterus readies itself for the pregnancy. If your dog does get pregnant the entire stage can take up to a week until the fertilised egg attaches to the uterus wall. If fertilisation does not occur your dog will go into the anestrus stage.
  • Anestrus : the fourth stage, this is the longest stage (up to 5 months) where you dogs returns to a stage of “in between heats”.

Notes about Dog Breeding

  • It is important to note that these time lines are just guidelines. As with human women, dogs too can vary from dog to dog. Even similar breeds are know to have varying cycle lengths. One important note is that larger dogs can have a delayed first heat cycle and can occur any time up to an age of 12 months.
  • The good advice of letting your dog have a litter before spaying her has been disproven in recent years. If you are planning on spaying your dog, we recommend you do it as soon as possible. Doing it sooner, rather than later avoids complications in the surgery and there are possible health benefits (lower risk of mammary tumors or pyometra) for doing it before her first cycle. Talk to your vet about the advantages .
Please check out our stud dogs page for a listing of dogs for stud in Ireland.
Updated on October 9, 2020

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