What to expect when your females comes into heat.

She is not impressed with the underwear situation.

It is a rare occurrence these days to hear that a dog is or will be coming into heat.  Elsa just came into heat yesterday and as such I figured that I'd write about it for those who want to know.  It is now customary to alter our canines on or before they reach six months of age.  Many rescue dogs are spayed or neutered at an extremely young age. This is due to the fact that the people in charge don't want the dogs that they are saving to have a litter of their own.  I know of many dogs who were altered before they were seven weeks old, way too young in my books.

There is now a move to waiting, but with waiting comes a great deal of precautionary measures.  No dog should ever be bred on a first heat, you can read about the reasons why in the articles listed below.  But to keep as simple as possible, they are still babies themselves.

Canines can come into heat anywhere around six months of age.  It can be sooner or much later depending on the dog.  Tilley had her first heat at the age of 14 months, late.  Elsa will turn 10 months old on May 10th.  Elsa's Mother had her first heat at the age of 7 months so they are all different.  Heats last much longer than most people think and they can be confusing.  Many people think that when a dog stops bleeding that they are safe to be out and about.  Big mistake.

The female dog's vulva may start to swell from two weeks before they start their heat or just a day before.  Elsa was just a day.  Once they start to bleed which for Elsa was yesterday it is considered day one of their heat.  Heat can last up to 21 days, yep that's right, 21 days.  It can be much shorter or longer depending on the dog but you must take great care that they are not accidentally caught by a male.  Luckily there are not too many intact males out there these days, most have been altered at a young age.

It is the Estrus stage when they are ready to breed and can become pregnant.  This can be anywhere from 5-12 days after the beginning of the heat.  But can very from dog to dog.  It can be sooner or go much longer that their receptive stage hangs around.  So like I said, great care must be taken so that an "oooops" doesn't occur.

Elsa is in the proestrus stage right now, this means that she is showing signs, bleeding but is not receptive to breeding or at the stage when a breeding would result in puppies.  That said if you have a female who is bleeding, keep her away from any possible "oooops."  Males can be very persistent in their attraction.  Luke has already noticed the change and has been extremely.............lets just say randy.

From a great deal of research and my own past experiences with unaltered females when the time comes that they are at the point of conception everything changes.  They may have been quite adamant about keeping males away up until now.  But at this point they will typically, of course not always be persistent themselves.  I clearly remember Tilley back it up to my male at the time who was a senior brown boy.  He was attempting to do the deed but when he did not perform to Tilley's liking she got quite angry with him.  Clyde had been long neutered so don't think that being neutered means that they lose interest.  She gave this same routine to poor young Luke which was when we decided to have Luke neutered at 10 months of age.  Looking back now, I would have dealt with it and waited another 8 months to a year to have Luke altered.

Reproduction article #1

The heat cycle

How long does it last?

We eventually had Tilley spayed at the age of five years old and I would not wait that long again.  It was much more difficult for her to recover.  That said I believe strongly that dogs are being altered at too young of an age.  There is much research being done on the subject, and like most things that are in the fledgling stages of change, is at a very controversial phase.  

Article on when to alter by Dr. Karen Becker

Dogs Naturally Magazine - long and short term benefits and health risks of altering

So; after reading this I am sure that many of you are wondering "is Sherri going to breed Elsa?"  Are there going to be little Elsa's up for sale in the next couple of years?  No.  I know that being the wonderful and very public dog that she is that I would have no problem placing her young but it is not something that is high on my "to do" list.   There are a great number of things to consider before even thinking about breeding.  Far too often people just want a puppy from their wonderful dog.  You can actually come closer to getting another great dog like yours by going back to the breeder where your dog came from originally.

There are a great deal of risks involved in breeding, for the puppies and the Mother herself.  Most people don't consider this when they dive in.  There is a huge financial obligation, vet bills, feed, health test costs etc. etc. etc.  The list goes on and on.  The biggest one for me that many people don't consider is taking back puppies who just don't work out or need to be pulled.  If you breed your dog you need to step up and care for those puppies for the rest of their lives.  That is huge.

The next couple of weeks at my house are going to be fun to say the least, poor Luke.