Bitches in Season

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BITCHES IN SEASON

“In season” or “in heat” or “oestrus” are terms used to indicate that a fertile bitch can become pregnant if she is mated
by a male dog.

Inexperienced first time owners of bitch puppies are often ignorant of what is happening to their little girl when she is in season and what to do when this happens. If the owners are caught by surprise an unwanted pregnancy may occur because it can sometimes be difficult to recognize the first season. If you are not sure keep her away from male dogs and ask your vet.

Female dog’s reproductive system follows a fairly regular cycle twice a year. Most bitches have their first season when they are at around 6 to 8 months old.

The first sign is a bloody discharge from the vulva which is the opening to the womb, through which the puppies will be born, not where she wees. (It is a good idea to mark the date on a calendar for future reference.) This discharge can continue for up to 10 days and is called “pro-oestrus.” Ovulation usually occurs about 10-11 days after the onset of bleeding. The eggs can then be fertilized for up to 4 days after ovulation occurs. However, it may vary a great deal in some bitches.

By the time the bitch comes into her first season most owners will have decided whether they want to breed with her or not. In any case it is too late because most vets will not spay during oestrus and will recommend waiting at least 6-12 weeks after bleeding stops.

It is also not recommended to breed with a bitch during her first season because she will not be fully grown and her body is still developing. Very young bitches are usually not very good mothers and often lack attentiveness to the puppies.

Avoiding pregnancy while your bitch is in season

In my experience it is the males that are the nuisance and will wear a path to the gate behind which the bitch is kept. If it is a household consisting of males as well, then keep the bitch in her quarters because by interchanging areas it has a very bad effect on the males when they continuously can pick up her scent. It may be a solution to put your male dog in kennels if you cannot be sure to prevent the male from breaking through the fence or gate. Sprays onto the gate are usually not very effective.

Do not take the bitch for exercise near your home or walk her on a lead in the road because it will simply be an advert for all the local strays to camp outside your property and fight. I usually took my bitches in the car to the beach or a distant safe area for some recreation.

Never take a bitch in season to a dog club or show – it is far too disruptive and unfair on other dog owners with male dogs.

Choose different times to go out from when other owners walk their dogs. Always keep her on a leash. You do not want to allow her out of sight. Dogs mate even through a fence.

Make sure that your back garden is secure so that she cannot escape and other males can get in. I once found that an athletic Jack Russell had scaled a 7 foot wall to get to my German shepherd bitch that was in season. Getting the dog out of the property proved to be rather difficult.

If in spite of all your efforts and you find yourself with a possible unwanted pregnancy situation, consult with your vet for a hormone injection to prevent the pregnancy. In my experience it has long term negative effects on the bitch and is definitely not recommended
but it may be better than having unwanted puppies to look after.

Avoiding a mess in the house

During her season the bitch should be able to keep herself clean. She should only be allowed into parts of the house with tiled easy-to-clean hard floors.

When she is taken in a car or allowed in a carpeted area consider a form of hygiene pants or diaper/nappy.

Nappies/diapers of different sizes are available at most good pet shops or at NSPCA shops.

Spaying

If you do not have a specific reason for breeding with a bitch, it remains a good idea to have her spayed to save both of you the hassle twice a year. The benefits are – no unwanted puppies, hormone imbalances or mammary or uterine tumors.

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