Dogs on Heat
First time dog owners may be unaware that, unlike male dogs, which can be sexually active all year round, females are only able to mate, and thus become pregnant, when they are "in season" or "on heat".
Bitches come on heat on average every six months, some starting as early as six or seven months of age. The heat lasts for three weeks, the first signs being the swelling of the vulval area often with some dripping of blood from the vagina. Although the bitch will generally only allow a male to mate her during the middle week of her heat, the scent of both her urine and her vaginal discharge will usually be attractive to dogs for the whole three week period, and the males will go to extraordinary lengths to get at her — she’ll be quite keen to get at them too!
So to avoid her becoming pregnant you’ll have to be extremely vigilant. Don’t let her outside unaccompanied, even if your garden is fenced — even if you know she can’t get out you can’t assume that a male dog can’t get in. It’s probably best to keep her away from the front of the house and don’t let her go in and out of the gates, leaving that enticing scent.
Exercise will necessarily be restricted — unless you have access to a remote area. You can’t assume that a late night or early morning walk will be safe — many dogs are not kept confined. And, your very obedient bitch will often become totally uncontrollable just at that crucial period in her cycle when she is ready to mate, so you can’t trust her either!
The best way to avoid your dog getting pregnant is to have her speyed. This can be done from six months of age. There is no conclusive evidence to support waiting until after the first heat, and there is certainly no need for a bitch to have a litter before speying.
If your bitch comes into season before you’ve had a chance to get her speyed don’t panic. Most vets prefer not to spey during a heat as there is an increased risk of haemorrhage. They prefer to wait until one week after the end of the heat when, even if she is in the early stages of pregnancy, it is safer and easier.
- Virginia Williams & Bert Westera