Is my female GSD in heat? How will I know? What do I do? Intact female dogs (dogs that have not been surgically spayed), and that are sexually mature are said to be in estrus, "in heat", or "in season", during their occasional "cycle" in preparation to breed and reproduce.
On average, the complete canine reproductive heat cycle takes about 6 months in length which results in about 2 heat cycles each year for most female dogs. Be aware of all aspects of your dogs health and behavioral life, prepare accordingly and you should both have a long and healthy life together.
Female German Shepherds, also called bitches, generally have their first heat cycle at around 6 to 12 months of age. Sometimes, a female GSD in heat may not have their first seasonal estrus cycle until they are 12 months of age or older, depending on that particular dog. Remember, however, that this information is very general and not all female dogs will follow these exact patterns.
Overall, each individual female dogs heat cycle pattern tends to be relatively close to the basic average, length wise, however lengths of heat cycles may differ from female to female when the female German Shepherd goes into heat.
In most cases, the average female German Shepherd Dogs heat cycle lasts about 3 to 4 weeks. Some female German Shepherds can come into estrus as early as every 4 months, while others may do so only once a year. Some canine heat cycles, just like in human females, may be shorter than average while other dogs may have longer ones (4 weeks or longer).
Remember these important points concerning your female GSD in heat and her yearly heat cycles and prepare accordingly.
First, assume your dog to be "in season" for at least 21 days, possibly longer, which will vary due to your own individual females heat cycle.
Second, and this is very important, keep in mind that conception is most likely to happen during the middle section of your GSD's heat cycle - typically around 7 to 14 days after the heat cycles starts.
Third, you will need to confine your girl for the entire heat cycle - at least 21 days or more depending on your particular bitch, to make sure that accidental mating does not happen.
Whether you keep her indoors or out you will need to make sure that her environment is "Romeo proof". And believe me, you will need to think of everything because an interested male can be very vigilant in getting into a females area if she is in heat.
These boys can climb, dig or break into just about any area if so inclined. If your female is in an area that has any weaknesses of any kind, believe me, "Romeo" will find it, get in and breed your female if she is willing.
If you have any questions about your female GSD in heat, consult with your veterinarian or breeder - especially if your dogs heat cycles do not seem "normal". Cycling problems in female dogs can often be an early indicator of other or more serious health problems.
First Stage - Proestrus: begins with the appearance of vaginal bleeding, swelling of the vulva, and possible increase in urination (yes, females can mark their territory, especially when they are in heat).
The most noticeable thing of all when you have a female GSD in heat, even if you're not sure your female GSD is in heat, is when male dogs begin to hang around the house. Your female German Shepherd will still reject the male during this first stage. Fertilization can not happen at this time. The length of proestrus on average is about 9 days.
Second Stage - Estrus: the time in which the female dog will allow the male to breed her. This time is also called "standing heat" and can last anywhere from 4 to 21 days depending on the individual German Shepherd Dog.
One particular behavior to look for during this time is called "flagging", which may last between 4 to 7 days. Your female might lift her tail and/or rub her rear end against various objects, such as a wall or fencing.
This is just one indicator that is very telling that your female is getting ready to be bred. Ovulation does occur during this flagging stage.
Concerning any female GSD in heat, the dark red, bloody vaginal discharge will eventually turn to a lighter shade of red over time. In most dogs, once this vaginal discharge becomes wheat or straw colored, the dog can be said to be most ready for accepting the male and breeding.
Third Stage - Metestrus: this is the stage that readies the uterus for pregnancy, and can easily last 4 to 14 days. False pregnancies frequently occur during this time. If fertilization does occur the fertilized eggs may take up to a week before they attach themselves to the uterine wall.
Overall this stage averages out as approximately 7 days. Keep in mind that this interval of time will stay the same even if the dog becomes pregnant. If fertilization does not occur then this stage will revert back to anestrus, which is stage four of this process.
Fourth Stage - Anestrus: the resting time between heats
which normally lasts about 5 or 6 months. If you decide that you need to
know exactly what stage of estrus your female GSD may be in, your
veterinarian can easily assist you in figuring this out.
Scientifically your veterinarian can perform an analysis of the cells of the vagina under the microscope (cytology), as well as being able to measure progesterone levels present in your dogs bloodstream. There is no benefit of any kind in letting your female german shepherd have a litter of puppies before having her spayed. In fact, the earlier you spay your dog, the more health risks you are deleting for her down the road, such as breast and other types of cancers, or pyometra, among others. In fact, if you spay you dog before her first heat cycle, you actually give her the most health benefits of all associated with the spaying process.
If you do not intend to breed your GSD bitch, you really should consider spaying her and there are many, many positive reasons why.
First, you will be helping to control the animal overpopulation problem by cutting down on unwanted litters.
Secondly, there are many health benefits associated with spaying your dog and no longer having to deal with a female GSD in heat. Any potential reproductive problems your female GSD in heat could acquire down the road will be almost alleviated by this one simple act.
Third, you will no longer have to deal with any of the hygenic issues of a female GSD in heat, such as the vulvular discharges, etc., but there are several products on the market specifically made to address these issues.
If you do decide to spay your German Shepherd,
this can be done during her heat cycle however it would probably be
better to wait until the heat cycle is completely over to decrease the
chance of any type of complications during surgery. Knowing your dog and
being able to provide for her in all situations, even when your female
GSD in heat is flagging everything in sight, is just one important part
of being a dog owner.
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Thank you for this web site. Very informative and well written. I often advise my shepherd people to visit here for information. Again GREAT JOB.Laura Page Warden, DVM
What a fabulous website!!! I really enjoyed reading about the history of the dogs. There is a ton of helpful information on here and defiantly something for every reader to enjoy!!!
Recently got a GSD again. Last time had GSD no internet etc. Cant believe how much info for free. Kenneth
I love and appreciate the helpful advice I found on your website! Rachelle
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