Crumble officially came into heat last Monday. This is her her first season and we are currently we are on day 12.
If you have a bitch (female dog) that hasn’t been neutered, it’s important to understand when your dog is likely to have her first season and what to expect.
What is a season?
A dog’s season, otherwise known as being ‘in heat’, is the part of a female’s reproductive cycle that can allow her to become pregnant. When she’s in season, your dog may act differently and her genitals will likely swell and produce a bloody discharge. This is exactly how it's been with Crumble. Although some dogs can have a silent season where they are fertile but non of the more obvious signs are there. For some dog’s behaviour changes might be noted in the weeks leading up to a season.
There are four main stages to a dog’s reproductive cycle and these are:
Proestrus: The first phase This is what most of use know as a season. A dog’s oestrogen levels start to rise in preparation for her to release her ova (eggs). Her vulva may swell and she may produce a bloody discharge. Although male dogs may begin to take an interest in her, she may not be keen to mate, and may not be happy about dogs sniffing around her. This stage usually lasts for around nine days, but varies from dog to dog.
Oestrus: The second phase. As her oestrogen levels drop, her progesterone levels begin to increase. This is the time when your dog is most fertile. She will have released her eggs and will allow herself to be mated. Her vulva will still be swollen and her discharge will be less bloody and may now be pink or straw coloured. She may present herself to males and may move her tail out of the way to encourage males to mate. This stage usually lasts just a few days.
Diestrus: During this stage, your dog will no longer be fertile, but she will still be producing progesterone to help if she’s pregnant. During this time, her vulva will become less swollen and she will show less interest in mating and in males. If she’s not pregnant, high levels of progesterone can cause phantom pregnancies.
Anoestrus: This is the time when her hormone levels return to normal and is the period before her next heat cycle begins.
her First Season
Breed and size is a big part in determining when she will have her first season. Most smaller breeds can have their first season at around six months old, but this can vary quite a lot from dog to dog. While some larger breeds may not go in to heat until they are over a year old. Having her first season is a sign that she’s now sexually mature and is physically able to have puppies. Crumble was 10 months old on the 10th of May which is pretty usual for her breed and size. Maisy my parents dog, is a Border Collie and she had her first season at 11 months.
The first season can be very obvious with some dogs but it can also be subtle or even be silent (Where they are fertile but non of the obvious signs of being in heat are visible).
According to the PDSA, dogs are usually in season for about three weeks, but this may be as short as two weeks or as long as four.
Signs your female is in season may include:
Cleaning themselves more than normal
Weeing more often than usual
Their vulva becoming swollen and red. This usually happens a few days before they begin to bleed (Crumbles swelled on 14th May and she started bleeding on the 16th)
Vaginal discharge that can start off bloody but may become more pinkish or watery as their season progresses.
Change in eating habits
Common behaviours while in season:
Certain hormones begin to increase as she comes into her season. This can cause her to behave differently. Some of the behaviours you could see are:
Being more friendly to other dogs, particularly males
Being clingy, anxious, or nervous
Going out of her way to sniff out potential mates
Humping other dogs, pets, furniture, toys or humans
Moving her tail to one side when touched or when around male dogs
Nesting or gathering toys where she sleeps
Marking her territory with urine
Being snappy with other dogs going near her tail
Her behaviour may change throughout her season, these behaviours are natural and nothing to be concerned about. They should disappear once she’s finished her season.
taking care of her when she’s in heat
During her season, she may seem anxious, confused and uncomfortable, with the changes that are occurring to her body. Crumble seems to be having quite big mood swings. One minute she's sad, crying and wants to be held and the next she's snappy and angry but doesn't seem to know why, then she gets upset with herself and the cycle starts again.
Of course, all dogs are different and what some dogs need others may not.
Here are some suggestions to help her during her season:
Utilise enrichment to keep her distracted around the house
Take her for regular exercise (away from male dogs) - We use a secure field
If you have other dogs - Make sure she has a quiet space to get away if she needs to
You can buy pants/nappies/period pants specifically designed for dogs that stop them bleeding on the floor and furniture. I chose to get some period pants for Crumble. There are a number of reasons I thought period pants would be a good option.
As it's her first season I wasn't sure how heavy she'd bleed and I didn't want to be unprepared if she was bleeding a lot. You can have the pants in the house and not use them!
They keep her clean and prevent over-grooming. Crumble being a cockapoo she matts easily. The first few days I let her lick herself without the pants and her licking cause a few mats around her genitals which isn't ideal and were quiet hard to deal with in such a sensitive area. The pants help prevent this.
I wanted to prevent her being sick.
With Maisy she bled heavily enough to drip and while she did keep herself very clean. She made herself sick. By the second week of her heat she would have sickness and diarrhoea with all the blood she'd cleaned from herself.
Here is a link to the ones we bought for Crumble - Amazon Dog Period Pants 3 Pack
If you have any questions pop them in the comments.
Thanks for reading
Sarah, Chester & Crumble