Everything You Need to Know About a Dog’s Reproductive Health

by | Mar 20, 2020 | Health and Nutrition

Golden retrievers, German shorthair pointers, bernedoodles, French bulldogs… Is there anything in the world cuter than a box full of newborn puppies? You’ll pull over to the side of the road just to catch a peek.

After years of ogling puppies, do you wonder about a dog’s reproductive health? Do dogs have periods as humans do?

What does a dog in heat look like? Why do so many owners neuter and spay their dogs?

Here are five commonly asked questions about canine reproduction. Their answers might surprise you!

Do Dogs Have Periods?

A dog on her period? Is that a thing? It might be weird to think about, but yes, it is absolutely a thing!

Dogs get regular periods, just like humans do. Not as often as humans, fortunately: more like 2-3 times per year. A huge great dane might get her period once a year, while a tiny yorkie might get hers three times.

They bleed, but don’t be surprised if you never see blood drops around the house. They’re quite good at cleaning themselves!

If they do drip, that’s normal, too. Pet stores sell doggie diapers for this exact purpose. You put them on just like a baby diaper, except there’s a hole for the tail!

Bleeding can last 2-4 weeks, depending on the dog. 

What Does “In Heat” Mean and What Does It Look Like?

If you’re a dog owner, you’ve seen the rule written on every dog park sign: “NO DOGS IN HEAT.”

A female in heat attracts every male dog who’s able to smell her. If you were to take your female dog to the park in heat, every male dog there would try to mount her. It’s just instinctive!

“In heat” means the stage right before ovulation. The best time to get pregnant! It lasts anywhere from 2-4 weeks.

A female in heat gives off an extremely strong and specific scent. That scent ignites the sexual and reproductive instincts inside nearby male dogs. Dogs have been known to break down barriers and dig under fences to get to another in heat.

With that in mind, you’ll want to take some precautions if you own an intact (not spayed) female. Don’t hesitate to look up helpful products to have for a dog in heat. Check out our article about other products you’ll love as a dog owner.

Why Do We Spay and Neuter?

Have you ever visited somewhere that had a lot of stray dogs roaming the streets? Do you live somewhere like that?

If so, then you know the harmful effects of dog over-breeding. Yes, a healthy female dog can physically carry two litters a year, but she shouldn’t. It’s harmful to her and it drastically adds to overpopulation.

Overpopulation leads to starving or aggressive strays, overcrowded shelters, and high euthanasia rates. Spaying and neutering are crucial to avoid these things.

Any vet clinic will perform a spay or neuter procedure; the Humane Society even does it for cheap in order to encourage it! It’s a safe procedure, the recovery is around two weeks.

How Long Are Dogs Pregnant?

Dog pregnancies are very different than human pregnancies. A dog is “full term” at 58-63 days — about nine weeks. But they can carry up to 68 days.

Usually, you can tell a dog is pregnant (visually) once she’s far along. Her belly will look visibly rounder and her nipples might noticeably sag.

She can still be pregnant even if you can’t see a pregnant-looking belly. Here are a few signs:

  • Increased appetite
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Behavioral changes
  • Weight gain
  • Visible movement in her belly

There’s no at-home dog pregnancy test, though. To be sure, she should be taken to a vet. The vet confirms the pregnancy using an ultrasound, x-ray, hormone test, or palpation.

Here are some signs that she’s close to labor and delivery:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Decreased body temperature
  • Restlessness — pacing, panting, nesting, digging, etc.
  • Self-isolation
  • Increased panting

How Many Litters Can One Female Dog Have?

Remember: a female dog doesn’t carry just one baby during her pregnancy. She carries a whole litter! She grows and carries 4-6 puppies inside her for nine weeks!

That means it’s not healthy for her to be pregnant too many times in her life. Even though she physically can, she shouldn’t.

If you have a dog for breeding, don’t go overboard. She shouldn’t carry more than 3-4 litters in her life. Definitely no more than four!

Having too many litters can negatively affect a dog’s long-term health. It can cause health problems. It can even shorten her life!

She can also get pregnant every heat cycle. She can. But that doesn’t mean she should.

Just like how human moms need substantial recovery time between pregnancies, doggie moms do too. Her body needs time to recuperate, then she’ll spend about seven weeks nursing her puppies.

Healing and nursing drain mom’s energy. The last thing she needs is to be pregnant again, or even mating. Ideally, she should have a heat cycle between pregnancies.

That, however, is debated in the dog world! Some breeders think you should breed back-to-back. That way, the mom doesn’t age between pregnancies.

Do your own in-depth research before you breed your dog. Keep in mind your dog’s overall health, personality, and family history.

Help Your Dog By Understanding Their Reproductive Health

It’s important to understand dog reproductive health. Chances are, if you were to ask a random person, “Do dogs have periods?” they wouldn’t know unless they’d had a female dog.

If we understand their reproduction then we can help increase their well-being. We can lengthen and improve their lives. We can raise the standard of living for dogs everywhere.

The more you know, the better! Check out our other articles about health and wellness.