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The Cycle of the Female Bitch
The Cycle of the Female (Bitch)
The normal breeding cycle of a bitch lasts for around three weeks, but this can vary either way by quite a number of days. In a normal cycle the bitch will mate in the middle of this period. Most male dogs will instinctively know when the time is right and if you have a dog and bitch you wish to breed with, best to be be guided by him in the first instance. If you have no male dog present or artificial mating's are used, the veterinarian will perform blood tests and read the progesterone levels to ascertain this time accurately.
An overview of a normal bitch's reproductive cycle is best explained by dividing it into the following sections:
When you notice blood coming away from the bitch's swollen vulva you know she is in season. It is often difficult to tell that very first day of season as some bitches are extremely fastidious, constantly licking themselves and keeping themselves clean from any signs of blood. If she is run with a male dog, that makes it easier to tell. You might have to wipe the vulva with a white tissue to ascertain whether or not there is any blood present at all and if so, it's color. With some bitches the color of the initial signs of blood is quite dark, with others it is obviously blood. The period of an-oestrus is when the bitch is not bleeding at all or just starting her season with a very slight dark discharge.
The next phase is called 'Pro-oestrus' when the bleeding actually begins. It is important to note this day as this affects the timing of when she is ready to accept the dog. During this time she will flirt and even present her vulva to the dog, but will not 'stand' for him or accept him. If you have an inexperienced dog, it is important you separate the pair for long periods during each day until he learns what this is all about. Then when ovulation occurs, he will be not worn out and will still be keen to mate her.
The most vital stage is called 'Oestrus' because this is when the bitch is actually ovulating. This is usually around the tenth day after the first signs but can vary considerably from the eighth day to the fifteenth! The outward signs are that she flags her tail, will stand often stiff legged and will swing her tail instantly as the dog mounts her. The color of her discharge should look as though it has been diluted but with some bitches there does not appear to be any discharge at all. But don't be fooled that her season has finished as this is quite the contrary.
The last stage is called 'Di-Oestrus' where the vulva is still swollen, there may or may not still be a bloody discharge and the bitch begins to produce those hormones responsible for pregnancy. But if the bitch has been mated, don't be fooled as she will be very happy to repeat the experience with any other dog. Should this happen, you could get a litter with multiple fathers. If this is the case, a DNA test will be necessary to prove which dog has fathered which pup before the resultant litter is registered.
It is important to realize that whether or not a mating has taken place, a bitch will produce hormones after being in season which will be present in her body for the same nine weeks as if she had been mated. Often milk will be produced and the bitch may become very possessive of a toy. I believe it is necessary for a bitch to go through this cycle for the sake of her complete mental and physical development, before de-sexing if applicable occurs.