A brief on - Reproduction in Dogs

Domestic animal like cattle, comes to 'heat' year round and dog, as everyone knows, are seasonal breeders and the female dog comes to season (heat) twice in a year. They come to 'heat' only when they are ready to mate. Male dogs do not have something like the season, and they mate when they are mature which is around nine to twelve months depending upon the breed.

A female dog may come to season when they are six months old to one year. This largely depends upon the breed, size, health and the season i.e. the mating season. Generally, a healthy dog comes to heat once in every six months and the period of heat lasts generally for three weeks. But this may vary between breeds, and dogs. As the bitch grows old, the heat period occur farther apart, but hardly ceases.

The period of heat lasts approximately for three weeks. The first half corresponds to the pro-oestrous. She attracts male dogs but does not allow for mounting. Swelling of external genitalia is noticed along with loss of blood. Oestrous occurs during the second half. The female dog becomes agitated and allows to be mounted. This is about from 10th to 12th day. Ovulation occurs during 11th or 12th day. Ovulation is spontaneous and is influenced by hormones. However some dogs can be impregnated even after two or more weeks after heat. Dog spermatozoa are so resilient that bitches may conceive even the bitch is mounted at the end of the pro-oestrous.

Ovulation may take place several times. If different dogs mount the same bitch, different puppies can have different fathers. This is more often with bitches which shows prolonged heat period. Met-oestrous is to last for four months. In some cases, bitch shows all sings of pregnancy even though they are not pregnant. These animals show all signs of pregnancy including lactation. This is called pseudo-pregnancy. The next four months are called met-oestrous. The next two months are considered as period of anoestrous. Thus the average cycle period is of six months.

Some time, animals may not show any signs of heat for 10 to 12 months with any signs of apparent disease. The males detect the females in heat by the smell from her urine. In the early stage of the heat (pro-oestrous), she will not stand still and male will not be able to mount. During the oestrous period, she will stand still till the male can mount her. It is easier for the male to mount if the surroundings are permeated by his territory smell. Hence, it is always better to take the female to the male. Also, a subordinate male or female may not mate in the presence of a dominant member. Therefore, a dominant owner should also never try to watch his dog mating.

Hormonal  contraceptives can be used to suppress the heat and is given during the anoestrous period. But they are with side-effects. These contraceptives are likely to cause uterine infections. Hence, the best method is the removal of ovaries i.e. spaying. This is best done before the bitch reaches its puberty. Spaying, in addition, also protects the bitch from many uterine and mammary diseases.

Duration of pregnancy is usually 63 days. But, it may vary from 57-72 days. It is important to note that foetuses in the uterus may start responding to tactile stimulation from 45th day onwards. When the bitch-stomach is stroked, motor movements of foetus can be noticed. But this is reduced after several days of handling. If the bitches were handled like this, the pups born to these will have a higher level of tactile sensitivity and will be easy to handle. Puppies also react to any emotional reaction to the mother. Hence, the pregnant mother is to be protected from fear and stress. Ordinarily, normal delivery does not require any professional interference.

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