Female dogs, bitches, normally first come into season when they are about 6 to 8 months old. However they have been known to be earlier and even later than this. It is usual for bitches to have a season twice a year, but some only have a season once a year. Bitches will come into season throughout their lives, they do not experience the menopause.
When the bitch is about to come into season there may be various changes in her behaviour. She may go off her food a few days beforehand, urinate more frequently when out on her walks and she may even shows signs of abdominal pain. A bitch can be quite down and miserable when she is about to come into season. When she is in season the vulva will be enlarged and blood stained fluid is passed. The season lasts for about 3 weeks, and she will be attractive to males for this time. The bitch is usually not interested in the male until about day 8 to 12 of her season, when she will stand and allow the mating to occur, and at this point she may even try to escape in order to mate. Before and after these days of the season, the bitch can be quite aggressive to any male who tries to mate with her.
If you are not going to breed from your bitch it is a good idea to have her neutered. This procedure is carried out under general anaesthetic and is called spaying. The operation involves the removal of the womb and ovaries (ovariohysterectomy). Some vets will recommend that this is done before her first season and others say after. They all agree that it should never be done during the season. If your bitch has come into season and you want her spayed it is advisable to wait for at least two months after her season until she is spayed.
The advantages of spaying are that you will not have any unwanted puppies and there are health advantages. Unneutered bitches can develop certain conditions at a later stage in their lives. They can develop a false pregnancy, pyometra and mammary tumours.
A false pregnancy occurs when the bitch shows signs of being pregnant when she is not. It happens at the time when she would have produced a litter if she had been pregnant, around the 63 day mark. She will go through the stages, such as nesting, carry toys or shoes to gather into her bed and some actually produce milk. The severity of these stages will vary from bitch to bitch. Once a bitch has had one false pregnancy it will occur after each season, and the signs can become more severe each time. Obviously this can be quite an unsettling time for all and you should ask your veterinary surgeon for advice. When a bitch develops a pyometra urgent veterinary attention is required to remove the uterus and ovaries. A pyometra is an infection which occurs in the womb, usually 2 months after the season. This condition is normally seen in older bitches. The signs of this condition are excessive drinking, vomiting, depression and in some situations a red-brown smelly discharge from the vulva. Mammary tumours can develop in bitches as they get older, neutering reduces the risk greatly. Many of these tumours are benign but they can spread to other parts of the body. If you do discover a mammary lump on your bitch then it should be monitored carefully for any changes in size, also consult your vet.
There are some disadvantages in having your bitch neutered. An older neutered bitch may become, to some degree, incontinent. This may only happen when the bitch is asleep. There is treatment available which can reduce this and even stop this from occurring. A spayed bitch can also have a change in coat growth. Some of the hairier breeds can have excess hair over the hindquarters and the smooth coated breeds can develop bald patches. The other problem that can occur is weight gain, with some breeds being more susceptible than others. Once neutered try and cut out the treats, and increase the amount of exercise once the bitch has been given the all clear by the vet.
The control of the season can also be done without surgery. There is a hormone injection available which is administered by your vet. This injection has to be given at least twice a year. Commercial products, like sprays and lotions, are also available and have various degrees of success.
There are advantages and disadvantages of both methods so it is wise to gather as much information before you make the choice.
Male dogs can be neutered, castrated, when they are 6 months or older. The castration procedure is carried out under general anaesthetic. The operation involves the removal of the testicles. There can be several reasons why a male dog has to be castrated. This can be for a medical reason or to stop excessive sexual behaviour and other unacceptable behaviour characteristics.
Medically the dog may only have one testicle descended into the scrotum, the other could be in the abdomen. If this is the case the dog should be castrated as the testicle in the abdomen could become a tumour and upset the whole hormonal system. A tumour of this type can be life threatening if it spreads to other parts of the body. Behaviourally a dog can, if highly sexed mount people and inanimate objects around the house. Unneutered males can be aggressive, in particular with other dogs, they mark their territory, in the house and outside. They will also wander off, especially if they sense there is a bitch in season nearby. Sometimes castration will be ineffective as the behaviour has become a habit. Other behaviours can take several months before any change is noticed.
There are some disadvantages in having your dog neutered. A castrated dog can have a change in the appearance and texture of his coat. Some of the hairier breeds can have excess hair over the hindquarters and the smooth coated breeds can develop bald patches. The other problem that can occur is weight gain, with some breeds being more susceptible than others. Once neutered try and cut out the treats, and increase the amount of exercise.
The control of the dogs sexual behaviour can also be achieved without surgery. There is available a hormone injection which is administered by your vet. This injection mimics the effects of castration, however the dog may not become infertile. There are various commercial products, like sprays and lotions, which can be used on the areas where the dog is scent marking around the house. These products have various degrees of success.