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Whether you are worried about your pet baby becoming pregnant or you have found the perfect mate and want to breed your doggy, you may be asking whether your female dog can get pregnant when not in heat.
The short answer is no. Dogs can’t get pregnant when not in heat.
Like all mammals, dogs cycle in and out of fertility and can only get pregnant when ovulating.
In fact, female dogs can’t even have intercourse when they aren’t in heat, as their reproductive system won’t open for penetration.
When your female dog isn’t in heat the best a male dog can do is dry hump them, which they will occasionally do.
Just like with human women, it is not always obvious when your dog is ovulating.
If a friend tells you their dog got pregnant when she wasn’t in heat, chances are her fertility symptoms were minor and no one realized that she was in a fertility phase (except a sly male pup).
Let’s take a closer look at the heat cycle of the female dog so you can better understand when they are fertile, how to detect whether they are fertile, what pregnancy looks like in dogs, when it is safe to breed your dog, and how to prevent pregnancy.
DISCLAIMER: We are not veterinarians. This article is for entertainment purposes only. If your dog has any health issues including pregnancy please consult with your veterinarian.
Female Dog Heat Cycle
Most dogs will go into heat twice a year, but this is a rule of thumb and definitely not true of all dogs.
Small dogs tend to have more frequent heat cycles and might be fertile three or four times a year.
Bigger dogs such as St. Bernards and Great Danes have slower cycles and may only enter heat once a year.
The breed is not the only factor in determining your dog’s heat cycle; health and lifestyle factors are also important.
Health conditions such as malnutrition and overexercise can reduce your dog’s fertility. They will probably also skip heat cycles after pregnancy.
Dogs that have hit a good breeding age but have still not delivered a litter may go into heat more frequently for a period of time.
The heat cycle is technically called the estrus cycle and can last anywhere from five to 20 days in dogs.
Before entering the estrus cycle your dog will go through proestrus, which should be the sign that they are coming into heat.
The proestrus cycle can last anywhere from four to 20 days, and this is when you will start to see a bloody or pinkish discharge from your dog.
You may also notice increased interest from male dogs, but since your female dog is not yet ready to mate, she won’t be interested.
You will probably notice that your dog spends a lot of time cleaning herself at this time, which is completely natural and should not be discouraged.
If her bleeding is particularly heavy, you may want to use doggy diapers to prevent staining of your floor and furniture.
I highly recommend doggy diapers based on experience. Yes, we’ve had to throw things out because of staining 🙁
The End Of The Cycle
When your dog enters the estrus phase, her symptoms will change. Her discharge will transition to a more yellowish color, and her vulva and nipples will become swollen.
Suddenly she will be seeking out male dogs and perhaps whining when one passes nearby.
Female dogs also tend to become more clingy at this time and won’t want to leave your side.
If your dog becomes pregnant during her estrus cycle, she will then enter diestrus. Pregnancy in dogs lasts from 60 to 90 days.
If she doesn’t become pregnant she will enter anestrus, which is the period of inactivity between fertile periods.
While these symptoms are usually present during a female dog’s heat cycle, they are not always the same and they are not always obvious.
You may find that the first time your dog enters heat she has heavy bleeding and then an obviously swollen vulva.
The next time she enters heat, bleeding and swelling could be practically unnoticeable.
However, every dog is different. We’ve had several female dogs go into heat.
In our experience with our Golden Retriever, Raven we barely notice when she goes into heat and there’s minimal bleeding.
On the other hand, it’s very obvious with our black Labrador Retriever, Elsa. We find light blood marks around the house and she immediately need doggy diapers or it can get very messy.
A cycle with minimal symptoms is sometimes called a silent heat cycle. This is when a dog is most likely to get pregnant without her owner realizing that she is in heat.
Pregnancy Symptoms In Dogs
If you discover that your dog has mated, it is worth watching her to see if she has become pregnant. Female dogs become pregnant around 40% of the time after mating.
Your dog might not start to show marked external signs of pregnancy for 30 to 40 days, at which point she is already halfway through her pregnancy.
The main signs include weight gain, increased appetite, reduced energy, and nausea and vomiting.
We had a very difficult time determining whether or not Raven was pregnant. She didn’t show obvious symptoms until about 50 days. She didn’t even have much of a belly until that point.
If you want to know if your dog is pregnant sooner, you can take her to the vet for a blood test or ultrasound. This can detect pregnancy after two to three weeks.
If you want to terminate your dog’s pregnancy, it is possible. Prostaglandin F 2alpha (a natural hormone) is considered a safe and effective drug for termination.
She will need to take 0.1mg/kg three times a day for 48 hours, and then 0.2mg/kg three times a day until all the fetuses are evacuated. This will be confirmed by an ultrasound.
While this is an option, it is not recommended when not necessary as it is likely to be a highly traumatic experience for your pet.
If you don’t want your dog to get pregnant, the best thing you can do is monitor her heat cycle and keep her away from male dogs while ovulating.
This sounds easy, but can be challenging. It is incredible the obstacles that dogs will overcome to reach a potential mate when a female dog is in heat.
While spaying is the most effective way to ensure your female pup doesn’t get pregnant, there are risks involved.
If you do intend to spay your female dog, please read What Is The Best Age To Spay/Neuter A Dog?
Should I breed my dog in her first heat cycle?
No, it is not recommended to breed your dog during her first heat cycle, which can happen when she is as young as six to twelve months.
At this age, their bodies are not fully developed and both pregnancy and breastfeeding can have a detrimental impact on their health.
Adolescent dogs are also more likely to develop aggression if bred too young.
In addition to this, many of the tests used to determine whether a dog is fit for breeding cannot be administered until they are at least two years old.
Breeding a dog without these tests increases the chances of passing down bad genes that can result in puppies with serious health issues.
Are there oral contraceptives for dogs?
There are currently no approved medications for controlling canine fertility cycles in the United States or Canada.
Medications are available in some other countries, but they are considered to have a high incidence of life-threatening side effects. Read more here.
Can I give my dog human contraceptive pills?
There is a myth that if you give your female dog two human contraceptive pills following intercourse, it will prevent pregnancy.
Since human female hormones are quite different from canine hormones, this is unlikely to prevent pregnancy and may make your dog ill.
There are dog-specific antihormones available that may be effective as a “morning-after pill,” but they must be prescribed by a vet.
Is My Dog Pregnant?
Female dogs can’t get pregnant when they aren’t in heat.
Not only are they not fertile, but their reproductive organs won’t open for penetration unless they are in heat so they can’t even engage in intercourse.
If you discover that your female dog has engaged in intercourse, chances are that her heat symptoms were minimal or silent, so you did not realize she was in heat.
When this happens, there is a high chance that your dog has become pregnant, as most breeds get pregnant about 40% of the time.
While there are things that you can do to terminate pregnancy in a dog, this is not great for their health. The best thing you can do is prevent pregnancy.
If you don’t plan on spaying your female dog, this means monitoring their fertility cycle with care and keeping them well separated from male dogs during their heat cycle.
Have you ever had a pregnant dog?
Was it unexpected?
Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.
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