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When can a dog get pregnant?

Three Australian shepherd dogs
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A female dog can only get pregnant during a certain stage of her cycle. However, it is important to be aware of this possibility, since both she and the male dogs around her will be very serious about doing so during this time!

By G. John Cole

Updated on the 08/02/2021, 13:52

Not everybody wants to ‘spay’ or neuter their dog. Some believe it deprives a dog of their natural rights. Others want their female dog to breed at some point. If you decide to keep your dog unspayed, you will want to know more about the chances of her becoming pregnant.

When can my dog get pregnant?

A dog doesn’t have the same menstrual cycle as a human woman. She doesn’t get a ‘period.’ So if you notice that she has blood coming from her vagina, it likely means she is ‘in heat.’ This means that she is just about ready to start thinking about some action.

From the time when your dog is six months old, she is likely to go through this process – known as the estrus cycle – a couple of times a year for the rest of her life. It can be more or less frequent, depending on the breed.

Her estrus season can last two-three weeks. Although she is only fertile for a few days in the middle of this cycle, dog sperm can survive for a week or more inside her – so she can get pregnant even if she has sex early on.

Her heat cycle begins when she starts to show discharge from her vulva. She may start to lick it, and it may also start to swell. It will take two or three weeks to return to normal.

In the meantime, she will start to bleed a bit. And from the beginning, she will become super-attractive to male dogs. They can smell her hormones and pheromones on her urine, and she will begin to mark her territory all around the neighbourhood.

Those canine chaps can get pretty serious when they sense a female dog in heat. Dogs have been known to jump fences, dig holes, break through glass, or even copulate through the bars of a cage in order to impregnate a lady dog in heat. So you will need to be very cautious if you’re trying to find the right man for your dog.

Your female dog will probably not allow them to mate with her in the first few days. But you can certainly help her out by keeping her securely away from male dogs. But these are the things to know about when you’re inviting a female dog into your family.

Breeding your female dog

Your female dog might become pregnant at any point in her estrus cycle. However, she is most likely to be both fertile and ‘up for it’ around eleven days after it begins. That said, it can be different from dog to dog, and even from cycle to cycle.

Males are able to mate from as early as four months old. Those eager pups!

Your dog’s vet can carry out a smear test on your female dog to check when she is most in-season. He will probably do several tests over a period of days to trace changes in her cells.

Or, he might carry out a ‘serum progesterone’ test, which measures the hormones in your dog’s blood. Again, this might need to be done over several days to measure the differences and changes in your dog.

Mating may be more likely to be successful if it’s done at the male’s ‘place’ rather than the female’s. It is normal to have one or two sessions over a period of two-three days.

Avoiding pregnancy in dogs

It is very common to have a female dog spayed. This involves removal of a dog’s ovaries and uterus. It is usually done before a dog reaches six months of age, since that is when a female dog often starts to have her first ‘estrus’ season.

Other advantages of spaying included a reduced chance of certain types of cancer and infection, and also less of the fuss and cleaning up involved in her twice annual heat season.