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Reproduction in Canines

Females in Season

Female canines come into season about every 6 months. This heat period lasts approximately one month. The initial approximately 9 days is called Proestrus where they can start with vulval swelling, some bleeding and some odors which attract males. This period is not a fertile time, even though males may want to breed with them.

Estrus is another approximately 9 day period when vulval swelling is at its maximum and bleeding is at its maximum. This is a period when ovulation occurs. This is also the period when the female will accept breeding. Since ovulation occurs approximately half way through this period, that is the best time to have her bred if a pregnancy is wanted.

Metestrus also lasts approximately 9 days and is the winding up phase of heat. Anestrus is the period between heats.


If the female is successfully bred, she will have a gestation period of from 62-65 days, during which fetal development will take place. Usually, within 24 hours of giving birth, the female will start what is called nesting behavior, where she looks for the best place to deliver her litter. Also during this time, her temperature usually drops at least a full degree from normal. (Normal body temperature is 100.5 and 101.5 degrees). To establish her normal temperature, you need to take it daily at about the same time each day before the nesting behavior starts.

Puppy Delivery

Once labor begins the puppies are usually delivered pretty quickly; however problems can occur. If the female is in labor and more than two hours of active labor passes without a puppy, she should be seen. If she has had one or more puppies and is in active labor longer than two hours without delivering another puppy, she needs to be seen. Once you are sure she has delivered all her puppies, she should be examined to make sure she has delivered all her puppies and receive a clean out injection to make sure all the placentas are passed. During delivery, try to avoid letting the mother eat all the placentas. While eating one or two can be good for her, eating all of them might cause GI upsets. If the puppies normally would have their tails and/or their dewclaws removed, that is best done around 3-5 days of age.

False Pregnancy

Pseudocyesis or false pregnancy can occur. Since it can take about two months for some females to completely end the hormones involved with the heat period, some nonpregnant females may show signs of being pregnant. I have even seen some go into labor. This can be confusing and may require x-rays to make sure a pregnancy actually exists.

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