When Does a Dog Go Into Heat After Having Puppies?
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When we make the decision to live with a dog, we need to be considerate of their reproductive cycle. Whether you intend to breed the dog, knowing what to expect is necessary for their health and well-being. For female dogs, we particularly need to know about their heat cycle, i.e. their different stages of fertility. The heat cycle is the only time during which fertilization and pregnancy can occur. If your dog has already become pregnant, then you may want to ensure it doesn't happen again.
For this reason, AnimalWised asks when does a dog go into heat after having puppies? Here we answer the question by looking at a dog's heat cycle and what we should consider if our dog is or has been pregnant.
The heat cycle in dogs
To answer our question over when does a female dog go into heat after having puppies, we need to look closer at the reproductive cycle of the species. Generally, females will mature sexually by the age of 6 to 8 months. Variations will depend largely on the breed of dog as larger breeds may take more time to develop. The clinical picture of the individual dog will also have a bearing on when a dog's heat cycle will start.
When a dog's period of fertility begins, we can see certain characteristic signs. These signs of a dog's heat cycle include:
- Vaginal bleeding
- inflammation of the vulva
- An increased amount of urination
- General nervousness
- Raises hackles around male dogs
- Become more affectionate
A female in heat will want to mate, her hormones telling her that doing so is a necessity. When such primal urges are not allowed to be carried out, it can lead to frustration in the dog. Something which can be difficult depending on the circumstances.
The heat period will occur approximately every 6 months or twice a year. It occurs mostly at the beginning of spring or the fall. Outside of the heat cycle, a female dog cannot reproduce. Males generally will not be interested in mating with a dog which is not in heat.
The heat cycle is also known as the estrus cycle. However, the estrus cycle only represents one of the four main stages of the heat cycle. All four stages progress like so:
- Proestrus: this can be difficult to detect as some bitches will not have a very inflamed vulva or release much discharge, some of which may be bloody. It will last between 3 to 9 days, but the dog cannot become pregnant during this time.
- Estrus: this is the fertile stage during which the dog is receptive to mating. The dog's estrogen levels are high which leads to ovulation. This period is the most intense and is often specifically what people refer to as the dog being ‘in heat’. This can last up to 21 days after they started proestrus.
- Diestrus: this is the period after mating, but the dog will not necessarily become pregnant. The diestrus period can last almost twice as long for non-pregnant females as it does for pregnant females, but it will depend on the individual.
- Anestrus: the remaining period of sexual inactivity when the dog is neither fertile, nor interested in mating with a male.
In contrast to females, males can be ready to mate whenever they detect a female in heat, year round. This can, of course, only happen once they too reach sexual maturity. On average, males reach sexual maturity after about 9 months. However, this too can depend on breed and individual. Some larger breeds may not reach sexual maturity until the age of 3 years.
Can a dog have puppies after giving birth?
As we have discussed, a dog can become pregnant when they enter their heat cycle. Afer a dog gives birth, this can make us unsure of how long it will take for them to become pregnant. Some people may not even be sure if the dog can become pregnant again at all.
Categorically, as long as the dog remains healthy, the dog can become pregnant again as soon as their next heat cycle begins. Their ability to be fertile can remain with them until the end of their life. As the dog grows into older age, the heat cycle may occur less often and with less intensity, but it will not necessarily go away.
A female dog can become pregnant again after giving birth. When this happens depends on when the previous heat period has passed. This development is not halted by breastfeeding, now when the dog is caring for their new litter.
When does a female dog go into heat after having puppies?
Since a female dog's fertility depend on when their heat cycle returns, this helps us know when they can become pregnant again after giving birth. When two dogs mate, the process involves them locking together. This means, as long as the two dogs are fertile, it is likely the copulation will be successful. The gestation of puppies lasts about 63 days on average. After this time, labor occurs, followed by the rearing of the puppies. This includes feeding the puppies breast milk and then weaning them onto solid food.
Female dogs will go into heat an average of twice a year, i.e. once every six months. It is possible to occur only once or as much as thrice a year, depending on individual circumstance. Taking this into account, since a dog will go into heat every 6 months or so and the gestation period lasts 2 months, a dog will take about another 4 months before they can become pregnant again.
Exactly how long it takes for a female dog to become pregnant after giving birth depends on different factors. This includes how long their estrus stage takes. A dog's ability to become pregnant 4 months after giving birth is an approximation, but it works as a general guide.
How long after puppies can a dog be spayed?
Now that we know when a dog can go into heat after giving birth, many dog guardians will consider spaying or neutering. Doing so will stop the dog having a new litter or going into their heat cycle again. It is a good option for responsible owners and is recommended by veterinarians for various reasons. The process of spaying involves removal of both the uterus and ovaries of the dog, known as an ovariohysterectomy.
The reasons behind spaying a dog after giving birth are both to benefit the individual dog and dogs in general. Dogs which have not been spayed are likely to be fertile once they enter their heat cycle again. If they come in contact with fertile male dogs, they can copulate and birth a litter. This means there are more dogs which need to be given a home, something not all dog guardians will be able to facilitate.
The puppies may be sold or given away, but the need to do so often leads to them eventually ending up in an animal shelter. So many animals enter shelters every year, there are not enough homes to adopt them all. Many are euthanized as a result.
Guardians who do not know what they are doing also contribute problems. If a puppy is removed from their mother too soon and their socialization process is not carried out sufficiently, the adult dog will likely face behavioral problems. Too many people breed their dogs without being considerate of the repercussions. Some unscrupulous breeders are aware of these problems, but create puppy farms regardless as a means to make profit. Certain types of breeding will also lead to physical issues which can harm a dog's quality of life.
While there is some evidence to suggest not every dog should be spayed and/or neutered immediately, there are also specific benefits which spaying provides to a dog's health. These include the elimination of the risk of certain diseases such as pyometra and uterine cancer (as long as the procedure is thorough). Breast tumors and other conditions, particularly those related to hormone imbalance are also reduced. Neutered dogs will also be less likely to develop behavioral problems.
Other methods of neutering dogs can include drugs. But these only provide temporary infertility, are often ineffective and can cause serious side effects. Spaying is recommended. For female dogs which have given birth, it is recommended they are sterilized once the puppies have reached 8 weeks and have been sufficiently weaned. Ideally this will be after the puppies have moved on to new homes.
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1. American Veterinary Medical Association. (n.d.). Elective Spaying and Neutering Pets. Retrieved on November 12, 2019, from
- Carlson, D. G., et al. (2007). Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook. London: Howell Book House.