We all love to plan ahead and feel safe that everything is predictable. Mother nature likes that too, however, not always she’s able to deliver. While most dogs go into heat twice a year, and stay in heat for 21 days, different abnormalities do occur.
This article gives a brief summary of abnormalities possible with the heat cycle in dogs. Sometimes a cause can be innocent or nothing to be troubled about. For example, dogs can come in heat irregularly until they reach full maturity.
However, serious health issues, like ovarian failure or tumor can disrupt a normal heat cycle, therefore it is always wiser to contact your veterinarian when something described below occur.
Absent heat is when dog fails to cycle, just as the name implies. It can be that the dog has not yet come into heat, though she must have been sexually mature by now, or when a female dog with a normal cycle suddenly stops coming in heat.
Reproductive system diseases are the most common cause of absent heat. However, it’s not limited to those. For example, if your dog is in bad general shape, her body may skip the heat cycle to conserve energy. In any case, dog with absent heat should be examined by a veterinarian.
Absent heat can also be caused by medicine used for treating other conditions, especially if the medicine involves hormonal therapy. Talk to your veterinarian, but in most cases, heat cycle should eventually come back to normal, if the treatment is applied properly.
Absent heat is often confused with the dog not yet being fully mature, and so-called silent heat, which is described next.
In most cases signs are actually present, but are so weak that dog owners do not detect them. Lucky them, because many people struggle with their dogs’ behavior changes during heat.
It’s not uncommon for smaller dog breeds to have one or two silent heats before clear symptoms appear.
Silent heat should not be confused with owners inexperience in noticing symptoms, as bloody discharge, swelling of vulva may easily go unnoticed or get mistaken for something else.
If a dog is in silent heat, only way to confirm heat cycle is at the vet’s office by taking vaginal secretion and blood tests.
Split heat is when the heat cycle begins, but then stops after few days, before the second phase, the standing heat, begins. It commonly occurs in young dogs during their first heat due to their hormonal system being unable to induce the ovulation.
Usually it happens due to due to hormonal systems disability to induce ovulation, but the normal heat cycle should reoccur within two to ten weeks. If the dog is young, and it happens once, there should be no worries, but for mature dogs it’s better to visit a veterinarian.
Split heat is commonly mistaken for a dog going into heat too often.
Dogs are normally in heat for 21 days. Everything longer is considered to be a prolonged heat.
This happens relatively frequent and is nothing to be concerned about in younger bitches. However, if prolonged heat occurs when dog has reached her maturity (2-3 years) veterinary examination is necessary.
Most often mature dogs stay in heat for too long heat because of ovarian cyst or tumor. While it sounds unfortunate, when diagnosed early the reproductive organs can be surgically removed with no fiurther health hazard.
Too frequent cycling
Most dogs come in heat twice a year, but it is common for dogs to cycle three or four times per year (that is every four to three months).
There should be now worries if this happens in young dogs; their cycling frequency must stabilize as they mature. However, if your dog cycled regularly before, but suddenly started to come in heat more often, she must be seen by a veterinarian.
Note that if you are into breeding, some of those “extra” heats may be infertile, since the body needs proper time to recover from the previous cycle.
Too rare cycling
While normally dogs come in heat twice a year (except some specific breeds who go in heat once a year), it is still normal if a dog does not come in heat up to a year or one and a half. Especially for young or old dogs.
Everything longer that a year requires veterinary attention, especially, if your dog had a regular heat cycle before. Unfortunately, possible causes are too many to make speculations in a website and you must visit a veterinarian.
This article is a part of series about female dogs in heat.