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If your female dog is in heat or about to be, be forewarned that generally most females have their first heat cycle somewhere around 6 to 12 months of age.

Sometimes females of the larger dog breeds may not have their first seasonal estrus cycle until they are 12 months of age or older.

On average, the complete female heat cycle takes around 6 months which results in about 2 heat cycles each year. Time variation and lengths of heat cycles as well as intervals between cycles may occur when the female goes into heat but overall each individual female's pattern tends to be relatively close to the averages.

Remember, overall this information is very general and not all female dogs will follow these patterns. Overall, the average female's dogs heat cycle lasts about 3 weeks. It can be estimated that the average times between heat periods is around six months. Some female dogs can come into estrus as early as every 4 months, while others may do so only once a year.

Just like in human women, some dogs heat cycles may be shorter than average while other dogs may have longer ones (4 weeks or longer). If your female dog is in heat or about to be, there are many things you must know about the entire process.

Keep these important points in mind, concerning your female dog, also called a bitch, and her heat cycle.

First, assume your dog to be "in season" for at least 21 days which may vary due to your individual females heat cycle.

Second, keep in mind that conception is most likely to happen during the middle third of her heat cycle - typically around 7 to 14 days after the heat starts.

Third, you will need to confine your dog for the entire heat cycle - up to 21 days or more depending on your particular bitch, to make sure that accidental mating does not happen.

If you have any questions consult with your veterinarian if your female dog is in heat. Especially if your dogs heat cycles do not seem "normal" as cycling problems can often be an early indicator of other or more serious health problems.

My female dog is in heat. Each canine "heat cycle" 

consists of four major stages: Here are the stages you can easily expect when your female dog is in heat. First Stage - Proestrus: begins with the appearance of vaginal bleeding, swelling of the vulva, possible increase in urination and, most noticeably, male dogs beginning to hang around you home (but the female still rejects the male during this time). Fertilization can not happen at this stage. The length of proestrus on average is about 9 days, and may range of 1 to 17 days depending on the individual dog.

Second Stage - Estrus: if your female dog is in heat, this is the time in which the female dog will allow the male to breed her. This time is also called "standing heat" and can last anywhere from 4 to 21 days depending on the individual dog.

Vaginal discharge will turn to a lighter shade of red. In most dogs, once this vaginal discharge becomes straw colored, the dog can be said to be most ready for breeding. Other behaviors to look for, she may lift her tail and rub her rear end against various objects, such as the wall or fencing. This particular behavior is called "flagging". Ovulation does occur during this flagging stage which may last between 4 to 7 days.

Third Stage - Metestrus: the stage that readies the uterus for pregnancy. If fertilization does occur the fertilized eggs may take up to a week before they attach themselves to the uterine wall. False pregnancies frequently occur during the metestrus stage. Keep in mind that this stage can easily last 4 to 14 days. Overall it averages out as approximately 7 days. Keep in mind that this interval stays the same even if the dog becomes pregnant.

If fertilization does not occur then this stage will revert back to anestrus, which is stage four of this process.

Fourth Stage - Anestrus: the resting time between heats which normally lasts about 5 months.

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