You might have noticed some physical and behavioural changes in your female German shepherd dog. Some of these changes are often concerning for dog owners, especially for first-time owners, as they are not aware of what the cause might be.
One of the obvious reasons is that your female dog has entered her heat cycle. This period is accompanied by hormonal changes and if it’s her first, it as well indicates that she is now fertile.
How Long Does A German Shepherd Stay In Heat?
German Shepherd females usually have their first heat cycles starting anywhere from 6 months to 12 months of age. The heat cycle will last about 21-28 days and there are roughly two heat cycles per year.
It is expected that your shepherd friend will undergo heat cycles every 6 months for the rest of her life unless spayed.
This period comes with certain physical and behavioural changes in your dog, and this is why your dog is behaving the way she is. Let’s delve in to see what you expect during this period in your dog’s life.
When Will My German Shepherd Enter Its Heat?
You should expect your female shepherd to enter her first heat cycle between age 6 and 12 months old. This should last between 21 and 28 days.
There is the utmost need to ensure the comfort and safety of your dog in this period, as her body will undergo several changes due to the rise of estrogen levels.
How Often Will My German Shepherd Go Into Heat?
There is no definite number to this because the experiences of each dog will be different during this period. This is dependent on several factors, including your dog’s diet and overall health.
Yet, on average, once every 4 or 6 months, your dog should experience her heat cycle. Some dogs experience it once a year, while others go into heat twice a year.
As with humans, every female dog will have her own experience during heat, with some dogs staying in heat for more than 28 days.
Signs That Your German Shepherd Is In Heat
The signs associated with the heat cycle come under 4 stages. At each stage, there are varying signs that will help you know what to do at each point in time. The stages are proestrus stage, estrus stage, diestrus stage and anestrus stage. Let’s look at them in detail.
This is the first stage of your dog’s heat cycle and usually lasts between 4-20 days. This is characterized by frequent urination, swollen vulva and teats and a darkened lower abdomen.
Other signs are that your dog will be attracting male suitors, and this is when unwanted pregnancies can occur if you do not keep your female shepherd from male dogs. Sometimes, though, the female dogs do tuck in their tales to cover the vulva as a way of keeping male dogs away.
Also, your dog is bleeding frequently, although some dogs are said to engage in self-cleaning where they lick off the blood, making it difficult for such owners to notice. This is why it is important to keep an eye on your dog during heat so as not to miss anything.
One last sign is the character change or “mood swing” you may notice in your dog. It either becomes quieter or more anxious.
Once you notice these signs, know that your female has started her heat cycle and so you have to be ready for some further commitments in the days ahead.
This is the second and main stage of your German shepherd’s heat cycle. This is when ovulation occurs and thus is known as the fertile stage of your dog’s life. Your dog is certainly ready to mate at this point, so unless you actually want to breed your female shepherd, you should keep it away from male dogs.
It is important to avoid taking your dog to the park at this stage. This stage lasts between 4 and 15 days. Some signs you should look out for include changes in the colour of your dog’s discharge, from the blood-stained discharge at the first stage to a pinkish/brownish liquid.
Also, your female shepherd will not almost always raise her tail, not covering the vulva any longer, as a sign to male suitors that it is ready to mate.
Your dog may also be actively looking for male suitors, especially in a very aggressive manner. These are signs of the second stage of its heat cycle.
This is the third stage of your German shepherd’s heat cycle and lasts for about 60 days. It is called the resting stage.
This is because if your dog did not get pregnant during the second stage, her body begins to rest and get ready for the next heat cycle.
At this stage, your female friend’s fertility window is closed, even though the scent of the heat period might still be lingering.
This is the final stage, and it is considered the best period to spay or neuter your dog if you’ve always wanted to. It lasts for about 90 days.
You will notice your dog getting back to her normal self once again as her body gets ready for another heat cycle that will begin with another proestrus stage.
My Female Shepherd Cries More In Her Heat. Why?
This is very common in female dogs, especially when they enter the estrus stage when they become fertile. They increase their vocalizing as a way of letting male dogs know they are ready to mate.
Male dogs in the neighbourhood respond to moaning, whining, weeping, and even screams as a sort of call to come and mate.
Know that while it may be painful to watch your female shepherd whine and scream, it is a very normal phenomenon and nothing you should be worried about. Nonetheless, if it makes you uncomfortable, you can find a way to keep your dog active and distracted.
How Do I Care For My German Shepherd When She Is In Heat?
During this period in your dog’s life, you will need to be extra committed to her health and general wellbeing because of the physical and emotional changes your dog will undergo.
Here are some ways you can care for your shepherd friend when she is in the heat:
1. It is important to feed your dog right during this period. Diets must contain all essential ingredients, correctly balanced. If as a result of hormonal changes, your dog refuses to eat, you should try something new. Yet, talk to your vet before doing this, so you do not give it just anything you deem right.
2. You should consider using heating pads for your German shepherd if she shows extreme discomfort with the swollen vulva. This will provide her with some relief. Use pads that are waterproof, machine washable and has an auto power-off function for extra safety. You should always consult your vet if your dog’s pain seems excessive.
3. Keeping your dog distracted from the discomfort of the hormonal changes is a great way to help your dog in this difficult phase of her life. Playing games, offering treat-filled toys, or taking short walks can help keep your dog happy and calm.
4. If you do not intend to breed your female shepherd, you should keep her away from male dogs during the heat cycle. During walks, keep her on the leash and never leave her unchecked in your backyard. If you have a male dog, you should keep your female shepherd in a different room at home.
5. During the first two stages of your dog’s heat cycle, you should reduce the number of minutes you exercise her, as she naturally will feel a bit under the weather and show less interest in exercises.
6. You should also cover all sensitive surfaces in your home during the first two stages of your dog’s heat cycle, as the discharge may soil your couches and carpets and even the bedding of your dog.
You can also consider using dog diapers for your dog to completely prevent the discharge from causing any damage to your property. However, if you notice that your dog is trying to lick her genitals while in diapers, take it off for a while to allow your dog to self-groom.
Your female German shepherd will undergo her first heat between 6-12 months and this can last between 21 and 28 days. There are 4 stages to the cycle namely, proestrus, estrus, diestrus and anestrus with each stage characterized by different signs.
As a dog owner, you should note the dates and timing of your shepherd’s first heat so you can be well-prepared for the subsequent cycles. In this period of your dog’s life, she will require extra care and as such you should be ready for this.
You can always contact your vet if you are unsure about anything. Also, you can consider spaying your dog if you do not wish to breed it or cannot keep up with the tasks of caring for your friend when she is in heat.
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