In the doghouse

Features - July 26th, 1974

by Dr. Herb Friedman

I was recently discussing with a friend the problems he was having getting his dogs to breed. It seemed that every time the female went into heat the male dog was slightly less than interested. When the heat had long since ended, the male was fully ready to assume his role but the female of course had spent her passions. What a predicament!!

Many times, a young male never used before for stud purposes is hesitant to mount the female. In the beginning, he wants to play the game but just can’t find his proper position in the ballpark. In this case, he must be helped the first time and usually, he quickly becomes an all-star.

A young unbred female may be nervous and apprehensive, and will turn on the male to try and keep him away. Many times, even an experienced female objects to being mounted and will viciously attack the aggressive male. Particularly in the case of an inexperienced male, this can turn him off for that occasion and furthermore, make him extremely gun shy in the future.

The female therefore, should be held by the owner or an attendant until the act has commenced and in many cases until it is completed. She should be held firmly and talked to soothingly by the owner. This usually calms her down and allows the male to get the job done.

Of course, if the female is not in the right stage of the heat cycle, all efforts to breed will be unacceptable as there are only a relatively few days during the estrous cycle that the female will accept the male and where conception can occur. Depending on the bitch in question and on the particular breed size, the ninth to the thirteenth day after bleeding commences are the days that are most propitious.

Usually, a veterinarian or a good breeder can run an easy microscopic examination using a smear of vaginal fluid to check the type of cells that are present and thereby tell very accurately where the bitch is in the heat cycle. Of course, external signs of heat are used to a great extent by the veterinarian as well as the information provided by the owner as to when bleeding began. Many times, the female may have a quiet heat and not bleed for very long or not at all. When this occurs, even though there are external signs of heat that would not escape veterinary detection, the heat period goes undetected by the owner.

During the favorable time of the heat cycle, the bitch that is allowed to roam because the owner is unaware of her condition will probably be bred by every male dog in the neighborhood and will grow noticeably bigger as the 63 day gestation period advances. This is a subject that all veterinarians are well acquainted with and the subject of some very humorous stories as well.

One woman in Detroit inherited a poodle bitch from friends moving abroad. When she first brought in the animal for examination, I told her that the bitch seemed to be in very good health. She was very worried that the animal was too thin. When I saw the animal a month later, this bitch was very definitely pregnant but before I could tell this kindly owner, she, beaming from ear to ear, proceeded to tell me how she had fed this animal the best of human foods and how happy she was that the bitch had put on weight and was now looking plump and healthy. I hated to deflate her pride and happiness and managed to tell her in a kind way that whereas her feeding program had certainly been beneficial and successful, she had received a great assist from Mother Nature. That is the danger of the silent or the quiet heat.

Owners should keep a careful record of the heat period of female dogs and should be on the lookout for the heat cycle to begin at the next scheduled time. Females are usually very regular and most breeds have two heat periods a year at six month intervals. In some cases, usually with the smaller breeds, heat periods may occur at 4 1/2 or 5 month intervals.

As one can plainly see, we have been and are undergoing a pet boom in most of the wealthy, industrial countries of the world. This is fine as long as there are good homes available for these pets. However, many times unwanted pets are born and these turn out to be the homeless strays that are not only uncared for themselves, but can be a health and safety hazard to the human population.

If petowners have a fe­male pet animal and do not want puppies or kittens, this animal should be spayed right after the first heat (when the animal has at­tained sexual maturity). This service would eliminate many of the pitiful cases of stray animals that we see often roaming the streets in search of food and shelter.