Dog Breeding – Heat Cycle Management

As the day length gets longer, it not only helps our attitude, but it also triggers reproduction in our dogs. Male sperm count goes up, ovaries want to get active, and we need to be ready. Evaluate your kennel before spring gets too busy. January is about seeing who is overdue to come into heat and getting them ready to cycle in February. Any females who have not raised babies in the past 8 months should be managed to cycle. The idea is to get them back to normal. Put all the cards in their hand to be successful and get them pregnant.

These females are in anestrus (quiet ovary) for a reason, so what is it? One cause is resting or skipping heats. Our goal is to get the genetics out of them before they are 6-years-old. You can’t do that breeding every other time, and if you manage moms with vitamins and adequate diet, there is no medical reason to rest them. Most breeders' report moms struggle with the resting breeding cycle and do better if reproduction was concentrated on when the moms are young, rather than managing 7 to 8-year-olds to have babies. From a veterinarian standpoint, I struggle with females that have been rested and are now in anestrus, as panicked owners worry about getting the genetics out.

Cats are more forgiving than dogs, but dogs fill all their needs. When there is extra nutrition, they reproduce to use that nutrition. When a queen's diet is not adequate, they often respond with small litters and first-week kitten loss. When the diet is not adequate for reproduction in dogs, it results in unpredictable or non-cycling females. This problem has been more common in the past 10 years, and unpredictable or delayed heats are often tolerated too much. It is also common for females to be halfway in heat or have split heats, where they come in, go out, and come back in. All of these situations are undesirable and correctable with nutrition.


  • In January, evaluate the females in the kennel and see who is overdue for heat cycles. It is common to have 10 to 15% well over 8 months, since they raised babies.
  • If there are more than a few females with this issue, evaluate the diet to see if that has changed. Often we have not changed brand, but the diet was reformulated. If you are cycling normal and predictable every 6-7 months, diet is likely OK.
  • Look at your females – are they in good shape or overweight? Overweight dogs are often short on some nutrient or vitamin and overeat to replace what is needed. If they do not have enough calories or vitamins, the body tells them to take in more food.
  • Females that are not cycling should always be placed on a daily vitamin. Doc Roy's Daily Care will give them the nutrients they need. Some females stop cycling if anything is deficient. We want to correct that before we try to trigger the ovary to cycle in February. Moms will want to start cycling mid-February as day gets longer so support that effort.
  • Get males ready and adequate to cover the females you have. Pen breeding, just running together and letting something happen, takes twice the male power as putting female in and removing after a tie. Breed every other day while standing.
  • Males over 4 years should be put on Breeders' Edge Oxy Stud to maintain sperm count and fertility. Oxy Stud is also the treatment for sub-fertile males with low sperm counts.

Getting the kennel ready for spring is about effectively managing to support natural cycling. Healthy moms give us healthy puppies and more babies weaned. Raising “America’s Next Best Friend” makes managing moms worth the effort.

If you need help, call us at 1-800-786-4751.

-Dr. B
Don Bramlage, DVM, Director of Veterinary Services at Revival Animal Health

The materials, information and answers provided through this website are not intended to replace the medical advice or services of a qualified veterinarian or other pet health care professional. Consult your own veterinarian for answers to specific medical questions, including diagnosis, treatment, therapy or medical attention.

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