Dog Breeding - Triggering Heat

Bitch problems are a popular topic among breeders, but the truth is, most females have no problems. Dogs do everything to maintain their body, and if there is excess nutrition or vitamins, they reproduce.

The number one issue that costs us money is females that are not cycling. If we have a number of females not cycling, the first thing to look at is the diet and vitamins. Poor-quality protein and imbalanced vitamins can be the cause; you can correct cycling if they have the right diet, vitamins, and minerals. Inadequate diets often show up on the next litter. Mom gets pregnant, then has a deficiency in gestation and nursing, and eventually skips heats because of it.

In the wild dog pack, one or two alpha bitches will cycle, while the rest do not. There may be 4 or more females, but their ovaries will stay in anestrus (quiet ovary) and out of heat. This is good – the best genetics will breed while the rest contribute to feeding. Skipping heats can send normal adult bitches into anestrus, as well.


It's hard on moms if you rest them and intermittently breed them. Typically, the first litter after the “rest" or "skip” is difficult for the bitch, and there will also be fewer weaned puppies than average. If we do a good job feeding and whelping females, giving them everything to help them do their job, they can cycle again without issue at their normal 6-7 month interval.

We also see this phenomenon in the kennel with the young female. We'll skip heats to get the dog physically and mentally ready to raise a litter, but some will stop cycling. Small breeds, especially poodles, are notorious for doing this. This dog can easily be started again!


If several females are not cycling, make sure everything is normal with their diet. Ask your veterinarian for help if there is any debate.


Put the females on a daily vitamin mineral supplement. More vitamin and mineral issues have been diagnosed in the last few years – there are many reasons, but the important thing is that they are easy to correct. While triggering heat, we want optimum levels in the female. Doc Roy’s® Daily Care is easy to use, made in the USA, and economical.

Most dogs will not cycle when there is less than 12 hours of light. Mother Nature tries to be sure babies are not born in snowstorms. If you don't have lights, wait until spring. A good date for triggering heat cycle in natural light kennels is after Feb 14th.

Lighted kennels: Put them under lights at least 12 hours. Spectrum is not as important as the light intensity. A bulb of at least 100 watts is needed within 15 foot of the female. This is why keeping them in the house does not work. In kennels with good natural light, turning the kennel lights on from 5-9 p.m. usually does it.


In pigs, P.G. 600 is the hormone used to start cycling in gilts. It knocks the scar tissue off the ovary, allowing the ovary to start cycling. Dogs also respond well to this. Most will be in heat by the third week.

Manage the young female who is old enough to breed, but is not cycling. We are successful at triggering these maiden females to cycle again using PG 600 and nutrition. Once triggered to start, healthy females cycle regularly.


Most will trigger to start cycling (70%) if they have the ability. The next step is to ultrasound the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, but most of these issues will prevent the female from ever getting pregnant. Remove the female that is not cycling from the breeding females and replace her with one selected from a “push button female” – one who breeds easily and loves to raise puppies. Moms that are easier to handle and love being moms are much easier to manage effectively.

Managing females is all about getting the sire and dam’s genetics to the next generation. A consistent, predictable, fertile heat cycle is the basis of getting that done.

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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