Breeding, Reproductive Health Advice

Troubleshooting Heat Cycles in Dogs

What issues do dogs have when they are in heat? There are a lot of factors that can influence canine heat cycles. Let’s take a look at some common dog heat cycle problems.

Can a Sick Dog Get Pregnant?

There is always the hypothetical question of do we breed a sick mom? When sick, rarely will a female cycle successfully if at all. Even if they do come in heat, few will get pregnant. If mom is sick, we don’t breed.

What Does a Split Heat Mean in Dogs?

Split heats happen when a female starts her heat, does not ovulate, and then eventually finishes her heat cycle with another set of follicles. Females do interrupt the cycle after standing, do not ovulate, and bring up another set of follicles standing a second round to be bred. When this happens, her second standing heat is fertile. This is the result of a vitamin B deficiency. Using Breeder’s Edge® B Strong will correct this issue for next time.

Why Didn’t My Dog Get Pregnant?

There can be different factors at play when you have a female that cycled, stood to breed but did not take. Assuming you’re Brucellosis negative, there are three main causes:

  1. Inconsistency of breeding and failing to get ovulated eggs fertilized often results in false pregnancies. The female did ovulate and the ovary functions like they are pregnant. These females usually produce milk at 70 days post breeding.
  2. Breeding too early. It’s important to remember females ovulate at the end of heat. If we need to limit our male use for multiple females in heat, we skip the first breeding when they stand not the most important last breeding.
  3. Not ovulating. This usually happens when they are three to four years old. They have come out of resting female or the show ring and it is time to breed but they do not get pregnant. We often pick up with progesterone that does not rise to ovulation levels or ultrasound. The follicles are mature then just regress, never ovulating the eggs. The long-term cure is to get the ovary healthier!

You must determine which issue you are facing before trying to correct it. Measuring progesterone determines if mom is ovulating or if breeding at the wrong time is causing a missed or false pregnancy. If the female is not ovulating or too late ovulating for semen to be viable, the issue is resolved with therapy to trigger ovulation next breeding. Once we get female pregnant, she will reset her system and ovulate fine next cycle. Getting pregnant is the cure.

She Has a Healthy Heat Cycle But is Still Not Getting Pregnant

Why is my female dog not getting pregnant? If you feel your females are coming into heat regularly and standing for the male but not getting pregnant, it might be time to have your male examined. The male’s role is often overlooked until he is infertile and females come up open or with small litters. Males must be in good shape and producing high numbers of sperm for breeding success. For every one million sperm deposited in the female, only 40 make it up the fallopian tube to the egg. Only one sperm cell can make it into the egg for fertilization. There is a lot of attrition along the way so keeping the numbers high is important.

Equally important is keeping males young or some will start producing small litters, even though we have plenty of sperm, as sperm attrition increases in older males. Males reach peak fertility at five years. After five years of age we want to be proactive about managing their fertility with a supplement such as Breeder’s Edge Oxy Stud. After age eight we want to retire males or use them minimally on only our most fertile females if he is an exceptional male.

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If you have any other questions about the canine heat cycle, give our Pet Care Pros a call at 800.786.4751.

Article originally written by Donald Bramlage, DVM, Revival’s Former Director of Veterinary Services. This article has been updated/reviewed by Dr. Greer.

Written by: Marty Greer, DVM

Director of Veterinary Services

Marty Greer, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, has 40+ years’ experience in veterinary medicine, with special interests in canine reproduction and pediatrics. She received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Iowa State University in 1981. She’s served as Revival’s Director of Veterinary Services since 2019. In 2023, Dr. Greer was named the Westminster Kennel Club Veterinarian of the Year.

If you need help, call us at 800.786.4751.