Owning A Bitch – Contraceptive Measures, Heat, Mating, False Pregnancy


Although owning a bitch can involve some additional problems and responsibilities, many owners consider that these are far outweighed by the benefits.

In comparison With dogs, bitches are generally:

  • More companionable
  • More biddable
  • Less likely to roam
  • Less aggressive, particularly to other dogs.

Owning a bitch requires attention and bitch owner should have at least a fundamental knowledge of the matters described in this post, so that correct action can be taken should any problems occur, of if any differences from the normal are observed.

The informed owner will know when to seek advice from a veterinary surgeon or breeder, how to describe the problem, and understand the advice given so to implement it effectively.

Heat In bitches

Signs and frequency

Most bitches reach puberty when they are between 6-7 months of age, but possibly as early as 4 months or as late as 2 years.

Owning a bitch
Bitch on heat

At this time the bitch’s vulva will become enlarged and a varying amount of blood-stained fluid 15 passed, the bitch is said to have’ come on heat’ or to ’be in season’.

Some bitches may show signs of abdominal discomfort, increased excitability, and be less inclined to eat for a few days before heat commences.

Bitches become attractive to ‘ dogs, usually from the first day of heat, but mostly they are not interested in their admirers until 7-10 days have passed. At this stage the bitch is equally anxious to escape to meet the male.

Conception is more likely to occur if mating takes place 10-12 days after the first obvious signs of heat are noticed, but can sometimes occur at earlier or later matings.

Most bitches will subsequently come ’on heat’ at intervals of 6-9 months throughout the rest of their lives there is no equivalent to the menopause.

False pregnancy

This term is used to describe the condition in which bitches show the signs of pregnancy, nursing and lactation, and yet have no puppies, either because they have not been mated or have failed to conceive.

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The signs occur late in meta-oestrus, ie 1-2 months after the bitch has been on heat, and vary in type and severity from one bitch to another.

Characteristically, however, most bitches will produce milk and display obvious maternal behaviour. Many of them show nervous signs including panting and breathlessness.

Owning a bitch can be stressful and fun most time, A lot of bitches will carry shoes and other toys around the house and collect them in their bed In severe cases, some bitches will actually strain as if they are producing a litter.

Once a bitch has had false pregnancy she will probably have it again after each heat with the signs becoming progressively more severe on each occasion.

With regard to treatment, it is worth noting that the condition is really a normal occurrence in that something like 60 per cent of bitches have false pregnancy to a degree. Indeed, in the wild state or in a breeding kennel false pregnant bitches will be capable of nursing a litter from a bitch that has died, so the condition serves a useful purpose.

Thus if the signs are mild it is probably better not to give treatment. The nervous signs will disappear more quickly if the bitch is denied sympathy and if toys and brooding objects are removed.

Less milk will be produced if the carbohydrate content of the diet is reduced, if the bitch’s water intake is reduced somewhat (she must not of course be denied access to water entirely for long periods) and if the amount of exercise is increased.

If the signs are severe and the above action does not lead to an improvement, veterinary assistance should be sought.

A course of hormone tablets or a hormone injection may help and in some cases it may be considered necessary to bathe the mammary gland to help the milk to be reabsorbed.

Sedatives may be required to control the nervous signs, especially if the bitch is disturbed and cannot rest.

Veterinary surgeons o advise that bitches that have a severe false pregnancy or that suffer regularly in this way after each heat be spayed, since bitches that do not come on heat do not have false pregnancy.

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The chemical control of heat by giving regular hormone injections can help to reduce the incidence of false pregnancy and may be advocated in some cases.



Accumulation of large amounts of fluid in the uterus usually occurring 1 -2 months after a bitch has been on heat.


Not entirely clear, but probably brought about by hormone imbalance.


Drinking excessively, frequent urination, depression often with a raised temperature, Abdominal distension.

In ’open’ cases there is a thick red -brown evil smelling discharge from the vulva.

The condition is usually seen in older bitches that have not had puppies, but exceptions do occur.


Being devoted in owning a bitch whenever the owner suspects that his pet is suffering from the condition, it is most important to seek veterinary advice without delay, since an emergency operation involving surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries may be needed to save the animal.

Some open cases, that is those with vaginal discharge, can respond to medical treatment.

Owning A Bitch – Mating

Readers are strongly advised to seek advice from their veterinary surgeon and / or an experienced dog breeder and to read specialist books that are available on this subject before they have their bitch mated.

Owning a bitch
Dog Mating

It is important that the bitch is mated at the right time, if she is to conceive.

A recently developed test, Premate, is available which allows veterinary surgeons to determine from a blood sample the optimum time to mate bitches.

This test is particularly useful in bitches which have failed to conceive previously or where it is necessary to travel a long distance to the stud dog. In maiden bitches an experienced dog should be used.

Mating with a suitably selected and screened sire is necessary if congenital abnormalities, such as umbilical hernias, poorly formed joints, etc are to be avoided.

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In your process of owning a bitch always know that It is also important to establish wherever possible that there is every chance that homes will be able to be found for the puppies.

Where this is not the case it is very often kinder to reduce the size of the litter by putting down some of the puppies at birth.

Owners wishing to breed from their bitch should also be fully prepared to look after her throughout pregnancy, which lasts for about 9 weeks (57-69 days) and to cope with the whelping, and be prepared to help the bitch nurse her puppies and to feed, clean and handle them at least four times a day after weaning until they are ready for permanent homes.

Owning a bitch

In the process of owning a bitch, you must know that Puppy rearing is a full time job that carries a great number responsibilities, thus in general it is better left to experts.

There is no truth in the old wives’ tale that having a litter of puppies is good for a bitch.

The muscles in the vagina contract at the end of coitus preventing the dog’s penis from being withdrawn. This constitutes the ’tie’ that is a desirable feature of mating that mostly, but not always, occurs.

The dog will step over the bitch, or be turned by handlers into this position so that the animals are tied back to back. There is no point in trying to separate the animals that are locked in this way, since the dog will be released in good time.

Buckets of cold water thrown over the animals simply wet them and do little to speed up the process of separation.

After reading this post, You believe you understand why owning a bitch requires more attention, care and support.

In our upcoming posts we’ll be sharing the important events after mating your bitch and what you are expected to do, Kindly subscribe for more updates on vet care.


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