It’s reasonable to assume that as pups age they will stop coming into heat, or season as it’s also called. Since that isn’t the case, I decided to write this helpful post for senior dog parents.
Yes, a 10 year old dog can be in heat and therefore get pregnant. Actually, she can go into heat throughout her life. Signs aren’t always as obvious by this stage, which is why dog owners may assume their senior pup is past the point where they can get pregnant.
How can you tell if your old dog is in heat?
Heat is the stage during a female dog’s reproductive cycle when she is receptive to mating.
Here are some of the signs your dog is in heat –
- Peeing more often
- Discharge (at first it may be bloody, then become watery and pinkish)
- Swollen vulva
- Excessively licks her genitals
- Raising her rear towards male dogs
- Actively courts males
- Changes in tail position
In old dogs, some of these common signs can indicate a serious health issue. For example, while peeing more often is a sign of a dog in heat, in an older dog it can indicate kidney disease, diabetes or Cushing’s. It also may be possible your dog isn’t peeing more, but rather cannot wait to go outside like she used to. That could be due to dementia where she forgets her housetraining, or a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Signs of anxiety, nervousness or even aggression can also be present when a dog –
- Is dealing with some vision or hearing loss
- Experiencing separation anxiety (common in senior dogs)
- Has developed or in the beginning stages of dementia
- Is in pain
An increase in urination and pus from the vulva may mean your dog has Pyometra, an infected womb. We will talk more about that a bit later on.
That’s why it’s so important to take your senior dog to the vet whenever you notice any physical or behavioural changes.
The four stages of a heat cycle
Proestrus: This is the start of the heat cycle, and the stage when most dog parents notice changes. “This stage lasts for an average of 9 days, but can range anywhere from 0-27 days. This is when males dogs will be attracted to the female, but she will not be receptive. The estrogen levels will peak and the follicles will develop. The vulva will usually be swollen with a blood tinged discharge.”
Estrus: This is the phase when your dog will be receptive and ready to mate. She’ll approach males but will be aggressive to females. “This stage will last an average of 9 days based on behavioral signs, but can range from 4 to 24 days. The fertile period occurs during this time. The vulva is enlarged, but softens a little. There is a decrease in the blood in the vulvar discharge. Estrogen levels are dropping and progesterone levels are starting to increase.”
Diestrus: This phase lasts approximately two months and happens right after estrus. During this time your dog’s body is either getting back to normal or is pregnant. “Estrogen levels are low, while progesterone peaks 3 to 4 weeks after the start of diestrus and then declines to basal levels by the end of diestrus. This increase and then decrease in progesterone will occur regardless of if the dog is pregnant.”
Anestrus: This is the time between diestrus and the next proestrus, and lasts roughly four months. “The vulva is no longer swollen, there is no vaginal discharge. The body uses this time to allow the uterus to prepare for the next possible pregnancy.”
This information is courtesy of East Central Veterinary Hospital
How often will a dog go into heat?
A younger dog will typically go into heat every six months, but can vary depending on size of dog and breed. In an old dog, the length of time between heat cycles will increase.
How long does a heat cycle in a dog last?
Again that varies, but it’s approximately 2-4 weeks. Many dogs are most fertile 9-10 days after it starts and lasts about 5 days.
Are there health risks if an old dog is pregnant?
Many old dogs have health issues, some underlying and may not know about yet, so there is an increased chance of complications should an old dog get pregnant.
Even if she is not pregnant, unfixed female dogs are at great risk of developing some very serious health issues such as pyometra and mammary or breast cancer.
Pyometra is an infection of the uterus and can be deadly if not treated. This article called “Pyometra in Dogs” will give you more information.
Can I stop my 10 year old dog from going into heat?
Yes, by having her spayed.
Is it safe to spay an older dog?
Advances in veterinary medicine mean surgery is safer than ever, but of course it’s not without risk, especially if your senior dog has some health issues.
Have a chat with your vet. He will explain what the procedure entails, extra steps that can be taken to keep your pup safe, and whether or not it is even the right decision to go ahead.