During the reproductive age of women’s lives, most can have babies. It starts in the adolescent period. Girls start to menstruate once a month (at least for most cases) and this extends up to around middle-age when the menstrual cycle begins to slowly change. As a dog lover, you may be asking – do dogs go through menopause, too just like their human moms?
When does the dogs’ heat cycle starts and stops? In this article, we will be learning more about the issue of menopause in dogs, in case there is and what are the signs to watch out for.
So, Do Dogs Go Through Menopause?
If we talk about the reproductive cycles of dogs and humans, there are some comparable details. Woman and her best friend both have sporadic fluctuations in female hormones. However, the duration, timing, and implications are not the same.
Age too is a huge factor in determining the menstrual cycle for both species.
The older but otherwise healthy dogs who were not spayed do not undergo menopause but their chances of having babies get riskier with age.
So, to answer the question-do dogs go through menopause like humans? The answer is NO.
Your Dog’s Reproductive or Heat Cycle
Another way of referring to your female dog is a bitch. To start, bitches do not have menstruation cycle; what they go through instead is called the estrous cycle or in layman’s term – the heat cycle. Some also call it the heating season.
Although you may still consider her your baby at 6 months of age, do not be surprised if you see her begin to bleed or goes into heat around that time. Some bitches may have their first cycle later which is around 9 months of age.
Once the heat cycle of your pooch begins, you will see her in heat every 6 months or so. Some smaller dog breeds like a Chihuahua can go into heat up to three times a year.
Since dogs begin to heat at an early age, you may be wondering do dogs go through menopause at a young age, too? No, they don’t. Unlike their human moms, dogs will continue to have their heat cycle even in senior years.
Regardless of dog breed, there is no such thing as menopause in dogs.
Here’s How the Heat Cycle of Your Dog Looks Like:
- The first phase is the proestrus stage. This normally lasts for nine days when the uterus is prepping up for possible pregnancy. Do you share your bed with your pooch? If yes, you would notice some bloodstains on the beddings. Male dogs will find your bitch attractive but at this stage, she isn’t interested in a date, well at least, not just yet.
- The estrus phase comes next. If you have no intention of breeding her, you might as well guard her with your life, lest, you would find the surprise of your life if she gives birth in 63 days. She does not bleed anymore but what you will see is frequent urination as a form of marking. At this stage, your pooch is looking for a perfect date. This stage lasts for one week or more.
- Then comes the diestrus phase which lasts for two to three months. Her estrogen level begins to drop while the progesterone fluctuates – it increases and then decreases.
- The last cycle is the anestrus phase. This is the time when her hormone levels are low and her body is preparing for another cycle again.
The heat cycle is different from a menstrual cycle. The four cycles that we have talked about will simply repeat every six months or so for young dogs and longer intervals for old dogs. In short, your canine buddy will continue to go into heat even if she is no longer a spring chicken, so to speak.
At What Age Does a Dog Stop Going Into Heat?
It is clear now that your female dog will not go through menopause, but, it is interesting to know, too what age does a dog begin to have longer heat intervals? Upon reaching the age of 7, the cycle will begin to change slowly.
From the usual two cycles each year, it will go down to just one cycle. As your dog gets older, the interval will stretch even more.
If you have cared for an old dog, it is most likely you have noticed that it did not bleed for a year. But that is not doggie menopause as your dog will have its heat cycle back again. That is how your canine’s reproductive system is designed.
Changes in Heat Cycles and Pregnancies Among Older Dogs
It does not mean though that even if their heat cycle goes on, breeding can be continued. If you continue to do so, you are risking the life of your female dog and her puppies.
By the time your bitch reaches the age of 5, it may start to have some difficulties in maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Around that age, your bitch has a higher chance of delivering puppies that would soon die before weaning.
At 9 years of age, the probability of death before weaning gets higher.
But, allow us to emphasize that even if you see your dog not going in the heat, it does not mean she is not. There is a misconception that older dogs do not signify that they are in heat when actually, they are. People call it silent heat. It is crucial to remember that even if your senior dog does not show signs of being in heat, she can still get pregnant if you fail to guard her during the estrus phase.
But how come my senior dog does not go into heat at all? As we have talked through regarding the subject matter of do dogs go through menopause and you notice that your senior dog truly ceases its heat cycle, we cannot say that it is due to menopause. It is a serious medical condition. It could be cysts in the ovaries or ovarian cancer. These two conditions can disrupt the production of hormones that lead to a total cessation of the heat cycle.
Do You Want Your Dog to Stop From Going Into Heat?
We have talked about the issue of ‘do dogs go through menopause’, you may be asking the question of how you can stop your dog from her heat cycle. The only way you can stop your pooch from the heat cycle is through spaying or surgical menopause.
It is a surgical procedure similar to hysterectomy for humans (removal of the uterus). No worries, since it is a very safe medical process that can be done even if your dog is a senior citizen.
Your dog can benefit a great deal from spaying. Here’s why:
1. To Prevent Mammary Cancer
It is not uncommon to see dogs suffer from this kind of cancer. Cancer cells may form in any of those eight mammary glands or worse, in multiple mammary glands. This condition is commonly seen among older doggies. The best form of protection is spaying.
2. To Protect From Pyometra
This is a disease wherein pus accumulates in the uterine cavity of a dog without spaying. What’s causing it? Elevated hormone progesterone.
Since we are on the topic of ‘do dogs go through menopause’, as part of their estrus cycle, the hormone progesterone gets more active to prepare the womb or the uterus of your dog for pregnancy. But, if your senior dog does not get pregnant, bacteria invade the uterus which then leads to the accumulation of pus.
Good if it is a case of open pyometra wherein the pus are drained from the vulva. But what if the condition is closed pyometra? The pus does not drain, sadly, it can lead to death.
The risk of pyometra is higher for senior dogs.
3. No More Mess
That’s one of the concerns of fur parents-specks of blood around the house. Plus, do you notice your dog pees more often while in the heat? Even if she is potty-trained, accidents happen. But, not if your doggie is spayed.
4. Saves You Money
Yep, we know that spaying can be pretty expensive. But, then, as we have tackled the issue of ‘do dogs go through menopause’, it is not impossible if your dog gets impregnated even at an older age.
The consequence? Added vet expenses, puppies to feed and care for. We understand it could be beyond your budget, but you can check out your community if they offer affordable spaying programs for dogs. Because at the end of the day, more mouth to feed is more costly than paying for a spaying procedure.
5. Sweeter dog
When in heat, there is a tendency for dogs to get aggressive. The estrus cycle can change the disposition of your once sunny to a grumpy dog. Plus, when dogs are in heat, they tend to vie for the attention of a cute dog. As a result, bitches tend to go into a ‘cat-fight’.
Spaying stops that heat cycle-related change in the behavior of your dog.
Does Surgical Menopause or Spaying Have Downsides?
Yes, there are some potential side-effects. Some dogs exhibit incontinence, obesity, and orthopedic issues.
It can be pretty difficult to assess the risks involved with spaying but there is a great chance that spayed dogs will live longer and happier with you.
Do Dogs Go Through Menopause-Like Symptoms After Spaying?
A lot of the symptoms that humans feel at menopause are due to the decline of the two female hormones namely estrogen and progesterone. Now the question is does spaying your dog result in similar menopausal symptoms as humans?
Can your dog go through a series of mood swings? Sweet on some days but aloof on other days. What about weight gain?
It’s hard to answer that question but let’s look at it these way-most dogs undergo spaying operation right before puberty when the hormones are still low. Or, if adults, the procedure is done when they are no longer in heat (anestrus phase).
If that is the case, dogs’ bodies do not produce the reproductive hormone at the time of spaying. It is safe to say, then that spayed dogs do not go through menopausal issues (e.g. irritability, obesity) in the same way as their Mommies.
Your female dog’s heat cycle will go on even at its advanced age. Your dog will only go through a silent heat period where she unlikely to exhibit any signs that she is in heat like bleeding and frequent urination. Still, even while in silent heat, your dog can get impregnated. But, do your best to avoid this from happening due to many age-related risks involved.
You can only stop your old dog from getting pregnant (apart from stalking her) is through spaying. This safe surgical procedure comes with a number of health benefits aside from increasing the lifespan to about five years.
We encourage you to have your senior dog spayed for health reasons and to stop the problem of the increased dog population. This is the best thing animal lovers like you can do to stop pet abandonment and euthanasia.