Q: Is there an age when female dogs no longer go into heat, a sort of doggie menopause? I am asking because I just adopted two dogs who have not been spayed. One is 10, and the other is 5.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
A:There is no menopause in the canine world. First, dogs do bleed a little during certain parts of their heat cycle, but that’s different from women’s bleeding during menstruation. In people, the bleeding is to rid the body of a sloughed off uterine lining because a pregnancy has not occurred. In a dog, the bleeding is a sign that pregnancy can occur.
Estrus tends to occur in female dogs twice a year. After about the age of seven, the regularity of estrus, or heat, will diminish, meaning she will not be able to become pregnant quite as often. But female dogs never lose their ability to bear puppies. Litters will tend to be smaller than when the dog was younger, and there will be more puppy deaths — the health of the newborns will not be as robust as the health of pups born to younger bitches. Whelping (labor) can be more difficult for older dogs, too. But older dogs can definitely bear litters.
The bottom line: if you are not looking to mate your new dogs, have them spayed. Along with insuring that you don’t end up with more mouths to feed, spaying will lessen their chances of developing pyometra — a potentially fatal uterine infection most often occurring in aged female dogs. Yes, the spaying will involve surgery, but older dogs in good health usually recover just fine. You shouldn’t let fear of surgery be a deterrent. Your five-year-old adoptee most certainly shouldn’t have any problems.