The Short Answer is:
Even after the age of 12, female dogs will remain fertile throughout their lives and still be able to get pregnant. It is common for female dogs at this age to have labor complications and have difficulties giving birth.
In this article you will know the answer to the query “Can a 12-year-old dog get pregnant?“.
It would surprise you to know just how many people ask this question not to mention those who wish they had asked before it was too late. Many dog owners assume that once their faithful dog reaches a certain age they would not have to worry about surprise pregnancies. However they are surprised when their old dog begins to lay eggs. How is that possible? There is no age limit for female dogs to become pregnant and here are a few facts about canine fertility.
Does a dog go through menopause?
Many pet owners believe that all mammals are the same which is the cause of the problem. The reason is that if women can no longer conceive naturally after a certain age then dogs too must have the same problem. The infrequent pregnancy of older dogs only confirms this belief.
In dogs there is no such thing as menopause. It is possible for an older dog to get pregnant if the circumstances are right.
What is the heat cycle in a dog?
It is a common misconception that dogs have a monthly cycle. A surprising number of people do not even know the fundamental difference between a womans period and a dogs heat period. There will always be some bleeding right? It turns out that when a woman is on her period she is not fertile. However the dogs bleeding indicates she is ready to conceive and the pheromones released by her are an invitation to all the males in town.
A woman bleeds every month but a buck goes into heat twice a year. During the estrus stage of the heat cycle the dog bleeds and is ready to mate. The entire heat cycle generally lasts about 21 days. This is what is meant by the phrase ‘like a dog in heat’ as the dog actively seeks male attention during the estrus stage which lasts approximately nine days. It is the law of nature and she is doing her part to ensure the survival of her species.
A bitch in heat may urinate more frequently than usual in order to advertise her willingness to mate. Male dogs can smell the urine of a female dog from miles away due to the hormones and pheromones in it.
Now lets talk about the main signs your dog is in the heat:
- Inflammation of the vulva
- causes a bloody discharge that can be very light or quite heavy
- When confronted with a male dog she raises her leg in a different way
- The tendency to become lazier or on the contrary more aroused and anxious
- Leaving home hiding from males
Generally female dogs reach sexual maturity at six months of age although this can differ by breed. Smaller dogs develop more rapidly and go into heat more frequently in some cases even three or four times a year. While large breeds such as Great Danes and St. Bernards may not go into heat until once a year they take a longer time to reach sexual maturity.
Is pregnancy dangerous for an old dog?
Doctors say that after a dog reaches the age of seven or even earlier for certain larger breeds the frequency of the heat periods will diminish and so will the chances of the dog becoming pregnant. Even so she will continue to have heat periods for the rest of her life and she will be sending signals to all the dogs in her neighborhood who are able-bodied. Additionally some mares go through silent heat where no bleeding occurs or the discharge is so light that the owner does not notice it. All the intact males in town will hear about this and descend upon your backyard.
You may be surprised to discover certain pregnancy signs in your dog if you are blissfully unaware of all the drama in your backyard including:
- Weight gain
- Discoloration or enlargement of the nipples
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Decreased activity
- Changes in appetite
- Nesting behaviors
You should take your old dog to the vet as soon as you suspect she might be pregnant. There are risks associated with all pregnancies and you need to determine if your pet is healthy enough to undergo another pregnancy.
It’s possible for an older dog to lose her pups if she’s no longer able to carry the litter to term as a study on laboratory beagles has shown. In older dogs litters tend to be smaller and the puppies aren’t as healthy as those born to a younger dog. Up to 80% of puppies can die before they are weaned in some cases.
A dog that is older may have a more difficult time with whelping (labor).
A dog may stop going into heat. If you notice this you should consult a veterinarian as it usually indicates a problem such as ovarian cysts or ovarian cancer.
What does spaying do?
Spaying your dog at any age is the only solution that is 100% guaranteed to prevent your dog from becoming pregnant.
Most pet owners allow their dogs to go through at least one heat cycle before spaying them but in some cases young hens are sterilized before they reach sexual maturity. A six-month-old dog usually undergoes this procedure.
A spay is a surgical procedure that removes the reproductive organs namely the ovaries and the uterus. Sometimes only the ovary is removed and sometimes only the uterus but the results are basically the same – the dog would not experience vaginal bleeding while in heat.
In a full ovariohysterectomy both ovaries and the uterus are removed so the dog will not have heat cycles she will not bleed vaginally and she is not at risk of becoming pregnant.
Typically the whole procedure takes about 1-2 hours and is performed under general anesthesia. After surgery most dogs are able to recover quickly and the only concern the owner will have is preventing them from licking the scar.
In addition to spaying a pregnant dog it is also possible to perform an abortion on her. The procedure should be performed in the first weeks of the pregnancy before the uterus becomes too enlarged and may cause severe bleeding if it is removed.
Health concerns for unspayed dogs
The uterus of an intact female dog is susceptible to pyometra which can be fatal. This can occur after each heat cycle due to fluctuating hormone levels and as the dog ages the risk increases. Because this infection of the uterus can result in a bloody discharge many pet owners may believe their dog is just going back into heat but thats not true. Pyometra can be life-threatening and should be treated by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Similarly older unspayed dogs are more likely to develop mammary (breast) cancer. According to veterinarians spaying a dog before her first heat cycle completely protects her against mammary cancer for the rest of her life.
Spaying a dog also eliminates the risk of several potentially deadly ovarian and uterine diseases such as benign tumors cancer infections or cysts.
Spaying is not without long-term risks such as the development of incontinence orthopedic problems and even cancer in the dog.
Do dogs go through menopause after spaying?
After spaying their dogs many pet owners fear they might experience menopause-like symptoms. However veterinarians say this is not usually the case. The reason is they say that the surgery is performed before the dogs reach sexual maturity when hormone levels such as progesterone and estrogen are quite low. Having their bodies not produce these hormones after spaying would not make much of a difference so sterilization would not affect them.
Other reasons a dog might bleed
Some pet owners may notice that their female dog is bleeding even if the animal was spayed as a puppy. There may be some blood when the dog urinates or when it lies down. If this happens you should see a vet as soon as possible because it could be a sign of a serious illness. An older female dog may experience bleeding due to a urinary tract infection bladder stones bladder cancer or tumors.
- Dogs do not undergo menopause and can still become pregnant even when they are old.
- They become less likely to become pregnant as their heat cycles decrease but it is still possible.
- Spaying dogs is the only method of preventing unwanted pregnancies in dogs.
- The full ovariohysterectomy is performed before the dog reaches sexual maturity ensuring the dog will not experience heat cycles will not bleed and will never become pregnant.
- As a result of spaying dogs are less likely to develop mammary cancer and other life-threatening diseases.