Question from Julie Wilshaw:

At what age do Staffies stop having seasons?

Answer from Shanika Winters:

Hi Julie, you have asked an interesting question for all owners of entire (unspayed) female dogs.  In short entire bitches (female dogs) do not stop having seasons.  I will discuss what seasons are, signs that your bitch is in season, when seasons tend to start and what happens as your bitch gets older.

What exactly is a ‘season’ in dogs?

A season is what we call the time when a bitch is able to get pregnant (reproduce).  An average season lasts approximately three weeks, during this time the vulva (outside part of the bitches vagina) becomes pink and swollen, there is often a bloody discharge for around 9 days, this is followed by ovulation (eggs being released from the ovaries). After this time, things start to settle back to normal.

Bitches usually have one to two seasons a year.  During a season bitches give off pheromones, which attract entire male dogs from a long-distance away. Also at or near the time of ovulation the bitch may stand with her tail held up and to the side to allow herself to be mated.  Some bitches can become aggressive during their season, others more clingy.

Typical stages of a dog’s season

  1. Anoestrous – not in season, around 6-8months
  2. Proestrous – around 9 days, vulva swells, vaginal bleeding
  3. Oestrous – around 9 days, usually stop bleeding allows mating
  4. Dioestrous – around 2-3months, high levels of the hormone progesterone which can sometimes lead to false pregnancies

The above is just a simple example of an average season, there can be lots of variation in how a bitch behaves and shows its season and of the length of the individual parts of the season.

When do seasons start and finish?

Seasons usually start at around six months of age but can be as late as one year to eighteen months.  It is often thought that small bitches usually start their seasons sooner than larger bitches of dog as they take longer to mature.

As your bitch gets older it seems reasonable to assume that they will stop having seasons, in humans what we call the menopause.  However in the case of bitches this does not happen; female dogs continue to have seasons for their entire lives and therefore could potentially get pregnant.

So why do so many dog owners think that their bitches have stopped having seasons? 

This is because as bitches get older they do not always show the external or behavioural signs that they are actually having a season. This can sometimes be referred to as a ‘silent season’.  It is important to remember that even though your bitch may not be showing signs of being in season, she could still get pregnant if mated by an entire male dog.

Why is it worth considering getting your older bitch spayed (neutered)?

The obvious reason would be that you did not intend to breed from your bitch. But it is also worth considering hormone-related disease processes that can happen in older entire bitches; such as pyometra (womb infection), uterine cancer (womb tumours) and mammary tumours(breast cancer).  The diseases mentioned are all influenced by the female sex hormones which will still be produced on a regular basis if your bitch is entire.

A lot of dog owners are worried about having surgery carried out as their dogs become older, this should always be discussed with your vet or veterinary nurse and all the risks weighed up against the potential benefits to your dog.

I hope that my answer has helped to explain why even though it may seem like your bitch has stopped having seasons that she actually is still having them and will continue to do so for the rest of her life.

Shanika Winters MRCVS (online vet)

If you have any worries about your pet, please make an appointment with your vet, or try our Symptom Guide.

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