The basics

Being on heat (or being in oestrus) is the stage in a female dog's reproductive cycle during which she becomes receptive to mating with male dogs.  During oestrus, oestrogen levels first increase and then sharply decrease, and mature eggs are released from the ovaries of the dog.

Depending on the size of the breed, a female dog will have their first oestrus sooner or later in their first year, and then if she is not neutered is likely to be on heat twice a year, or every six to eight months, for the rest of her life.  Our Pixel, who we got when she was twelve weeks old, has just had her first oestrus or heat at eight months.  We had been thinking that she was on heat a full month earlier, due to some small bodily changes.  but whatever that was it was not the real thing.  When she was truly on heat it was obvious.

Timing of spaying (neutering) female dogs and the protective effect of oestrus

If you want to breed from your female dachshund, then spaying is not an issue, and you will get used to her being on heat regularly.  Otherwise, you will need to take professional veterinary advice on the best time to have a young dachshund spayed, or neutered if male. There is now some data on the association between age at neutering and the development of IVDD in both female and male dachshunds, which may inform your decision.  Having at least one heat cycle may offer some protection against urinary incontinence and some orthopaedic conditions in later life.  Set against this are other conditions that may develop in the reproductive organs in intact female dachshunds.  

The UK Dachshund Breed Council says “Always consult your vet, but in general, our advice is that you should not have a bitch puppy spayed before its first season; it is far safer to wait until it is fully mature, if you must have her spayed.  Similarly, dog puppies should not be neutered before they are fully mature.”

After talking with our vet, we decided to wait until Pixel has had one heat cycle and is about a year old. 

The practicalities of oestrus

The first physical change we noticed was that Pixel’s vulva had swollen a lot, and at the same moment we noticed that as she moved around the house she was leaving little drops of blood on the floor, the bed, the sofa, and elsewhere, including our clothes if we picked her up.  Yikes!  During this time (about ten days) we did a lot of floor washing, washing of bedding, washing of clothes, and covering sofas and her usual lounging places with dog towels. In our experience, this was probably the most disruptive part of her being on heat (for us, she was unaware obviously).  There was no real damage done, but I wish I had done my homework properly and been ready for this rather messy aspect of her life.  I’m just grateful that we live in an entirely tiled house now, with no carpets.  I admit that I found myself feeling very proud of her when she went on heat, as though she had reached a milestone in adulthood and was no longer a puppy.  

Our other dachshund, an older male standard black and tan called Sunny, who’s been neutered, took a big interest in Pixel during this period.  There’s been a lot of sniffing and mounting.  Luckily whatever he does with her won’t result in a pregnancy, but we’ve kept a careful eye on her out on the street and on the beach, and for safety we picked her up whenever another dog got close, especially off-lead dogs.  As for Pixel’s behaviour while on heat, quite honestly we didn’t notice much change.  She’s still the super-active, frisky puppy that we’ve got used to over these months.

Pixel is now the other side of her first oestrus, and we’re thinking about the next step for her, which is spaying.  Off to see the vet this week.  Now time to give her a big hug.

For more information on neutering, oestrus, and all health-related topics see the UK Dachshund Breed Council’s dedicated Dachshund Health website