Last Updated on May 18, 2023 by The Puppy Mag
If you own a female German Shepherd, you’re certainly curious about her heat cycle, when it comes, and what happens.
Understanding her heat cycle can help you better understand her maturation, along with answering one of the most common questions I receive about pregnancy timing.
What Age Can German Shepherds Get Pregnant?
German Shepherds can get pregnant as early as 6 months of age. GSDs reach sexual maturity within 6-12 months of age, meaning they can become pregnant if they are around intact males. However, this is not the recommended age for breeding.
While a German Shepherd can get pregnant at 6 months old, it’s not ideal to breed her until she’s at least 18 months old. Young dogs can have complications if they become pregnant during their first heat cycle, causing many breeders to follow the 18-month rule.
By waiting until she is at least 18 months of age or has gone through 2-3 heat cycles, she’ll be better ready physically and mentally to breed.
Not only that but by this age, any underlying health issues would likely be detectable. And to do our part of responsible breeding we should only ever breed healthy dogs.
When Do German Shepherds Go Into Heat?
German shepherds can go into their first heat anywhere between 6-12 months. In rare cases, some GSDs may go into heat later at around 14 months. It will vary with each German Shepherd.
It’s important to know that if your GSD is sooner or later, that this is completely normal. Of course, if it’s getting to around 14 months and your GSD still hasn’t entered heat, you can visit your veterinarian to be safe.
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How Often Does A German Shepherd Go Into Heat?
So once your German Shepherd has their first heat cycle, how often should you expect them to go into heat?
While this can vary from breed to breed, most German Shepherds will go into heat twice a year (every 6 months).
Heat cycles can be irregular in young dogs, and may take a couple of years for their cycles to regulate. Additionally, German Shepherds like all canines do not have a strict time of the year in which they must breed, so this only adds to the irregularity in the beginning stages.
As long as you are prepared for at least 2 heat cycles a year, you are well-equipped!
German Shepherd Heat cycles
To fully understand pregnancy in your German Shepherd, you should first know the details of the canine heat cycle in general. The official name of the canine heat cycle is the estrous cycle, and it involves 4 different stages.
Proestrus is often the stage when an owner starts noticing visible signs of heat. The vulva will begin to swell and have blood-tinged discharge, and male dogs will be extremely interested in pursuing her. Though the female shows signs of heat, they will not be receptive to the males at this point. This stage often lasts about 9 days, but can last longer.
Estrus is the stage when the female is receptive to the male. Owners may assume that their heat cycle is ending due to a decline in discharge, but this is actually when a dog is most fertile. This stage often lasts about 9-10 days but can be longer.
Diestrus is the stage directly after estrus where the hormonal changes slow down, and the female is no longer receptive to the male. While the female may not be interested in the male, her vulva may still be slightly enlarged. This stage lasts for about 2 months.
Anestrus is the stage in which the body prepares for the next round of estrus. The vulva is no longer swollen, she will not have discharge, and she will not tolerate breeding. This lasts for about 4-5 months.
Signs Of Estrus In German Shepherds
So how do you know if your German Shepherd is in estrus? With this being a dog’s most fertile period, it’s important to be aware of the signs.
Whether you are choosing to breed or avoiding pregnancy in your furry friend, knowing the signs of estrus can help you and your pup in the long run.
⭐ Some of the most common signs of estrus in German Shepherds include:
- Swollen vulva
- Blood-tinged discharge
- Brown discharge
- Changes in behavior or mood
- Licking their vulva
- Holding their tail differently
- More receptive to male dogs
- Increase in urination
Signs Your German Shepherd Is Pregnant
If you have yet to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, you can always observe your German Shepherd for any signs of pregnancy. While this may not offer you an accurate answer, it can certainly help you prepare for the possibility!
Some of the most common signs of a pregnant dog include:
- Changes in appetite. Some dogs will be more hungry than usual, while others will feel nauseous and shy away from their meals.
- Decreased activity. A pregnant pup will often be more tired than usual due to the toll pregnancy takes on their body.
- Changes in behavior. Some owners note that their pregnant dogs were more clingy than usual, seemed less interested in normal activities, or were more irritable than ever before.
- Weight gain. While this will not occur until later in pregnancy, you may eventually begin to notice your dog’s growing abdomen.
- Nesting behavior. In the last couple weeks of your dog’s pregnancy, you may notice odd behavior. Your pup may shred bedding, burrow into blankets, or even hide away on their own in certain spots.
If you notice any of the above signs in your German Shepherd, it’s time to visit your vet for a proper diagnosis.
How Check If Your German Shepherd Is Pregnant (Official)
If you think your German Shepherd may be pregnant, there are a few ways to find out! Our pups can display subtle changes in their behavior when they become pregnant, but there are only a few ways to know for sure.
The first diagnostic tool for potentially pregnant pups is an ultrasound. An ultrasound can detect pregnancy earlier than any other diagnostic option, as it can display images of the puppies once your German Shepherd is at least 3 weeks along.
Not only can an ultrasound diagnose pregnancy in your GSD, but it can be used to check the general health of the puppies. An ultrasound can measure fetal sacks, check for heartbeats, as well as offer an estimated puppy count.
If you are dying to know your dog’s pregnancy status, an ultrasound will offer the earliest answer!
2. Physical Exam
A physical exam from a veterinarian is another way to determine if your German Shepherd is pregnant. Once your dog is 5 weeks along, your vet will be able to palpate the puppies in your dog’s uterus.
This can only determine the presence of puppies in the uterus, and cannot determine the overall health or life status of the puppies. This is not the most accurate option in terms of puppy counts or other searches, but it can offer a quick answer.
X-rays are another way to determine if your German Shepherd is pregnant or not. This is often the last diagnostic performed during pregnancy, as puppies cannot be seen on film until the dog is about 6-7 weeks along.
X-rays are often used to measure the size of the pelvic canal, as well as obtaining an accurate puppy count. This can be used to determine if a dog will have birthing difficulties, and how many puppies you should expect during the birthing process.
How Long Are German Shepherds Pregnant For?
Pregnancy in our canine friends is much shorter than a human pregnancy. The average pregnancy in dogs ranges from 58-68 days, coming in at just over 2 months.
Due to how short the canine pregnancy is, it’s important to find out if your dog is pregnant as soon as possible. This will help you ensure your German Shepherd’s health throughout their pregnancy, as well as best prepare your home.
Now that you understand each aspect of the heat cycle in German Shepherds, you can be in tune with their needs going forward. Be sure to review the information that we discussed above, and you can be better equipped for handling any pregnancy concerns that come your way.
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