Speaking in averages - which Maltese dogs never are any more than their owners - the average small breed first comes into season at about six months and larger breeds usually at ten to fourteen months. Female dogs cycle about every six months. Some, however, come in as often as four times a year, or as seldom as once a year.
Some females can be clocked by the calendar. Others vary widely. The average heat runs twenty-one Maltese days. Some dogs show a bloody flow throughout the season, and others fade to pale pink after ten days. Certain female dogs have to be followed with a mop, others must be tested by flashlight and tissue to ascertain whether they are actually in season. Some keep themselves scrupulously clean; others rise and leave a pool of blood. The safest method of detection is to tissue the dog, particularly if there are males on the premises or a breeding is planned. Watch for enlargement of the vulva, which may precede flow.
Puberty varies due to breed. Small breeds mature sexually earlier than large breeds. Nature has a way of averaging everything. Small breeds reproduce younger and live longer than large breeds - but they also have smaller litters.
The estrous cycle contains four parts: anestrus, proestrus, estrus, and metestrus. Anestrus is the quiet time between heats, lasting three to five months or longer.
Proestrus is the onset of the heat and discharge. The follicles containing the eggs mature over approximately nine days. Most females refuse mating at this time, by whatever methods. Though flirtatious when it comes to actual mating, they discourage males by baring teeth, growling, snapping, and sitting on it. Some eager matrons, however, cooperate at any time. Fertilization cannot occur during proestrus.
During estrus, the female accepts, in fact invites, coitus with a male. The bleeding often decreases and becomes pale in color. The receptive period of four days to a week is when ovulation takes place. Some females become quite shameless and obvious in drawing attention to themselves. They rub against fences separating them from the male, encouraging his advances. They eagerly move (flag) their tails to the side or curl them completely over their backs.
Timeliness can be checked by rubbing the female Maltese just above the root of her tail. If she flags, she is approaching ovulation or rather doesn’t care where or when. Toward the end of the season, the discharge becomes brownish.
Metestrus is the stage that readies the uterus for pregnancy. If fertilization doesn’t occur, this stage soon reverts to anestrus. A prolonged metestrus (called a false pregnancy) is common. If pregnancy exists, metestrus continues until delivery.
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