What is heat? Will my dog go through it? When does it typically happen? What should I do if my dog is in heat?
These are all questions you might be asking yourself if you’re a new dog owner whose female pup hasn’t been spayed yet. All dogs go through natural maturing processes such as puberty, just like humans. As a responsible dog owner, it is essential to be aware of what your dog will be experiencing at different ages. This information can help you prepare and give them whatever they need as they grow up!
Let’s talk about what “being in heat” is, when it will happen, and how you can make you and your dog comfortable when it starts.
What does it mean if my dog is in heat?
Firstly, it is good to know whether your dog will go into heat. It might not be spayed if you have gotten a young female pup from a breeder, pet store, or rescue organization. If your puppy isn’t fixed, it is crucial to speak with your vet about the best time to spay your dog. When your dog is in heat, it is highly susceptible to getting pregnant, so be aware of other male dogs who are not neutered. If you don’t plan on using your pup for breeding getting them spayed is vital to ensure your dog won’t get pregnant. Dependent on multiple factors, vets will spay your dog before or after their first puberty cycle so ask them what they think is best!
Heat is how many refer to as the “estrous cycle”, which is when your female dog reaches puberty. This cycle is when they are ovulating and can get pregnant. Depending on your pup’s breed, this cycle typically happens around 6 months. A better gauge of when it will start can be gathered from your dog’s size. Smaller breeds usually start around 4 months, while larger breeds might not start until the 18 to 24 month mark.
4 phases of the puberty cycle
Proestrus – This is when your pup might start bleeding, and this cycle typically lasts 7-10 days. Bleeding is caused by their vulva swelling, and even though they have begun puberty, they are not ready to mate yet.
Estrus – This is when your dog is ready to mate for approximately 5-10 days. At this point, they may bleed less or not at all. A sign that they are entering estrus is if their bloody discharge is becoming lighter or watery due to ovulation. During the whole estrus phase, your dog is susceptible to pregnancy. It is the most fertile she will be during the process.
Diestrus – This stage is when your dog may be pregnant if they mated during the estrus stage. If they did not mate, they will probably need to rest as their body recovers.
Anestrus – This is the downtime in between diestrus and when they will restart their period and be in proestrus. Anestrus usually lasts around 6 months.
With those stages in mind, it is important to consider that it varies from dog to dog. Many dogs will not have a regularly timed cycle for their first couple of years. It also highly depends on their size as smaller breeds experience heat more often.
How can I tell my dog is in heat?
Now you know when it might happen, but variations of breed and size can make it difficult to predict precisely when it will start. Let’s discuss the signs to look out for to know your pup is entering heat.
Bloody discharge is often the first noticeable sign. This is caused by the vulva swelling, but often it is not easy to immediately spot this swelling. The amount of discharge varies and may not happen until a few days into the cycle. As they go through puberty, this discharge will change in color and get less bloody. As mentioned above, when the discharge starts to become more watery, it is a sign that your dog has begun ovulating.
Increased urinating is another common sign of heat. Your female dog’s urine during this time contains unique pheromones and hormones used to signal to male dogs that she is ready to mate. Your dog might even spot and pee more frequently in smaller amounts as her natural inclination is to spread this scent around.
Aggression or irritability can be noticed at the beginning of your dog’s cycle. If your dog is acting abnormally – don’t worry! Their estrogen levels rise considerably in the first stage and then rapidly decline as the ovaries release eggs; this can change their behavior. Just like humans – hormone changes affect how your pup is feeling! This shift happens in the proestrus phase, which ends around 11 days.
Increased interest or flirtation with male dogs is a natural part of the process as your pup enters heat. Their instincts tell them that their body is ready to reproduce during this time. When they enter estrus they will be looking for any male dogs who can be their mate. So be careful about having your pup around male dogs who aren’t neutered, as her body is signaling that she is ready and able to mate with them!
How can I care for my dog in heat?
If you’ve noticed these signs above and believe your dog is entering heat, there are ways to make them comfortable as their body matures.
Monitor them outside closely – The pheromones and hormones
https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/estrus-cycles-in-dogs released by your dog during this process can be picked up from male dogs several miles away. It is imperative to be extra careful about any outdoor time they have to avoid mating with a male. Always walk them on a leash and avoid dog park time – all time outside should be supervised!
Give your pup extra love – As your dog goes through this time, they feel a wide range of emotions and experience novel physical symptoms. Their shifting hormones can cause changes in behavior and attitude, so giving them extra attention makes them feel more comfortable. Be aware of your dog’s needs. Some may want to sleep the day away, but others might be agitated and need playtime!
Take extra hygiene measures – The bloody discharge from your dog during this time can be a nuisance to you and them! Your dog will likely clean itself up more often during this time, but you should also be there to keep them clean. Monitoring their vaginal area and cleaning it regularly is extra crucial during this time! If you are concerned about your furniture or rugs, there are dog diapers you can buy to mitigate the mess.
Pay attention to their eating – If your dog is eating more or less during this time, that is totally normal! A side effect of their changing body might be an appetite shift. Ensuring they get enough food is crucial to their overall health and well-being.
If your dog is going through heat, don’t worry! It does not last long and will probably be over before you know it. The most important thing is to ensure they are comfortable, away from un-neutered male dogs, and kept clean!