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For every female dog, much like for every female human, thee comes a time when they are ready to breed. This period of time is called being ‘in heat’. When a female dog is in heat, there can come a variety of behavioral changes.
Each of which we look to discuss in this short and sweet guide! One thing to remember off the bat is that different breeds may have alternate experiences or symptoms when they are in heat, so don’t expect to see all of the signs, or assume that something is wrong if you don’t see any signs at all.
How to Tell if my dog is In Heat
There are a couple of tell-tale signs that a dog might be in heat regardless of its breed or age. For one, your female dog may have to urinate more often or may have an enlarged vulva area that is red or swollen. You will also be likely to see a little blood too, this is perfectly normal and is not something that should leave you panicking. When your dog is bleeding, he is also unlikely to be in pain, so don’t feel like you have to bring her to a vet or take any intense precautions (unless you notice things getting very bad).
Your dog will only bleed for around half of the total cycle, usually 7 to 10 days. Generally, bigger dogs bleed more than smaller dogs, but it varies between dogs. Some dogs bleed very little. If your dog prides itself on their appearance and grooms itself regularly, you probably won’t find much blood spotting around the house.
There could also be noticeable changes to her behaviour, for example, your dog might look to seek out male dogs when outside, and she may also appear to be over-friendly with other dogs too. She may mount or hump other dogs or allow herself to be mounted more easily. She may move her tail to the side more often, and she may even appear a little fidgety or nervous.
The Heat Cycle
There are four stages to the canine heat cycle, also known as the Estrus Cycle:
The first stage is PROESTRUS, this will last for between 7-11 days, and it is during this time period that the vulva and the vaginal region of your female dog will start to swell, go red, and bleed a little. It is during this early stage that she will begin to attract the attention of male dogs.
The second stage is known as ESTRUS, and it is during this stage that mating is most likely to occur. The phase lasts for usually just over a week, and because bleeding has stopped at this time, your dog is ready to mate.
The third stage is known as DIESTRUS. Now, this period of time is typically a time of rest and can last anywhere up to 5 months. During this time, your dog is either resting or pregnant, depending on how successful the second stage was.
The final stage is known as ANESTRUS and during this period, nothing is happening. It is a cooldown cycle that lasts for around 4-6 months.
Caring for a Dog in Heat
One of the most common questions asked by dog owners is ‘How do I care for my dog if she is in heat?’ ‘What can I do?’ well if you really want to care for her, then we know that you are a good dog owner, because when your dog is in heat, she will certainly require that little bit of extra supervision.
The best thing to do is to keep her distracted, entertained, and looked after because she will be hormonal, her mood will change, and she will be more uneasy!
Not only will she be attracting male dogs, but she’ll be attracted back! To avoid pregnancy, you’ll probably want to keep her away from other non-neutered dogs. This is true even in your own household.
If you’re worried about your dog bleeding around the house, you can create a limited space for her to roam. This usually means restricting her to easy-to-clean areas without carpeted floors or upholstered furniture.
Creating a nest for your dog to nap in with towels to catch the blood will help prevent any accidents from occurring. Doggie diapers can also help control bleeding accidents. Your dog’s needs, while she is in heat, may vary. This can be a challenge and a big responsibility. However, you can get her spayed to ensure that she does not get pregnant. This is surgical sterilization that should be done before she is 6 months because by then, she will likely be about to start her first Estrus cycle!
5 Things to Keep in Mind
- The heat cycle is not as common as you might believe. The cycle only really occurs every six to twelve months. Most dogs will also go into their first heat cycle within 6 months of being born too!
- Just because the bleeding has stopped does not mean that the cycle is over! With dogs in heat, each dog heat cycle lasts 3 to 4 weeks, but you will only see bleeding during the first 2 weeks. “The fertile period is actually when the bloody discharge starts to subside and it becomes pink or clear and there’s much less of it,” Dr Kelso says. “Even the swelling of the vulva goes down substantially so a lot of people think the dog is out of heat, but no, that’s actually the prime fertile time.”
- A dog in heat will not bleed that much.
- Spaying your dog is very important!
- Dogs know when they are in heat. They will often become a little more flirtatious, and maybe even a little grumpier at the start of their cycle.