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Five Ways to Know Your Dog is in Heat

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If you are the loving parent of a female dog who has not yet been spayed , pay close attention because what I’m about to say should be very important to you. At some point, depending on your dog’s breed, size, and age, she will go into heat. You need to be ready when that happens.

First off, what does it mean when your dog is in heat and when will it happen? 

This is the period when your dog will be ready and willing to mate. Hormonal changes in your dog’s body will cause changes in her behavior. Physical changes will also be noted.

Small breeds can go into heat as early as 4 months old while large breeds can go into heat as late as 18 months old. However, the average time for most dogs is 6 months old.

It’s strongly advised not to breed your dog during her first or second heat cycle. This is because she is still a puppy, her eggs and body are not yet fully developed to go through a successful pregnancy. So, how do you know when your dog is in heat?

Swollen Vulva

Don’t get worried. This is the first pregnancy sign that your dog will experience. It is not painful. You will probably not notice it unless you do an inspection. This swelling takes place a few days before any bleeding or discharge occurs.

Bleeding From The Vulva

The first sign that you will probably notice is the bloody discharge from your dog’s vulva. This is also known as spotting. Different dogs will have different amounts of discharge. The color of the discharge will also vary from bloody to brown or clear.

Discharge from the vulva could also be a sign of a medical issue such as inflammation, cysts, or tumors. If this is the only sign that you see, kindly visit your vet to be on the safe side.

Behavioral Changes

From the beginning of the heat cycle, your dog’s behavior might start to change. She will become more active and may be aggressive to other dogs before she is ready to mate. When she is ready to mate you will notice a mounting behavior. She may try to mount other dogs or people. She will now tolerate mounting from other dogs, which might be a change from her usual behavior. This will take place about 7-10 days into the heat period.

Excessive Licking of The Genital Area

This will be your dog’s attempt to clean the discharge from her genitals. You might not notice any spots on the floor but if you pay attention to your dog, you will notice her licking her genitals too often. If you notice spots on the floor, you could use “doggy diapers”, this will help prevent your dog from soiling the floor or your furniture.

Frequent Urination 

If your dog urinates in small amounts on various items or locations either in the house or while out on walks, she might be in heat. She will do this to attract other dogs and let them know that she is ready to mate.

Frequent urination and licking of the genital area could also be a sign of urinary problems. So, if your dog’s heat cycle is not close, make a point of visiting your vet as soon as possible. 

The above signs cannot be taken individually as a sure sign that your dog is in heat. You can only be sure that your dog is in heat when it’s a collection of the above signs.

The above signs will take place in different stages and they may not all show up at the same time. There are four stages of a heat cycle which last for different amounts of time. Knowing the stages will help you keep track of your dog’s heat cycle. The four stages are:

  1. Proestrus: In this stage, signs such as swelling of the vulva and bloody discharge may be noticed. At this stage, male dogs will be attracted to your female dog but she will not be receptive. This phase may last for about 7 to 10 days.
  2. Estrus: This is the stage where mating occurs. At this stage, your dog will have a swollen vulva and the discharge may change color from red to yellowish, brown, or clear. The estrus phase may also last for about 7 to 10 days.
  3. Diestrus: At this stage, your female dog will no longer be receptive to male dogs. This signals an end to the mating period. The discharge may change to bright red or pink before disappearing, the vulva will then return to normal, these changes will occur whether the dog is pregnant or not. This period will last for about 2 months. 
  4. Anestrus: This is the point between the end of her cycle to the start of her next cycle. There are no hormonal changes in this stage. Anestrus may last anywhere between 90 to 150 days.

You might feel like all of this is a lot of work just to avoid accidental pregnancies. You can however, prevent your dog from going into heat by getting your dog spayed. Spaying is a minor surgery where your vet will remove your dog’s ovaries and sometimes the uterus. Spaying not only prevents accidental pregnancies but also reduces the chances of developing mammary cancer.

Breed Golden Retriever River filed out of the car window.

You can talk to your vet about getting your dog spayed and what time will be the right time to get her spayed.

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