What should I do if my dog is in heat?

First of all, DO NOT WORRY! Being in heat isn't a canine disease but a natural sign that tells your dog is ready to mate.

There comes a time in the life of an intact female dog when they’re ready to breed. This period is called being in the heat or 'Estrus.' You can avoid this by spaying your dog, but we’ll come to that later.

Do you want to help your dog through its heat cycle? Let's learn more about Estrus before we jump into tips for helping your furry friend.

What is Estrus or Being in Heat?

Female dogs come into the heat twice per year. Although the interval can vary between breeds and dog to dog, small breed dogs may cycle three times per year, and large dogs may only cycle once every 12 months.

Like in human, heat in dogs signify 'menstruation.' That means, frequent blood discharge and urge to urinate with behavioral changes.

Her estrogen levels will dramatically increase and then decrease. At this time, the eggs are released from her ovaries.

The dogs first go into heat between the ages of 6 - 24 months. Each estrus period lasts about 18 days.

This is also the time when male dogs will be attracted to female dogs for mating. Keep a lookout for dogs around your house, and try keeping your female dogs indoor to prevent pregnancy.

Did you know male dogs are attracted towards a female dog for the full 18 days, but the female dog will only be receptive to males for about half that time?

How do you know if your dog is in heat?

Toy breeds or small dogs first come into heat for the first time as young as four months, while large dogs come into heat when they're as old as two years. On average, each dog first comes into heat between the age of 6 to 15 months.

There are telltale signs of estrus that you can identify without much difficulty.

Look out for physical and behavioral changes. The dogs often react differently when they come in heat.

  • Swollen vulva
  • Bloody or straw-colored discharge from the vulva
  • Receptive to male dogs
  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Agitated, nervous, or aggressive behavior
  • Urinating more frequently
  • Change in tail position

Vaginal discharge is the most common sign of estrus.

Keep in mind; there are four stages of the canine heat cycle.


Proestrus marks the start of the heat cycle. The telltale signs include the swollen vulva, blood-tinged discharge, excessive licking of the genitals, and aggression toward male dogs.

It lasts approximately 9-10 days. After that, the bleeding will become more watery or stop.


The estrus phase is also known as the fertile phase. This is when she's ready to mate and is receptive to males. This phase is marked by a frequent urge to urinate and slowed vaginal discharge. Since they're ready to mate, they will approach male dogs with their tail held to the side.


The Diestrus phase occurs directly after the "in-heat" stage. It allows your dog to either return to the normal stage or develops into a pregnancy.

They will no longer be receptive to male dogs, and her vulva will return to standard size.


Anestrus is also called the 'inactive phase' as there are no signs of hormonal or sexual behavior in dogs.

What should you do when your dog is in heat?

If you haven't yet spayed your dog, the chances are that it's a tense situation for both of you.

Caring and cleaning

Dogs will bleed when they're in heat, so be prepared to deal with a lot of blood.

  • Invest in a good doggy diaper, disposable or reusable ones with liners.
  • Designate a special blankie for her use during this time. Dogs love to spend more time sleeping when in the heat, so a comfy blanket will be a great help.
  • Keep disposable wipes on hand so you can rapidly swipe across the floor and furniture.
  • Offer a safe, chew-resistant toy that she can nudge up against. This, too, will provide a sense of security.
  • Ensure to provide enough water and nutritious food.

Don't let your dog out in the yard alone.

Male dogs will find any opportunity to mate with your dog when she's in heat. A dog can easily find a female emitting breeding pheromone, so it's better to keep her inside.

Don't let your dog off-leash

When you're walking your dog outside, such as in a park, don't let it off-leash. The chances are that she'll intend on finding a male dog and wander off.

Consult a Vet

Consult a veterinarian if you notice signs of illness. Dogs can experience health issues immediately after a heat cycle, including bacterial growth in the uterine lining, which can cause a life-threatening pyometra or uterine infection.

Spay your dog

Spaying your dog is a permanent solution to prevent your dog from being in heat. If you have no plans to breed your dog, spaying is the best solution.

Spaying is also a good idea from the dog's point of view because each year, an estimated 8 million animals are euthanized in shelters across the country. Spaying will ensure that lesser animals are landing up in shelter homes.

  • Spay or castration is a sterilization process that female dogs undergo where their uterus and ovaries are removed.
  • Surgical sterilization removes specific reproductive organs. Ovariohysterectomy or typical "spay" removes ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus from a female dog.
  • Hysterectomy is a surgical alternative that removes the uterus and part of the fallopian tube but keeps the ovaries intact to produce hormones.
  • Ovariectomy removes ovaries from the female dogs, but the uterus remains intact.

Early spaying of female dogs and cats can help protect them from serious health problems later in life, such as uterine infections and breast cancer.

What is the right time to spay?

Although veterinarians recommend spaying your dog as young as four months old to ensure she never experiences a heat cycle, much recent research indicates that allowing your dog to grow before spaying ensures that the hormones are kept intact for necessary skeletal development.

Discuss health concerns with your veterinarian in Urbandale before deciding what age is appropriate to spay your furry friend.

All in all, caring for your dog is more than necessary. You need to be attentive to her physical and mental needs, giving her lots of affection, and be aware that she might be irritable.

Check this infographics for more information.


Get in touch with Urban Pet Hospital & Resort, the best pet hospital in Urbandale, to learn more about spaying your dogs.

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