Things to Know : When a Dog is in Heat

Dog owners must be prepared and equipped with the necessary items to ensure the utmost comfort and well-being, especially when their dog enters their first heat cycle.

The heat cycle is a natural reproductive phase during which female dogs are fertile, and this stage brings about physiological and behavioral changes in the dog, along with mood changes.

Remember to limit outdoor activities, provide extra attention and care, distract them, ensure timely veterinary care and good hygiene practices can help manage this period effectively.

Read on to learn about the various things required when a dog is in heat.

What is Dog Heat?

When a female dog enters her reproductive cycle, commonly called heat, her body goes through several distinct stages, describing different phases of the reproductive cycle.

  1. Proestrus: This is the initial stage of the heat cycle and typically lasts around 9-10 days. During this time, the female dog's body prepares for breeding by releasing hormones, resulting in swelling of the vulva and a bloody discharge. However, the female is not yet receptive to mating.
  2. Estrus: The estrus stage follows proestrus and typically lasts 9-10 days, although it can vary. During this period, the female is considered to be in her fertile phase. The bloody discharge may lighten in color, and the female becomes receptive to males, indicating that breeding can occur.
  3. Diestrus: After estrus, the diestrus stage begins. This stage typically lasts around 60-90 days. If the female dog has not mated, she will undergo a period of sexual inactivity. Hormone levels stabilize, and the vulva returns to its normal size.
  4. Anestrus: Anestrus is the final stage of the reproductive cycle. It is a resting phase that lasts approximately 4-5 months or longer, depending on the individual dog. During this time, hormone levels are low, and the female is not receptive to mating.

Every dog is unique, and the duration and characteristics of each stage can vary.

Hence, monitoring the changes in the female's behavior, vulva, and discharge can help identify her specific stage during her heat cycle to ensure ample care.

Things Required When a Dog is in Heat

Did you know female dogs begin their first heat cycle between the ages of 6 to 18 months? But large breed females may start cycling as late as 24 months old.

By being prepared, dog owners can navigate the heat cycle with confidence and ensure the health and happiness of their beloved canine companions.

Here are the things required when a dog is in heat.

1. Give Extra Attention and Care

The changes that happen to your dog when she is in heat are not just physical. There are mental and emotional changes as well. 

Some dogs may become more loving, while others quickly get irritated.

According to canine behaviorist Danielle Mühlenberg, a dog in heat may become extra clingy.

Therefore, giving her extra care and attention may be a good idea to ensure her well-being.

  • Be sure to spend more time petting, cuddling, and playing with her.
  • Keep a close eye on her, especially outside, to prevent unwanted mating or accidents.
  • Consider using protective garments like doggie diapers or specially designed pants for dogs in heat.
  • Provide a comfortable and quiet space for your dog to rest during this time.
  • Create a calm environment with familiar bedding and toys to help her relax.
  • Stick to your dog’s regular feeding, exercise, and daily routines as much as possible. Consistency can help provide a sense of security and stability during this hormonal phase.

By giving your dog extra attention, care, and supervision during this time, you can help ensure her safety, comfort, and well-being.

2. Distract

Female dogs in heat may display changes in behavior, such as increased restlessness, vocalization, or seeking attention.

Do you know about emotional contagion, a theory that suggests humans can transfer their emotional state to their pets?

Your dog will undoubtedly notice your agitation and will be anxious too.


So, it is essential to provide distractions to help keep her calm and prevent her from becoming overly focused on behavior changes. 

Ways to distract your dog during this time. 

  • Be patient and understanding, and provide extra affection and reassurance.
  • Keep her occupied with interactive toys to provide mental stimulation.
  • Hide treats around the house or in puzzle feeders to keep her engaged.
  • Play fetch, go for walks, or engage in other forms of exercise that she enjoys.
  • Massage, aromatherapy with dog-safe essential oils, or gentle music can create a soothing environment and distract her from unwanted behavior.
  • Simply sit together and provide reassurance. Your presence and affection can help alleviate any anxiety or restlessness.

Remember, every dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Pay attention to your dog's needs and preferences, and adapt the distractions accordingly. 

If you have concerns or specific behavioral challenges, consulting with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can provide personalized guidance for managing your dog's behavior during her heat cycle.

3. Good Hygiene

Female dogs in heat may have a bloody discharge, and they should be cleaned to control the smell, reduce stains, and maintain good hygiene. 

You should regularly clean the dog’s genital area to maintain hygiene and prevent discomfort or infections, but be ware of using chemicals or homemade solutions the vet does not prescribe. 

Also watch for any unusual smells, as these could be a sign of an infection called pyometra

Tips to ensure proper hygiene. 

If you have concerns about your dog's hygiene during her heat cycle or if you notice any unusual discharge, odor, or discomfort, consult your veterinarian. 

They can provide appropriate guidance for your dog's needs and ensure her overall health. 

4. Limit Outdoor Activity

When your female dog is in heat, it is essential to limit her outdoor activity to reduce the risk of unwanted mating and ensure her safety.

 According to Hill's, male dogs can smell a female dog in heat's pheromone and become fixated on her.

 Male dogs can detect your female dog being in heat from great distances, and the fragrance is compelling.

 Even males in fenced-in yards will attempt to jump their fence and yours to get to your female. The heat cycle can also be physically and emotionally demanding for female dogs.

 So, keeping your dog indoors or in a secure and fenced area keeps better control over her surroundings and prevents unexpected incidents. 

  • This helps ensure her safety and reduces the likelihood of unwanted breeding.
  • Reduces the risk of your dog escaping or getting into conflicts with other dogs.
  • Reduces stress and provides a more controlled and calming environment for your dog to rest and relax.
  • By limiting outdoor activity, you can more closely observe your dog's behavior and monitor any changes in her heat cycle, allowing you to promptly provide appropriate care and address any concerns.

While limiting outdoor activity during your dog's heat cycle is crucial, it does not mean she should be confined entirely.

 Here are some tips on how to limit outdoor activity. 

  • Ensure your yard or outdoor space is securely fenced to prevent your dog from escaping.
  • Instead of allowing your dog off-leash, take her for leashed walks in quiet areas away from male dogs.
  • Accompany your dog outside for supervised potty breaks on a leash.
  • Since your dog's outdoor activity is limited, provide plenty of mental stimulation indoors.
  • If you have difficulty managing your dog's activity during her heat cycle, consider hiring a professional dog walker or enrolling her in doggy daycare for supervised indoor play and exercise.

 Limiting outdoor activity and providing alternative forms of stimulation can ensure your dog's well-being and prevent unwanted situations during this time.

 Moreover, every dog's heat cycle may vary in duration and intensity, so it is advisable to consult your veterinarian for specific recommendations tailored to your dog's needs.

 They can provide personalized guidance to help you navigate the challenges of managing your dog's activity during this time while prioritizing her health and safety. 

4. Veterinary Care

During the heat cycle, female dogs may experience physical discomfort, behavioral changes, and increased susceptibility to certain health issues.

Therefore, it is vital to consult the veterinarian in Urbandale to discuss her current condition, receive advice on managing her symptoms, and ensure that she gets any necessary treatments or medications.

Reasons veterinary care is essential when your dog is in heat.

  • It allows the veterinarian to monitor her overall health, assess potential issues, and ensure that she is coping well with the physical and emotional changes associated with heat.
  • It provides an opportunity to discuss and implement preventive measures.
  • A veterinarian can guide managing behavior changes, such as suggestions for keeping the dog calm and comfortable and preventing unwanted mating.
  • Veterinary care during the heat cycle allows for properly identifying and documenting the dog's reproductive status.
  • It ensures early detection of potential issues and allows for prompt intervention and treatment, which can be crucial for the dog's well-being and long-term health.

 Prioritizing veterinary care during this time demonstrates responsible pet ownership and ensures your dog's overall well-being. 


Following these guidelines can help ensure that your dog stays healthy and comfortable during this crucial time. 

If you have any concerns or questions about your dog’s heat cycle or how to best care for her, consult your veterinarian. 

They can provide specific guidance tailored to your dog’s individual needs. 

Otherwise, contact the best pet hospital in Urbandale, Urban Pet Hospital & Resort.

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