FAQ – Female Dog in Heat

Is your dog in heat or is about to go in heat? Here is a list of questions people ask the most about female dogs in heat.

What is the heat?

Female Dog in HeatDogs are having heat cycle as a part of their reproductive system. The whole process is coordinated by hormones and consists of several phases, that all have significant part in giving birth to the young. Phases, when dogs are considered being “in heat”, are when the dog is receptive to males and is getting ready being receptive.

How often are dogs coming in heat?

Most dogs come in heat twice a year, since they have reached their sexual maturity. However, every five to nine months is still considered normal, and, while cycling more or less often is stated as an abnormality, in most cases, there should be no worries.

Besides that, there are some dog breeds, who have cycle only once per year by default.

At what age dogs come in heat for the first time?

Dogs start coming in heat as soon as they reach their sexual maturity. For most dogs, it’s between 6 and 12 months, but larger dog breeds may not come in heat up to 14 months, and still be okay. Dog owner should not worry about dog not coming in heat up to two years of age.

At what age dogs stop coming in heat?

For dogs, there is no point when they stop coming in heat. Aging, though, can make each next heat further and further apart from the previous. Normally, this process begins at around age of six years, but it still depends on each individual dog, and from breed to breed.

Can a male dog come in heat?

No, male dogs do not come in heat. If your’s does, have him examined by a vet. Either he has disease with symptoms similar to heat, or he is a she.

Can a dog get pregnant during the first heat cycle?

Yes! It’s a popular misconception that dogs are not able to get pregnant in the first heat cycle. However, the dog has already reached its sexual maturity when coming in the heat for the first time, thus, is able to get pregnant. Though, it’s not recommended to breed a dog on her first heat cycle.

Do dogs come in heat more often is spring?

Unlike cats, whose ability to come in heat is dependent on daylight hours, dogs rely on their inner clock; thus, their heat cycle is not affected by seasonal changes and weather. If you are an owner of an intact male, you should understand, receptive females may be around the whole year.

Should I worry if my dog did not come in heat, yet?

Delay of the first heat cycle is not a rarity in dogs. It’s especially true (but not limited to) large dog breeds. Most vets would suggest not fleeing in panic if your dog has not come in heat up to age of two years. After that, you may start panicking, that is – consulting your vet about possible causes.

How long are dogs in heat?

On average, dogs are in heat for 21 days. It can be longer in younger bitches, or the ones having health issues. Having shorter heat period is also unlikely to be considered normal. Sometimes hat cycle may start and end abruptly after few days. In most cases it then starts again after one to two weeks and lasts for full 21 days.

How long do dogs bleed in heat?

Dogs usually “bleed” during the first phase of the heat. On average it is 7 days, but may be even as long as 17. After this phase has ended, bleeding ceases, and the color of the discharge turns lighter in color.

How to tell if the dog is in heat? What are signs of the dog being in heat?

The easiest way to tell, is observing symptoms. In most cases, it’s enough to determine whether your dog is in heat, however, in case higher accuracy is necessary, veterinary tests may be necessary. You can read more about ways to tell if your dog is in heat, here.  The first sign is a bloody discharge from the vulva and swelling of it. It’s easy to miss if your dog is cleaning herself carefully and she has long hair. Other signs include restlessness or tiredness, increase or decrease in appetite, increased urination and interest in male dogs. Longer list of heat symptoms in dogs may be found here. Please note, 100% heat confirmation may be done by vet analysis only.

Is it possible to confuse symptoms for dog in heat to something else?

Quite often people are turning to a vet for advice when their dog is bleeding or crying all the time. In most cases, those are owners with their first female dog coming in heat for the first time, because, owner who has observed heat symptoms at least once, next time, most likely, will be able to to identify them undoubtedly.

How to tell when the heat is over?

Telling the ending of the heat in dogs is not easy, and, it’s always good to add few more days of precautions, when you think it’s over.

The only sure thing is vaginal cytology done at a vet’s office. However, it’s rarely done, as most owners are relying on the absence of symptoms. If a dog is no more restless and is nor responding to male dogs appearing of touches at her hips, most likely the heat is over. Adding some days of safety is always wise, to avoid unwanted pregnancy.

Fact that dogs are on average in heat for 21 days my be helpful, however, might not be considered a safe procedure to tell when the heat has ended.

Is my dog able to get pregnant during the whole heat?

In the beginning of the heat, there is a period when the dog is not able to become pregnant. However, in some cases this period may be as short as three days. Assuming, it’s easy to miss symptoms during the first days, and the sperm is able to survive inside the body of female up to five days after mating, precautions should be applied starting from the first day of the heat.

How to stop dog from going in heat ever again?

By spaying her. Besides that, if you do not plan to use your dog for breeding purposes, it’s highly recommended spaying her.

Is it necessary to spay my dog?

Nothing is compulsory. However, talk to any vet, dog trainer, behavior consultant, breeder or any other dog professional, most will recommend spaying your dog, if you are not planning to use her for breeding.

What are benefits of spaying my dog?

The first and obvious, dog will not come in heat anymore – no more protecting your dog, no more unwanted pregnancy, no more male visitors coming to your yard. Her behavior will become calmer (not only during the time when she was supposed to come in heat), and the risk of several diseases, like urinal infection or mammary cancer, will be reduced significantly. Besides that, you may be adding to a greater cause fighting pet overpopulation.

What are drawbacks of spaying my dog?

Spaying is irreversible, so, if it happens so you decide to breed your dog, it won’t be possible. As for any surgery, there is a possibility of complications during it and postoperative period. Besides that, in some rare cases, urine incontinence is observed in female dogs after the surgery, though the risk is small, it still exists.

Is spaying unnatural?

Some people refer that spaying is not natural. Yes, but it’s also not natural taming a dog, even if it happened tens of thousands of years ago. If we’d want to keep it natural, we would allow our dogs wander wherever they like, let them mate whom ever they want and give birth to puppies whenever they like. We hope you understand it’s not a smart decision.

Why my spayed female dog is in heat?

If a spayed dog is coming in heat, it’s due to reproductive organs not being removed entirely. That is, a spaying surgery was done in low quality. While the dog will not be able to conceive, heat signs (including restlessness) may still appear.

Possibility you have mistranslated other symptoms as the dog being in heat, should not be ignored, as well.

Are there any medications to stop the heat?

Ovaban (megestrol acetate) is the most common used medication in controlling the heat cycle of dogs. It’s a synthetic derivative of progesterone, a hormone responsible for the receptive part of the heat. Injecting it in the early phase of the heat, makes other hormones active at the moment backing down, thus interrupting the heat. This method, however, should not be used as an alternative to spaying dog, and if you are about using them, consult your veterinarian.

Are there any medications to start the heat?

There are several methods that help to induce heat in female dogs; however, it’s not a DIY stuff and should not be used for “fun”. In most cases, they are used as a cure for infertility, and if your dog is healthy, you should not fast forward things. Consult a vet if your dog has infertility problems.

Can I walk my dog in heat?

Yes, sure, it’s actually recommended. There are several precautions to make though. Always walk your dog on leash, choose as remote area for your walks as possible and know what to do when you encounter a male dog on your way. Read more about walking female dogs in heat here.

Will my dog be tired because of the heat?

Most dogs are restless during the heat. However, there are still high numbers of dogs who appear to be tired. They have decreased activity, appetite and interest in other thing that would normally amuse her.

How can I calm my dog when she’s in heat?

Most effective method is by spending quality time with your dog. Depending on her restlessness level you may walk her, run with her, play, pet or just be near her. Remember, the attention and patience is the best tool here. Read more about calming a dog in heat here.

How long do dogs have to mate to become pregnant?

How long do people have to have sex to get pregnant? Well, it can happen in just a minute, or it can not happen even after mating for hours. It’s similar for dogs. There’s a period of “getting to know each other” and the tie itself may take up time. Usually the whole process goes for around 30 minutes, but dogs may also fast forward this to few minutes.

What are the options to avoid unwanted pregnancy?

Best way to avoid unwanted pregnancy is by spaying her. However, if your dog is intended for breeding, it’s not possible, so you must confine her for the whole heat cycle, and let her outside on leash only. If you have a yard, check how safe it is against your dog escaping and you may consider letting her off leash in your yard, however, constant supervision is still a must.

I have male and female from same litter. Do I have to separate them during heat?

Yes, you have. Just because they are a brother and a sister, doesn’t mean they are not gonna mate and get offspring.

Can i go swimming with my dog when she is in heat?

It is not recommended. During the heat the uterus is more exposed to outer world and there’s a higher risk of getting an infection from the water.

This is the concluding article in our series about female dogs in heat.

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