As owners of a female dog, we know how important it is to recognize the symptoms of heat. Our dog is spayed now, but in her youth, she was a Newfie of breeding quality, and spaying her was not an option. We understand how hard it is to care for a dog in heat. Every time we knew the time was near, we alarmingly observed her not to miss the first signs.
Below you will find a list of symptoms of a female dog in heat. Depending on different heat stages, we have divided these into early signs and signs of the second phase of the heat.
Early symptoms of the heat
The first phase of the dog heat cycle is proestrus. Its name suggests that it’s something that happens before the “real” heat. However, it is real. Since the first day of the heat, you have to pay extra attention to your dog. Find 11 tips to handle a female dog in the heat here.
The first symptoms of a female dog in heat are as follows:
- Red discharge from the vulva often called spotting or, incorrectly, bleeding. During the first phase of the heat, the lining of the uterus becomes softer, which creates red discharge. Sometimes it may be apparent, and you will see small spots on the floor. However, if your dog cleans herself properly, you may not notice drops on the floor. If you suspect the heat, wipe your dog’s vulva with a white napkin or toilet paper. Therefore, if it turns red, or pink, or, sometimes yellow, can tell that your dog’s heat cycle has begun. NOTE: Discharge from the vulva can also be a sign of a medical condition. Visit a veterinarian if unsure.
- Behavior changes. Most dogs become restless during the heat; read our article on how to calm a female dog in heat. However, it’s not a rarity when a dog becomes quite the opposite—less active. Many dogs tend to become more aggressive towards other dogs and people. Males may try to mate with her, but, at this stage, she may not be willing to.
- Enlargement of the vulva. Since the early days of the heat cycle, cells of the uterus of your dog will enlarge. However, it is not easy to notice, especially if you do not know how it looked like before. Shorthair dog owners may be more likely to see ti.
- Excessive licking. Your dog will lick her genital area more often than usual to clean all the discharge.
- Appetite changes. Dogs can show both increased or decreased appetite during the heat. On the one hand, the dog needs more energy, but on the other, her mind may be focused on things other than food.
- Temperature increase. You indeed can measure your dog’s temperature at home. Note though, the normal temperature range for dogs is between 101 and 102.5 F and measured differently using these devices.
Symptoms of heat during the second phase
Now it becomes more exciting. Typically, about nine days after the heat begins (read more about the length of each stage of the heat here), your dog will enter the standing heat. This is something that is referred to as the “real heat” when the symptoms of your dog will intensify. However, it is not more real than other parts of the heat, but your dog will be attracted to males now.
Here are symptoms of the standing heat in dogs:
- The dog will become willing to mate. While during the first phase, your dog may be reserved, and even act aggressively towards male dogs, she will now become both more attractive to males and more attracted to male dogs herself.
- Even more behavior changes. Was your dog restless during the first phase of the heat? Now she will go crazy. She will express her willingness to mate it through more activity, higher response to smaller noises, and excessive vocalization, including barking and howling. She may also gas and have troubled sleep. So it’s a great place to remind you about our article: “How to calm a female dog in heat.”
- Tail wagging and changes in gait. Here’s a simple test to tell if your dog is in standing heat already. Scratch your dog’s lower back (just above the base of the tail) with your hand. If she pushes back and bends her tail to the side, this is a sign of standing the heat. Your dog may also swing her hips and wag her tail high up as she walks.
- Discharge changes color. As the standing heat approaches, previously red discharge from the vulva may become pink, yellow, or even unnoticeable.
- Vulva becomes softer, and swelling declines gradually.
- Increased urination. Urine is a marker and tells other dogs that the dog is in heat. Therefore, your dog will dispense urine in smaller amounts over various locations.
- Symptoms from the first phase of the heat, like appetite changes and increased body temperature, may remain during the second phase of the heat, too.
Usually, the presence of several of the symptoms from above may be enough to know if your dog is indeed in heat. However, you should note, the only sure way to tell if your dog is in the heat is to run tests at a veterinary clinic.
- If the main reason you are looking up symptoms of female dogs in heat is to avoid unwanted pregnancy, the symptoms will give you enough information about times when you should be cautious (starting from the day you first notice signs).
- However, if you want to schedule the best day for breeding your dog, relying on symptoms will not be enough. In this case, you should run vaginal cytology and hormonal tests afterward.
Is your dog in heat? Identifying symptoms of dogs is heat is only one of the things you should be aware of. Take a look at our series about female dogs in heat for more tips and information.