How to Tell When Your Dog Is in Heat

Updated on January 26, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Are you going to recognize the signs of heat before this happens?
Are you going to recognize the signs of heat before this happens? | Source

When is it Going to Happen?

When we say that your dog is in heat, it means that she is undergoing changes to her body so that she will attract male dogs, get bred, and have puppies.

Your dog will first come into heat when she is still a puppy. With toy breeds it may be as early as 4 months, but with giant breeds it may not happen until their second year. The first heat cycle is usually kind of mild though, so, unless your front door becomes a gathering place for the neighborhood male dogs, you may not even notice your dog´s first heat cycle.

Doggie diapers are a way to prevent spotting around the house.
Doggie diapers are a way to prevent spotting around the house. | Source

How Can I Tell If My Dog Is in Heat?

The first sign you will notice, long before any physical changes, are a few personality changes. She may be nervous, shy, more affectionate than usual, or even aggressive. There is really no way to tell how a dog is going to act. As she gets closer to coming in to heat she will have a swollen vulva; some dogs will even have swollen nipples. For about a week before she starts spotting your dog will urinate every chance she gets when you walk her—this is her way of alerting the other dogs in the area that she will soon be ready to breed.

Your dog will begin “spotting” (having a bloody discharge from her vulva) and when she starts with this stage you will definitely notice. This may be considered the first day of heat. There may be a lot or just a few drops, but it almost always decreases as the time of ovulation approaches (usually one to three weeks after the bleeding starts).

Bleeding in the house is one of the best reasons to get your dog spayed. If you do not want to have her spayed for some reason, doggie diapers are available and will cover her up so that she does not stain the carpet or furniture. The diapers have to be removed every time you take her outside since, if you do not, she will urinate in the diaper and ruin it.

When Should I Allow My Dog to Breed?

Male dogs are going to be attracted to your female from the first day but it is not until the second to third week of heat that your dog is likely most likely to be bred, whether you want it or not. The reduced spotting is a sign of ovulation and your best indication of when she will stand to be bred.

This is the time to take her to the breeder. You can plan on the greatest success if you breed her every few days during the time that she will stand and allow a male to mount.

If you do not want to breed your female, it is also the time you need to watch her carefully and keep her away from the male dogs in the neighborhood. She will not be bleeding anymore but will still be able to conceive puppies.

When no one knows the signs of heat...
When no one knows the signs of heat... | Source

Should I Just Get My Dog Spayed?

To avoid all of these symptoms and the hassles associated with a dog that comes into heat, you should have your dog spayed. There is a lot of controversy as to when it should be done, but if you cannot watch your dog and protect her during the first heat cycle you should have her spayed while still young.

What If I Do Not Spay My Dog?

There are a lot of reasons people choose to keep their female dogs intact. If you are going to show your dog or compete in some agility competitions, having your dog spayed will keep her from being able to participate.

Other people want to breed their female dog and produce puppies when the time is right.

If you choose not to have her spayed, do not plan on breeding her unless you are willing to have her hips and elbows x-rayed to check for dysplasia, and her eyes checked for changed in the retina. The father should also be tested and found free of all genetic diseases.

A lot of puppies die every day at animal shelters because some people allow their dogs to breed when they should be spayed. Make sure that you have a home for the puppies before you get involved in this process.

Questions & Answers

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      • DrMark1961 profile image
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        Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        It varies a lot so I cannot give you a definite answer. One of my Pitbulls just came out of heat, she bled for only 3 days. Most dogs bleed from 7-10 days. Plan on watching her closely for about 10 days after that.

        If she is a mix breed, and you have no interest in breeding her in the future, it will make your life a lot easier if you go ahead and have her spayed. When a dog is in heat you have to watch her like a hawk!

        It may be better to spay her after the first heat. Do some more reading on the subject.

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        mindi 3 years ago

        Approximately how long does the bleeding with first estrus last? I have a lab mix pup.

      • Bob Bamberg profile image

        Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

        That sure makes the pizza delivery guy look boring.

      • DrMark1961 profile image
        Author

        Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Yes, that is a funny point because the dogs are all real nice, but around here people are afraid of big dogs. Oh, and the correct answer? A female that likes to visit all the males in the neighborhood.

      • Bob Bamberg profile image

        Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

        Well, after lengthy analysis I've ruled out Pug, so that leaves either a bon vivant male Husky or a promiscuous female Husky.

        Jeez, I'm only kidding, folks!! In some places sexist humor is OK and in others, it's not. I'm not a knuckle dragger, really!

        I'll bet not too many people try to break into your client's property!

      • DrMark1961 profile image
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        Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Big cultural difference! There is not even a place to spay a dog around here, even if she shows up one day in fishnet stockings! I was training at a home yesterday with a Husky/lab cross, a Husky/German Shepherd cross, and a Husky/Alaskan Malamute cross. Guess what her first dog was?

      • Bob Bamberg profile image

        Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

        Interesting and informative hub, DrMark. I've never owned a dog, so I always thought the first sign was fishnet stockings under a leather mini-skirt. Now I are enlightened :)

        Around here, owners (unless they are serious breeders) who don't get their dogs spayed or neutered during puppyhood are looked upon with some scorn. There is some serious social pressure exerted.

        Most pet adoption organizations, if they haven't already had the surgery done, require a commitment to do so (sometimes an actual appointment date) before they will release a dog to an adopter.

        Interesting read, as usual. Voted up and interesting. Regards, Bob

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