Do you have a young female dog? Have you dreamed about your dog having cute little puppies running around? We all love puppies, but there are quite a few of them in this world already. Often, this is a result of our dog in heat finding a male and producing an unplanned pregnancy. If we educate ourselves on our dog in heat, we can understand how to best care for them and prevent them from becoming pregnant during their cycle.

brown dog sitting on sofa

What Is Heat?

A dog in “heat” refers to canine estrus when a female dog is sexually receptive to a male dog. Also called “in season,” this period refers to when a female dog sends out chemical and physical signals that she is ready to conceive a litter of puppies. They can only become pregnant while they are in heat. Female dogs typically experience their first heat at around 6 months of age unless they are spayed. Usually, female dogs come into season twice each year and stay in heat for 2 to 4 weeks. Unlike humans, female dogs will have heat cycles their entire life, though the time between cycles will lengthen as they age. 

Size Matters

When it comes to very small or very large dogs, their heat cycles may look slightly different. Small dogs tend to experience their first heat earlier and have heat cycles more often, perhaps 3 to 4 times each year. Giant breeds tend to reach puberty slower, so they may not have their first heat until a year or even 2 years of age, and they often only have 1 heat cycle each year.

golden retriever running on green grass field during daytime

What Are the Signs of a Dog In Heat?

How can you tell if your dog is in heat instead of just sick? If your dog is entering her heat cycle, you will observe the physical and behavioral signs. Signs of a dog in heat include:

  • More frequent urination
  • Swelling of the vulva
  • Bleeding from the vulva
  • Increased grooming of the genital area
  • “Flirting” with male dogs
  • More affectionate and lazy
  • Humping other dogs

What To Do With Your Dog In Heat

Many veterinarians encourage dog owners to let their female dog experience at least one heat cycle before getting spayed. Whether you’re following this medical advice or want to keep your dog unspayed for breeding, managing your female dog during her heat cycle doesn’t have to be a stressful or messy experience. Here are a few ways to handle your dog’s heat cycle.

selective focus photo of black and tan dog

Keep Male Dogs Away

Unless you want your dog to have a litter of puppies, keep male dogs away from her. If you have male dogs in your home, separate them. If you let your dog out into your yard, do not leave her unsupervised. If you think she may be able to escape the yard, keep a leash on her. It is not unheard of for male dogs to jump high fences to get to a female or for females to escape searching for a male during this time.

Use Doggie Diapers

During heat, your dog will likely have a bloody discharge from her vulva. While dogs often clean themselves, you will probably find small spots on their beds, carpets, etc. Doggie diapers can prevent your dog from leaving these stains around your home and can also help mask her scent from male dogs in the area.

Invest in a GPS Tracker

Investing in a GPS tracker is a good idea for any dog, not just unspayed females. This technology can help you keep an eye on your dog, and locate them quickly should they get away from you. 

Keep Her Leash On During Walks

Please do not take your dog on an off-leash walk while she is in heat. Even the most well-behaved dog in the world can act very differently during estrus, and your female may take off in search of a male. 

Rest and Exercise

Every individual is different, so pay attention to your dog to ascertain what she needs while in season. Many females will feel very tired while in heat, yet others will be restless, with a lot of extra energy. Find the right balance between exercising and resting while your dog goes through her heat cycle.

Consider Spaying Your Dog

Unless you have plans to breed your dog, strongly consider getting her spayed. Not only will this procedure prevent her from going into heat or becoming pregnant, but it also can reduce medical problems later in life, such as mammary cancer. You can’t spay a dog while they are in heat but consult with your veterinarian about the best time to spay your pup. 

brown and white corgi puppy on gray concrete floor

Protect Your Dog In Heat

A dog in heat is receptive to and actively seeking male dogs to impregnate her. With all the unwanted puppies in this world, it’s best to be on your guard and prevent your female from getting pregnant.

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