Help! My dog has just come into heat. What should I do?

by | Dog Care |

With spay/neuter services temporarily closed to the public to help slow and stop the spread of COVID-19, we’ve been receiving various questions from pet owners about what to expect while they wait for operations to resume. Here are some commonly asked questions about female dogs coming into heat.

When will my female dog first come into heat?

Sexual maturity for the female dog usually happens around six months of age. Smaller breeds may go into heat earlier than this. Large breed dogs can be up to two years old before they start their first one.

How often will my female dog come into heat?

Female dogs typically come into heat about twice a year, but this is an average. When your dog first starts cycling, the timing between her heats may be irregular. Heats generally become more regular after about a year.

How will I know my dog is in heat and how long will her heat last?

The first signs a dog is going into heat is swelling around her vulva and bloody vaginal discharge. You will know your dog’s heat is coming to an end when her vulva is back to its normal size and you no longer see any vaginal discharge. When your dog does come into heat, you can expect her heat cycle to last somewhere between two and three weeks.

I do not want my dog coming into heat and getting pregnant. What can be done to prevent this?

The recommended way to prevent heat and unwanted pregnancy is to have your dog spayed. This surgical procedure is performed by a veterinarian while your dog is under general anesthesia. At the Ontario SPCA and Humane Society, we surgically remove both ovaries as well as the uterus. This is called an ovariohysterectomy. This procedure is irreversible. Your dog will no longer go into heat and will not be able to become pregnant.

Hormonal therapy may be used to suppress your dog’s cycle, but this is only temporary and not often recommended due to the potential for serious adverse effects.

My dog has come into heat! What should I do?

If your female dog comes into heat before you can get her spayed, here is what you can do:

  1. First, mark down on your calendar the date your dog starts her heat and the date she ends her heat.
  2. Next, when we call to book your dog’s surgery please tell us the dates that you marked on your calendar. It is very important that your dog is booked for surgery no earlier than eight weeks from the beginning of her last heat. This waiting time is necessary for your dog’s safety to minimize blood loss during surgery.
  3. Please remember that when a female dog is in heat, she will be receptive to male dogs and they will be very interested in her! It’s at this time that she may allow mating. Keep your dog on a leash at all times and consider going for walks where you do not expect to meet other dogs. Allowing her out in your back yard unsupervised could also draw unwanted attention from the male dogs in your area, so supervised outdoor time is advised.
  4. Female dogs in heat are messy. The bloody discharge can make a mess of your furniture, carpets etc. Doggy diapers can help. Also, washable, waterproof, sanitary pants for female dogs in heat can also help (a sanitary pad can be added to these pants to help absorb your dog’s flow). The doggy diaper or sanitary dog pants and pad may need to be changed as many as three or more times per day. Allow your dog some supervised time outside without the diaper to allow her skin to breathe and minimize irritation. Also, give any soiled areas on her hind end a gentle clean with warm water and a cloth once a day and then towel dry. This should help to minimize skin irritation.

The health, safety and well-being of our visitors, staff, volunteers and animals remains our priority. Our spay/neuter services will be in touch with anyone who had an appointment booked to make them aware that appointment times will have to change due to the precautionary measure to close our clinics. We will do our best to resume appointments as soon as possible and appreciate your patience during this challenging time.