If you’re a first-time dog owner of a precious female pooch, you may have heard of heat but have yet to experience it. Most female canines go into heat twice a year and can attract quite the male crowd during this time. While most dogs become uncomfortable in this part of their cycle, there are things you can do to help make the several-week-long experience a little bit better.
Before detailing helpful tips for pups in heat, let’s start by covering the basics.
What is Heat?
A dog in heat, or estrus, is in the fertile window of her reproductive cycle. Typically, a dog will experience her first heat around six months of age, though this can vary between dogs and breed types, according to VCA Hospitals.
On average, pups will remain in heat for roughly two to four weeks, though this also varies per individual. Smaller breeds are more likely to go into heat three times a year, whereas larger breeds can have anywhere from six months to a year in between heat cycles.
What are the Signs of Heat?
A Swollen Vaginal Region – This may be challenging to identify, but typically one of the first telltale signs that a dog is entering heat is a swollen vulva and vaginal region.
Bleeding – While swelling of the outer reproductive system occurs first, bleeding may be the first noticeable sign of heat. Oftentimes, a pup may not start bleeding until several days into estrus. Usually, the bloody vaginal discharge is heaviest in the beginning and slowly thins out and becomes more watery and pinkish towards the end.
The thin, watery discharge indicates she is entering her most fertile period with the highest chance of conceiving. However, it is important to remember that sperm can live in the reproductive tract for nearly a week, so mating prior to this time may still result in pregnancy.
Change in Behavior – The pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, is responsible for regulating hormone shifts that initiate the heat cycle. In addition to welcoming mating, these rapid changes in hormones can leave our female friends feeling emotional, anxious, nervous and even more destructive than normal.
More Frequent Urination – During heat, hormones and pheromones are released in a canine’s urine to alert other dogs that she is in heat and ready to reproduce. Because of this, many female pups urinate more frequently and practice a “marking” behavior that signals what time of year it is to the other neighborhood pups.
Helping Your Female Dog in Heat
It may be challenging to know how to help your fur baby, but there are practical steps you can take to make her life a little more comfortable during this time.
Every dog bleeds a different amount, and for the majority, only a few drops of blood are noticeable from time to time. However, if you notice blood on the furniture or floors after Sophie gets up from her afternoon nap, you may want to consider purchasing either disposable or reusable diapers. Amazon, as well as most local pet stores, should have both available.
Provide Extra Love and Comfort
As mentioned above, many canines feel emotionally unsettled, anxious and nervous throughout their heat cycle. Make sure to provide extra cuddles, treats and praises as necessary, and avoid scolding her for getting blood on the furniture, as this could make an already confused pup even more scared and confused.
Take Extra Walks
Some female dogs notice an extra burst of energy with all the physical and emotional changes going on. If this is the case, feel free to take additional walks throughout the day. They don’t have to be long, but even a short stroll around the block will help calm your fur baby and help her settle down.
Exercise works wonders for both physical and mental health. Not to mention, if all that anxiety has led to unusual destructive behavior in the house, redirecting that nervous energy holds a plethora of benefits.
Choose a Different Route
Male dogs have a way of sensing when their female counterparts are in heat. In fact, some males can tell from quite the distance and will break out of the yard just to make it to your pooch. If you pass many dogs on your daily walks, you might want to consider choosing a different route to avoid any confrontations.
Some males may even become aggressive to get to a female in heat, so it’s best to avoid the temptation all together.
Never Let Your Furry Friend Off the Leash
Even in the safety of your backyard, males have such a strong drive to mate with a female during heat, it’s not uncommon for males to come bounding into the yard. Some have even tried to mate through chain-link fences. It’s best to keep Sophie on a leash at all times, even in your own backyard, to avoid unwanted run-ins.
If you’re not planning on breeding Sophie, most veterinarians highly recommend spaying. Not only does it help decrease the number of dogs that eventually end up without homes, but it prevents your sweet Sophie from enduring heat several times a year, and dogs who have been neutered or spayed are believed to live healthier, longer lives.
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