How to Know if Your Dog is Going to Die
How to Tell if Your Dog Is in Heat
Heat, which is also known as the estrus period, is a reproductive stage that unspayed female dogs go through. During this stage her eggs mature, making her fertile and able to produce puppies. Your dog will have different behavioral and physical changes during this stage, due to hormonal changes in her body. These changes will allow you to figure out whether she is in heat or not.
Understanding Estrus in Dogs
Understand the basic reproductive cycle of your dog.When wondering if your dog is in heat, it first helps to understand her normal hormonal cycle. When a female dog reaches maturity, and is physically ready to reproduce, her estrogen levels increase, initiating the release of eggs from her ovaries. If mating occurs during this period, the eggs can then be fertilized and an embryo can be produced.
- Female dogs, will generally go into heat during puberty, at around 6 to 24 months of age depending on breed. Smaller breeds generally come into heat earlier than larger breeds.
Know when to check for signs of heat.In a year, a dog will usually go into heat twice with an average interval of six months in between each heat, depending on the breed.
- This can help you decide if it's likely she's in heat. For example, if she was in heat one month ago, it's unlikely she's in heat again so soon and something might be wrong.
- While most dogs come into heat twice a year, is every six months, as with any hormonal event some dogs are more regular than others. Some dogs come into heat as regular as clockwork every six months, whilst others are highly variable. A window of 4 - 8 months is considered normal.
- Dogs are usually in heat for three to four weeks.
Understand the signs of heat.The heat itself follows a pattern, with the vulva swelling and a bloody discharge in the first week. However, nature has a trick up her sleeve, because around days 7 - 14 the discharge may stop or become much lighter. This can trick the unwary owner into thinking season is over and their bitch is no longer at risk of pregnancy. However, nothing could be further from the truth. This middle week is actually when the dog ovulates, and is at the peak risk of falling pregnant.
- This is also the week when she is most interested in finding a boyfriend, and so far from relaxing your vigilance, if you do not want the dog to have puppies you should tighten up on security.
- Around days 14 - 21 into the heat, the bloody discharge returns, but gradually lightens and dries up completely. However, the vulva often remains larger than normal for another couple of weeks (although she cannot get pregnant now her heat is over).
Looking for Physical and Behavioral Signs Your Dog is in Heat
Look for swelling of the vulva.Your dog’s vulva is located directly below her anus. Before your dog goes into heat, her vulva will start to swell slightly. When she is in full heat, her vulva will swell to three times its normal size and will take on a reddish color.
Notice any vaginal bleeding.Vaginal bleeding is a sign that your dog will soon be going into heat. When your dog goes into heat, the amount of blood will decrease quite a bit and the blood will become brownish in color.
- If a dog is scrupulously clean and licks away the discharge, it can be tricky to know if a discharge is present or not. A useful tip is to cover her bed with a white sheet or pillowcase. That way when she is asleep you will see blood spots on the white cover.
- If you plan on breeding your dog, write down the day that the bleeding begins. Breeding is best done on the 10th or 11th day after the first day of bleeding and then every other day after that for three days.
Notice whether your dog continuously licks herself.Another sign that your dog is entering heat, or in its early stages, is if she constantly licks her vagina. While some female dogs won’t do this, most dogs will develop this behavior right around the time that they go into heat.
Take note if your dog starts acting strangely.dogs who are in the early stages of heat tend to develop behaviors that they do not typically display. In particular, female dogs who are about to go into heat are usually nervous, agitated, or easily irritated.
- Some dogs will also bark more or become more aggressive with people and dogs around them.
Pay attention to increased mating behaviors.If your female dog begins mounting male dogs or other dogs, she is more than likely in heat. Mounting is a common sign that a dog is in the full swing of heat. She may even try to mount your legs.
- However, dogs can mount legs or each other for behavioral reasons, such as masturbating, dominance, or bizarrely from submissive behavior, so this does not automatically mean a dog in heat.
Watch for changes in the way your dog positions her tail.When a female dog enters heat, she will curl her tail to one side, making it easier for mating to occur. This action is called ‘flagging’ and is a common behavior of dog in heat.
- You may also elicit this behavior by giving her a vigorous scratch on her rump. If she stiffens her back legs and diverts her tail to one side she is flagging.
- Never insert anything into the dog's vulva or vagina to test out if she is ready. You can inadvertently cause harm to the delicate, inflamed tissues and cause huge distress to her.
Noticing the Behavior of Male Dogs
Know that some female dogs are ‘silent heaters’.These dogs do not display any noticeable signs of being in heat. They produce reproductive hormones but don't develop the more usual external signs such as a swollen vulva.
- The only way you can really confirm if a silent heater is in heat is by observing the interactions between male dogs and the female dog in question. Male dogs will detect even low levels of female reproductive hormones, which will arouse their intense interest and attention.
- Be aware that some dogs do "skip" a heat. If they are unwell or their health is below par, or if they have lost weight recently, their body may save its energy and she won't come into heat when expected. This is nature's way of saying her body needs all its reserves to look after number one, rather than being in a state of flourishing good health where she could care for puppies.
Pay attention to the levels of aggressiveness in male dogs.If you have a couple of male dogs, as well as your female dog who you think may be in heat, pay attention to how aggressive your male dogs are to one another. When more than one male dog is around a female in heat, they will begin to act very aggressively towards one another to prove who is dominant and should mate with the female dog.
Notice an increase in verbal communication and agitation.If you own one male dog and a female dog that you think may be in heat, pay attention to how the male dog reacts to being kept apart from the female dog. If he seems more agitated than normal and whines frequently, he is most likely verbalizing his irritation and not being allowed near the female dog. This is a good indicator that your dog is in heat.
- Although this is not foolproof and you need to interpret this in the context of the dog's physical changes and the male dog's usual behavior when kept apart from his female pal. Some dogs experience anxiety when separated from a close playmate and this is difficult to differentiate from sexual frustration.
Observe the interactions between your male dog and your female dog.If you let your dogs run around together all the time, then observe what happens when your male dog gets near your female dog. If your dog allows her vagina to be licked and sniffed for an extended period of time, she is most likely in heat. In particular, if she lets herself be mounted it is a sign that she is in heat.
- However, allowing another dog to mount her, can also be a sign of submissive behavior, so once again, you need to interpret the whole picture and ask questions such as is her heat due and how does she normally behave around dogs. Remember, sniffing bottoms is something dogs like to do a lot, at the best of times, just to work out who is who!
- If your male and female dogs don't normally interact, keep your male dog on a leash when you bring him near your female dog. One or both dogs may become aggressive if they are not familiar with each other.
Testing for Heat at the Veterinarian
Have your veterinarian do a blood test to determine if your dog is in heat.A test can be used that measures blood progesterone levels, which rise when the dog is in heat. This is simply done via a sample drawn from the bitch and sent to the lab. Low levels indicate she is not cycling, medium levels show she is in heat, and high levels indicate she is pregnant.
- The alternative is a test used in research establishments. It measures the level of Luteinizing hormone (LH) in the bloodstream, which rises prior to ovulation. However, this is not commercially available as a test kit.
Have your veterinarian do a Vaginal Cytology test.It is quick and easy to do.The veterinarian rolls a clean cotton tip over the moist lining of the vulva and then rolls the cotton tip over a glass microscope slide. Once the smear is dry, it is stained and examined under the microscope.
- A dog in heat has a typical pattern of large, cornified cells plus red blood cells that are typical of being in heat. This along with physical signs is enough to decide if the dog is in heat.
Ask yourself whether the symptoms you are seeing could be heat or if they suggest a health problem.This means it's important to use your common sense when wondering if the dog is in heat. If you are in any doubt, then take her to see your veterinarian.
- Is the dog due to be in heat? If yes, then heat is more likely than a health problem.
- Was she recently in heat? If yes, then another heat is unlikely and there may be a health problem.
- Is she in good spirits, eating and drinking normally, and normally active? If yes, heat is more likely.
- Is she not quite herself, is her appetite is reduced, is she more thirsty than usual, or does she keep vomiting? If yes, a health problem is likely and urgent veterinary attention sought.
Have your veterinarian take a look at your dog if she should not be in heat but is exhibiting similar symptoms.There is a health condition, pyometra, that affects older dogs which, to the untrained eye, could mimic being in heat. The overlapping symptoms include a swollen vulva, with or without a vaginal discharge. A pyometra refers to a womb infection. In severe cases the womb fills with pus and the dog becomes toxic when toxins from the bacteria are absorbed into the bloodstream.
- If you have an older dog, who has recently been in heat (4 - 8 weeks before) and she develops a discharge, seek veterinary attention because this is the peak risk period for a pyometra developing.
- In the early stages the dog may be more thirsty or lack a good appetite. As the condition becomes more serious, the toxins causes kidney damage, and left untreated, can be fatal.
- Each time the dog has a heat it weakens the lining of the womb slightly and makes a pyometra more likely. This condition mainly affects aging dogs (the more cycles she has, the more likely it is to happen) and no breed is exempt from being at risk.
QuestionHow can you tell when the heat is over?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerThis is largely a matter of timing and looking at the bigger picture. Expect the heat to last at least three weeks, and never relax vigilance before this. If after three weeks the discharge dries up, her vulva gradually decreases in size, and dogs seem less attracted to her, then there's a good chance the estrus has come to an end and the hormones are ebbing. However this isn't like pressing a light switch on or off — her hormones gradually ebb which means any changes take place over several days.Thanks!
QuestionCan a dog that is spayed display symptoms of being in heat?
Veterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsVeterinarian, Royal College of Veterinary SurgeonsExpert AnswerNot usually. When a dog is spayed her ovaries are removed, and therefore there should be no ovarian material left to push out the hormones associated with estrus. Occasionally dogs may have ectopic ovarian tissue located elsewhere in the abdomen, or occasionally not quite all the ovary was removed and it regenerates slightly.Thanks!
QuestionMy dog had her first heat in June. She keeps getting all of her toys, takes them to her bed, and acts like they are her babies. Is this normal?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes, very normal. Leave her to it. Do not try to take them away, as she will protect them like real babies.Thanks!
QuestionIf she chases the male away when the male wants to mate, is she still ready to mate?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAt this period, female dogs tend to be selective. It might be that she does not like her mate.Thanks!
QuestionWill the female belly get warm when she goes in heat?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo. It could be a sign of pregnancy, however.Thanks!
QuestionWill a dog's nipples swell when she is in heat?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThey may, but they won't always. This is not a very reliable method for determining if a dog is in heat.Thanks!
QuestionCan my dog be spayed while in heat?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can, but it can lead to complications during the surgery. You might want to wait for her heat to be over to spay her.Thanks!
QuestionWill a neutered male still try to mate with females that are in heat?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerOne of our neutered dogs does this, the other two don't. So it depends on the dog, but it's not uncommon.Thanks!
QuestionWhen dogs are in heat, is there heavy bleeding? Will I need to put a diaper on her to prevent blood from getting all over?Denylia WilliamsCommunity AnswerIt's similar to humans but sometime you'll have a dog with a heavy cycle. Be sure to give them plenty of water. In some cases diapers can be used, but be mindful of the dog's comfort. If bleeding seems excessive, contact your veterinarian.Thanks!
QuestionIs blood in my dog's urine a sign of her being in heat?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo, this could be a sign of infection in the kidneys. Take her to the vet immediately.Thanks!
I just adopted a 1 year old, they told me that when she was found she had her period. They spaded her, but she is showing signs of heat around my male, could she be in heat?
How long should I leave my female with the male during her heat to ensure that she gets pregnant?
My dog was on heat not long but she's on heat again but this time male dogs don't come to her what does that mean
How can I tell if my dog is just over heating or in heat?
Is my six month old dog in heat if she is urinating more than usual?
- If you find that your dog is in heat and you would prefer that she not have puppies, bring your dog to the vet after her heat is over and get her spayed.
- You can tell when your dog’s heat is over by the same method of observation. If she does not let herself be mounted, her vagina is dry, and her vulva is back to size, then she is no longer in heat.
- If you have already spayed your dog and find that she has the bloody discharge that is generally associated with being in heat, bring her to the vet. She may have a urinary tract infection, a venereal disease like a transmissible venereal tumor (TVT), wounds, trauma, or a uterine infection.
Sources and Citations
- Evaluation of the ICAGEN-Target canine ovulation timing diagnostic test in detecting canine plasma progesterone concentrations. Manothaiudom, Johnston, Hegstad. JAAHA 31 (1) 57-64
- Reproduction in the dog and cat. Christiansen. Publisher: Bailliere-Tindal.
- Small Animal Internal Medicine. Nelson & Couto. Publisher: Mosby
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