What is heat?Heat is essentially your dog’s period, but it is a little different to the human menstrual cycle. For dogs, it is called the Canine Estrous Cycle. It’s made up of 4 different stages which we will outline in this blog. Your dog’s heat will occur once they have reached sexual maturity. Most people will describe heat, as the time when their female dog is passing bloody discharge from her vulva, however your dog can still be fertile and “on heat” once the bleeding has passed. Heat usually lasts between 2 to 4 weeks; this will be further explored in the four stages of heat section in this blog.
The vulva, near your dog’s tail, can become engorged and swollen. This is not always obvious.
Bloody discharge This can vary in volume from dog to dog, and even between cycles with the same pet. The discharge your dog passes during her heat cycle will change as her cycle progresses. Initially It may appear very bloody, but as time passes, it will thin and become a watery pinkish red colour. Marking and Frequent Urination You might notice your dog having more bathroom breaks and urinating more during her heat cycle. You may even notice her marking, leaving small amounts of urine in various places in the yard or on a walk. This is normal. During this phase of your dog’s cycle, her urine contains more hormones and pheromones which she uses to indicated to other dogs that she is fertile.
How Often Do Female Dogs Come Into Heat?
On average this occurs about twice a year or every six months, although it varies from dog to dog. When cycling first begins, there may be a great deal of variability in the time between cycles. This is normal. Some females take eighteen months to two years to develop a regular cycle.
There is no evidence that irregular heat cycles predispose the dog to false pregnancies or pyometra (uterine infection). Small breeds tend to cycle more regularly than the larger breeds. Three and occasionally four heat cycles per year can be normal in some females.
Very large breeds may only have a “heat” cycle once every 12-18 months. In most giant breeds (Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, St Bernards, etc.) an oestrus cycle every twelve months is common.
Why should I desex my female dog?
Female dogs who are not desexed will go through an ‘oestrus cycle’ or ‘heat’ usually every 6 months through into old age. Managing your ‘on heat’ female can be tricky, as male dogs will be scenting her pheromones from kilometres away… and let’s just say where there is a will there is a way!
Animal Refuges are full of puppies and adult dogs in need of homes, so unplanned litters are not in the best interest of animal welfare in general. In addition, there are many medical issues that can develop in ‘entire’ female dogs. From Mammary tumours, through to the dreadful like threatening condition known as pyometra, the list is long.
Online, you will find discussion and debate presenting arguments for and against desexing female dogs. Our vets recommend desexing primarily for the sake of our patients. We feel that desexing contributes enormously to allowing our female dog patients to stay well longer in to old age, whilst avoiding preventable medical conditions, without having an impact on their personality, behaviour or ‘life experience’.