Breeding is just a natural part of life for animals, but the process definitely adds another dimension of pet care. In particular, a female dog’s estrus cycle (when she’s “in heat) can be messy and stressful for both of you. Here’s how to cope.
Know what to expect. Depending on breed, a dog’s first estrus cycle will occur between five and eleven months old. Your dog will display certain signs, such as an engorged vulva and nipples. She might urinate more frequently, and will experience a bloody discharge from her vulva. These symptoms last about two to four weeks on average.
Keep her safe. If you don’t intend to breed your dog, remember to keep her inside at all times when you cannot be right beside her. Mating can occur within a matter of minutes if she is left unattended. Also, remember that she might feel more motivated to find a way out of the yard and stray from home during this time.
Male dogs can smell a female in heat from up to a mile away! They can and will jump a fence, or otherwise become very determined to get to her, so keep that in mind.
Soothe her anxiety. Give her her own space in the home, away from other pets if possible. Offer her extra reassurance and attention during estrus, to help soothe any anxiety she might feel.
Choose a diaper. You probably want to protect your carpet and furnishings from her discharge, so a diaper is usually the best choice. Pay attention to fit, because a diaper only works as well as it fits. Converting baby diapers to fit a dog is usually challenging, so we recommend using those specifically designed for dogs. Remember to change the diaper often to prevent chafing and irritation.
If your dog seems reluctant to wear a diaper, pair it with a special treat. If she associates diaper changes with the treat, she will become more cooperative.
Consider spaying. Unless you’re planning to breed your dog, there is really no reason to deal with estrus cycles. Unspayed females can develop medical issues. A pyometra is an infection of the reproductive tract that can make a female dog very sick and is a medical emergency. Also, female dogs that are spayed after having many heat cycles are predisposed to mammary cancer. Call us about getting your pet spayed and we can help you keep her healthy and protected from the risks mentioned.