How to Care for a Dog in Heat

All female dogs that aren't spayed go through canine estrus, more commonly known as heat. [...]

All female dogs that aren’t spayed go through canine estrus, more commonly known as heat. It’s messy, uncomfortable, and comes with a range of behavioural changes in addition to high fertility. Dog owners who choose to keep their female pups intact have their work cut out for them, but armed with knowledge and the right helpful tools, they can keep their furry friends comfortable and themselves sane during this admittedly difficult time.

Keeping Things Clean

One of the first indications most dog owners notice that their beloved furry friends are in heat is blood on their floors and furniture. Some breeds leave a spot or two here and there, while others bleed prolifically enough that it can destroy lightly coloured carpets. Either way, pet owners who are worried about dogs in heat making a mess of their homes have a few options.

Doggie Diapers

Arguably the best option for pet owners is to invest in doggy diapers. It’s important to buy specialised products made just for dogs, as diapers made for people may fit okay, but they won’t be comfortable or stay in place.

Washable doggie diapers are the most economically and ecologically friendly option. Just make sure to remove and wash them frequently to prevent problems like rashes and bacterial infections, and keep in mind that diapers don’t constitute an effective form of contraception for most pups.

Designate a Special Blanket

If the dog doesn’t bleed much, it may be feasible to forgo the diapers and designate a specific blanket for the pup to use when she’s sleeping or relaxing on the floors or furniture. There are drawbacks to this approach, though. It requires constant monitoring of the pup to identify when and where she’s about to cuddle up, and it won’t address any spotting that occurs when she’s up and moving about.

Clean Floors Quickly

Pet parents who don’t want to use diapers should be prepared to clean up any messes as quickly as possible. It’s best to preclude female dogs from carpeted areas while they are in estrus. Cleaning up blood spots on a wood floor is a simple matter of keeping disposable wipes on hand while cleaning blood out of carpets requires more drastic measures.

Prevent Pregnancy

Dogs can only get pregnant while they are in heat. This simple fact of nature makes life easier for female dog owners the rest of the year, but it creates a huge challenge when that beloved family pet enters estrus and becomes fertile. Female dogs go through behavioural and hormonal changes while in heat that encourage unwanted encounters of both amorous and aggressive varieties. It’s up to the dogs’ owners to make sure nature can’t take its course.

Keep Her Indoors

If there are no male dogs in the home, preventing pregnancy may be a seemingly simple matter of keeping the pup inside while she is going through her estrus cycle. Keep in mind that both male and female dogs will do everything they can to thwart their owners’ best intentions during this time.

Female dogs emit pheromones that can be detected by males up to several miles away. They also become receptive to mating and will go out of their way to create opportunities for escape attempts. Even an otherwise secure backyard may not be safe for unsupervised time outside.

Don’t Rely on Diapers

Doggie diapers are great at preventing messes, but they’re not secure enough to stop unwanted pregnancies. Male dogs are very persistent, and even a well-secured garment can be torn off by a determined partner. By all means, use the doggie diapers, but don’t assume they’ll thwart all attempts at mating.

Know What to Expect from Other Dogs

Most dog owners can’t keep their pups locked up 24/7 for the duration of their heat cycles. They have to, at a minimum, take their furry friends out for walks to go to the bathroom or let them out into the yard. Knowing what to expect from other dogs can reduce the chances of something going wrong.

Female dogs aren’t the only ones who go through behavioural changes as a result of estrus. Male dogs who sense their pheromones become very excited, and they can also become more aggressive. Anticipate being extra-vigilant on walks, and never take a female dog in heat to a dog park, as it could create a difficult situation for all the pets and owners involved.

Keep Her Comfortable

Going into heat, especially for the first time, can be a confusing experience for dogs. They may need some extra care and attention during this time, so dog owners should be prepared to provide it.

Offer Extra Potty Breaks

Some female dogs feel the need to relieve themselves more frequently while they are in heat, so plan to offer extra potty breaks. The doggie diapers can prevent accidents, but most house-trained pups won’t be happy about relieving themselves in the diapers if they’re inside, so don’t assume that’s a good solution. Take the diapers off before she goes outside on potty breaks to avoid unnecessary loads of laundry.

Be Patient

Never scold female dogs for making a mess while they’re in heat. Remember, they can’t help it, nor can they help the behavioural changes. Now is a time for extra love and comfort, not scolding, even if the dog is behaving poorly compared to usual.

Give Tons of Love

Female dogs often become cuddlier while they’re in heat. They want the extra security of being close to their owners. Since most dog owners can’t be with their pups 24/7, many combine extra snuggles with a favourite chew-resistant toy and blanket for times when the dog must be left alone.

The Bottom Line

The easiest way to prevent pregnancy and all the many hassles associated with female dogs going into heat is to have them spayed. Pet owners who don’t want to alter their animals will have to be extra vigilant and very patient. Remember the condition is temporary and that beloved family pet will be back to acting like herself within a few weeks.

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Laura.Bartlett

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