What to do When a Female Dog is in Heat

As you all know, we brought Chai home last June at 6 months old. Our vet advised it would be a good idea to spay her around 10 months old…and then… December came around and *Gasp*…she had her first heat. I thought to myself, “this is too early”; however, it turns out it is fairly normal to have a female dog’s first heat prior to her 1 year birthday. So, what do you do when a female dog is in heat?

That’s not the only question though, right? What does the term “in heat” mean? Is there any products you need to purchase (like diapers?). And…when should you spay your female after she has had her first heat?

So many questions…so let’s get into it!


WWhat to do when a female dog is in heathat is an Estrus Cycle?

When you hear the term “in heat”, it means your female pup is going through the estrus cycle. What the heck is an estrus cycle?

An estrus (or Oestrus) cycle is when a female mammal is ready to accept a male and is ready to mate. Dogs will have their first estrus cycle when they reach puberty, which in many female dogs, can be by 6 months of age. Some larger breed dogs may not have their first cycle until 18 – 24 months of age (which is what I was hoping for!); however, smaller breeds tend to come into heat before they turn 1 year old.

There are 4 stages of the estrus cycle for our pups.


This is the beginning stages of your female dog going into heat. She will start to bleed and her vulva will swell. She may even start urinating more than normal and her fertile scent will attract males. Don’t worry though, she is not interested yet in mating with a male. This stage lasts for 7 – 10 days.

*Side note: I didn’t realize Chai had started bleeding and I tried to figure out why there was blood on my tile floor… I ended up blaming my kids or my husband for injuring themselves and not cleaning up afterwards. The joke was on me because I found out that Chai was in heat.


This is the stage where your female will accept males and want to mate. Ovulation will occur at this stage about 2 – 3 days after mating. Bleeding will begin to dissipate at this stage as well and estrus can last 5 – 10 days.


This is the stage where everything seems to calm down. This can last 10 – 60 days depending on if your female became pregnant. Her vulva will return to normal size, and she will not accept any dates from her male companions.


This stage allows for the uterus to repair and relax (it’s been through a lot!). Your female’s hormones will return to normal and she will definitely not be interested in a sexual relationship with any male. This stage lasts from 90-150 days or until the next heat cycle.

An active heat cycle can last for a few weeks or more depending on the breed. We were fortunate that Chai’s cycle lasted approximately 4 weeks; 2 of which where she was really interested in hooking up with Beckham.

A small reminder…a female can get pregnant at any point of estrus because the male’s sperm can last up to 1 week in the reproductive tract and can still possibly fertilize the egg. If you think pregnancy is possible, talk to your vet!

Signs Your Female Dog is in Heat

There are various signs you will begin to notice when your female begins her estrus cycle.

The first sign is she will have an enlarged or swollen vulva. At this point, you may see her licking her genital area excessively.

You will also notice bloody vaginal discharge. The amount of discharge varies from dog to dog and can be anywhere from bloody to a straw like color. As the estrus cycle continues, you will see the bloody discharge change to more of a yellow color and it will dissipate. Remember, that at this stage, you may find discharge on your dog’s bedding, on the floor…or anywhere she may sit.

Your female will also become more receptive males as she is ready to mate. When she is ready for the male, you will see her move her tail to the side, inviting her male companion to mount. She will allow males to mount her, but she may also mount other pets in the house, including other females. You may even see her try to mount your leg.

In our experience with Chai, she wouldn’t leave Beckham alone. She would follow him around and then present her back end to him… Poor Beckham had to be separated from her because she was super persistent.

When in heat, your female may become more agitated or aggressive towards other female dogs. She may also become a little more nervous or skittish.

Another sign of estrus is that your female may need to urinate more often. I will tell you my door turned into a revolving door at that time because Chai needed outside much more often.


What to do When a Female Dog is in Heat

If your female dog goes into heat, there are few things you will need to consider. Here are some tips to help the heat cycle go a little more smoothly.

  • Make sure her microchip and licensing is up to date. Is her microchip associated with your current address and phone number? Does she have tags on her collar? This will help in the event she escapes and runs off to find the man of her dreams.
  • Keep your female dog on leash when out for a walk. She may be well-trained; however, don’t underestimate her willingness to forgo said training to find a willing male to mate with.
  • Don’t let her out in the yard alone (unless you have very tall walls with barbed wire fence making sure other male dogs can’t enter!) At this time, she is emitting the “come hither” pheromones, so neighbor dogs may be interested in finding her.
  • If you have male dogs in the home, neutered or not, keep them separated from your female. Even if your males are neutered, they still know what to do and what your female is asking for.
  • If you notice any signs of illness, contact your veterinarian immediately. There are occasions where the female may contract a bacterial infection of the uterus called pyometra. The uterine lining becomes thick and produces more fluid which creates a very inviting environment for bacteria. This can be life-threatening, so it is vital you get your baby girl to the vet.
  • If you suspect your female did meet the man of her dreams (this cycle) and they consummated their relationship, it is a good idea to contact your veterinarian to find what steps you need to take if she is pregnant.
  • It is a good time to make an appointment with your veterinarian to spay your female about a month after her first heat cycle is done…especially if you do not want any unplanned pregnancies.

Products That May Help During the Heat Cycle

So, you may want to look into a couple things to help keep the home clean and your female dog a bit more comfortable when she is in heat.

1. Doggy Diapers.

Chewy has some cute doggy diapers to choose from. These will help keep your female’s discharge from getting on everything from the floor to your bed! Check out the cute colored Pet Parent’s Washable Dog Diapers.

What to do When a Female Dog is in Heat

These come in sizes from extra small to extra large, which is great, considering I always have trouble finding sizes for my large breed dogs! Per Chewy, these diapers are mess-proof, with a sewn in pad to absorb liquids, leak proof, and the fasteners don’t stick to fur. These are best for senior dogs with incontinence or for females in heat. The best part? They are reusable, so you can wash and use again.

You can also find reasonable disposable or reusable doggy diapers on Amazon. It depends on how many diapers you need, if you plan on breeding your female, or if you just need something short term. Simple Solution Disposable Dog Diapers may be an option for you if you are looking for a short term solution.

These disposable diapers come in different sizes; however, you may pay a little more if you have a larger breed dog. The diapers are not as cute as the colored washable diapers; however, they do serve a purpose. According to the manufacturer, the diapers are comfortable, lock in moisture, and do not stick to fur.

2. Cleaning Supplies:

If you find you are having to clean up discharge on the carpet or furniture, here are few options that work really well to get stains out.

Natures Miracle Enzymatic Stain Remover : Natures Miracle has been a life saver for my family. With every pet we get, we know there is some sort of clean up that will need to happen. Natures Miracle helps keep the house clean and  smelling better. (I have been told that people couldn’t tell we had pets until they saw them because our house didn’t smell like dogs or cats! That’s a huge win!)

Resolve Ultra Pet Stain and Odor Remover: This is also a really good product that I use. I spray it on the carpet stain, wipe it  up and then use a carpet cleaner to remove the rest of the stain. It leaves the carpet clean and smelling much better!

So, if your female dog is in heat, I would definitely look into these products. The cleaners are useful in many situations such as accidents or spillage, but I wanted to add them in because you may need them to clean up during this time as well.

When and Why to Spay Your Female


The general consensus is to spay your female around 6 – 7 months of age; however, it can depend on the breed. My vet recommended Chai to be spayed around 10 months old .

The reason to spay after 4 months old (which used to be the standard age) is because your female still needs her reproductive hormones to grow. Her bones, joints, and organs need time to develop properly.

Talk to your veterinarian regarding the best time to spay your female.


There are plenty of benefits to spaying your female in general. You can see my article “Benefits to Spaying and Neutering Your Pet” for more details, but I will summarize here:

  • This helps reduce the overpopulation of pets in the animal shelters
  • It eliminates the possibility of uterine infections.
  • It reduces the likelihood of certain cancers, such as mammary, uterine, or ovarian cancers.
  • Spaying will eliminate going through the nuisance of heat cycles
  • It eliminates the hormonal fluctuation that can cause false pregnancies.
  • Spayed dogs generally live a longer life than those who are not spayed.
  • It can reduce the likelihood of certain behaviors such as separation anxiety

There are a few disadvantages; however, the advantages of spaying your female outweighs the following:

  • It may decrease metabolism increasing the possibility of obesity.
  • Spaying larger breeds before bone growth is complete can potentially be a cause of knee injuries.
  • It may cause urinary incontinence (which usually affects middle age – senior dogs)


I know this was a longer post; however, I felt it important to go through all of this information in the event you end up with a surprise heat cycle like we did!

Fortunately, we were able to get through Chai’s first heat cycle with very little issue. There was a little more clean up and separation of her and Beckham, but we survived! Approximately a month after the end of the cycle, she was spayed, so we won’t need to worry about any male suitors down the road.

I hope this article helps get you and your fur baby through the process. If possible, I do recommend spaying your girl prior to the first cycle, but I also understand that isn’t possible sometimes.

Let me know your experiences with your female’s heat cycle. Did she go through anything different?

16 thoughts on “What to do When a Female Dog is in Heat”

  1. Thank you for this useful information. Not only it is very useful, it’s reassuring and very detailed for people who don’t know much about pets.

    And we’ve all got to start somewhere. So thank you for making it easy for us.

    I always wanted a dog but was sort of scared to get it. Other dog owners seem to have it all figured out. And I don’t want to fail my dog. But with article such as this one, I feel much more reassured!

    1. My goal is to help other pet owners to become more educated about pet health and how to keep them with us longer (as well as keep their spirits alive after they have passed over the rainbow bridge). I hope you feel a little more at ease about bringing a dog into your family with these types of articles. Don’t forget you would also have a bunch of communities out there to help you through any questions you may have!

  2. Great information here. As you said this cycle is not the same for all dogs but I think you have included all the basic things one should know about this period of time. As with everything this natural process of our dogs need their own taking care of and we need to be extra careful and pay attention to any abnormal behavior in our dogs. Health is of utmost importance, we just need to be a bit extra responsible.

    1. Yes, absolutely! I agree that we need to be extra responsible especially if our pets are not spayed or neutered or if they are having any type of health issues. They cannot speak for themselves, so we need to ensure we are able to take care of their basic needs. 

  3. Thank you very much for this valuable detailed post about Female Dog Heat. This is really a very important post for me. Because I have two female dogs. So I have a lot of hands on this. I think these doggy diapers will be very useful. Keep posting like this. I will definitely share this.

    1. Thanks so much for your response! Let me know if there is anything else you would like to learn! 

  4. We had the same experience with our first dog that her cycle seemed to come around far too quickly, before she was a year old as well. And I was so new to it all and also thought why do I find drops of blood on the floor and where is it coming from?  

    And our dog did become pregnant at the time, mainly because of our ignorance of when she was on heat and the times afterwards. So reading this post is really helpful to reassure anybody that has a dog that has come on heat.

    1. I can imagine how surprising that first heat and pregnancy could have been! It’s not like you can set your watch to when your female will go into heat, so it’s important to watch for any signs if she is not spayed. I hope everything turned out ok with your female after her pregnancy. That may be another blog post in the future. 🙂

  5. Hey, Dear Kelly. I have read some of your posts before and I appreciate that you provide a comprehensive overview of pets. Reading your posts always gives me lots of information and helps me a lot, cause I have a pet too. I will share it with my friends, I’m sure it will help them too.

  6. Very interesting content! I learned a whole bunch of stuff that I had not known.  It is surprising how early the females can begin Estrus.  What are the health effects on the mother and puppies if such a young dog where to conceive and deliver her babies?  I thought that I could recall some negative circumstances that might arise when this situation occurs.  Maybe I am mistaken.  Either way, thank you for sharing this unique information with us as well as your experience with the topic.  Always good to better equip us with the tools to best love and care for our pets.

    1. Thank you for your comments! A female dog should not get pregnant during her first heat because she is still growing and developing. If she were to get pregnant before she is done developing, the pregnancy can take a toll on her body. Pregnancy can also affect her behaviorally considering she is still a puppy and too young to care for her own puppies. She may reject the puppies or even hurt them (by rolling over on them or playing too rough). 

      I hope that helps!

  7. thanks for your thoughtful post on what to do when a female dog is in heat. 

    The products you mentioned seem really useful and I wish we had these available when we had dogs a long time ago. I grew up with dogs but never really understood what our dogs were going through when they were in heat. I was too young I think to really understand. 

    We spayed out last family dog, but I’m unsure as to what age. She was a border collie but I do remember we didn’t have to go through the in heat process so we must have timed this pretty well. Thank you for a thoughtful post

    1. Thanks Dale! It is amazing how many products are out there these days…and that there are sooo many options. Who would have thought putting a pink doggie diaper on your dog would be a thing? haha! 

      I always tell those who have unspayed females that if they are not going to breed them, please spay! It is important to care for your pup’s health, but also help reduce the overpopulation of unwanted pets. 

      Thanks again!

  8. Thanks for a detailed post on how to deal with a female dog when in heat. We have two adult female dogs and it’s the season again when dogs are in heat. Last weekend, we went to visit my mom at our family house only to find 3 to 4 dogs roaming around our house. At first, I didn’t know what was going on until those male dogs started fighting over our 2 female dogs. OMG! 

    My mom doesn’t want any more dogs so I planned to have them spayed but I completely forgot all about it. Now, my mom dreads having to take care of new puppies again. She thought she was done with this because our two young ones are in their 4th month and very naughty, lol. 

    You mentioned that the best time to have a female dog spayed is on the 6th to 12th month, do you think it’s still possible to have our female dog spayed even though she has already given birth 4 or five times already? 

    1. Absolutely! It is not too late to spay your female even if she has had multiple litters. It’s even more important to spay now because your mom doesn’t want to care for more puppies! Plus…it will also help reduce the chance for some cancers. I would definitely talk with your vet and see when the best time to spay would be for your girls. 

      Thanks so much for the comments!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *