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How To Tell When Your Dog is in Heat
by Kimmy Hoffman

If you're among the growing numbers of responsible dog owners who are reading and
trying to find your way through the morass of information and debate surrounding the
question of how early is too early to spay or neuter (speuter) your puppy you are in
good company.

If you've got a female and this is the first time you've had to deal with one approaching
adolescence, well, you will have a lot of questions as that first heat approaches, and
you may still have more as the second one looms around the corner.

One of the more unnerving aspects of first heats is that they can be completely
unpredictable. Your young bitch is perfectly normal one day, and then the next she's
“off.” She may be moody, swinging from offering invitations to play one moment, tail
wagging madly, flopping her chest down into a play bow then dashing off sideways
wanting a game of tag; then suddenly she's whiny and clingy, crying if you're out of her
sight, snarking at the other dogs she wanted to play with five seconds ago.

You are experiencing the canine version of PMS.

Now is when you start watching her like a hawk since you aren't familiar with her cycles
yet. You can't be, they haven't settled down into a rhythm. This is when you keep an eye
on any male dogs around her and stop leaving them together when you aren't right
there. Even if they are crated in your absence, move her crate to a different room.

This phase may last for a few days or it may last for two or three weeks. There is no real
way to determine at this point. The standard approximation for a heat cycle even varies,
but usually is estimated at 7 - 10 days coming in, another 7 - 10 days “in” and another 7
- 10 day period coming out of the heat. Never, ever forget, though, that this is not
something that can be defined by the calendar. Every bitch has her own cycle; some are
shorter, some longer, not all have a neat, equally divided season either.

Fairly early in the cycle it will be apparent that the bitch's vulva is swelling, some more
noticeably than others. It will remain that way throughout the cycle and being aware of
changes in size will help you have a better idea of how far along in her cycle she is.

The next sign in the progression of the heat will be droplets of blood. When fresh, it
should be bright red. If the fresh blood appears dark or brownish, make a call to your
vet. Don't panic, just check. It's better to err on the side of caution. This is when the
“fun” starts. It's messy; some bitches are messier than others. Occasionally you'll run
across one who has such a small flow and keeps herself so clean that you'll never
notice if you aren't paying attention to the signs preceding this stage.

This is also the stage where she absolutely needs to be kept away from any intact male
dogs. Aside from the irresponsibility of bringing an unplanned litter into the world, no
bitch should ever, ever be bred on a first heat. Ever. There is no way to emphasize that
enough. Do not let her out into the fenced back yard to potty. Take her out on a leash --
a real, strong one, not a retractable lead. Don't think that an intact male can't get to her
through a fence; it's happened. Don't think the neighbor's weiner dog can't reach your
long legged Dane. It's happened. A bitch in heat can be quite accommodating once
she's reached the stage where she is ready to stand for a dog.

Investing in some panties with disposable liners can make this part of a heat cycle much
less stressful for you. If your girl is a larger breed, men's boxers will work. Put them on
her backward so that the fly will allow her tail to escape the confinement and secure
them around her waist with something tied or, better yet, a wide band of elastic with
velcro glued on the ends to fasten.
Continue to keep her away from intact male dogs until the bleeding has stopped AND
the swelling subsided. Dog sperm has been known to remain viable inside the
reproductive tract of a female for as long as 268 hours.

But wait, just when you thought you had this all figured out . . . sometimes a heat can be
“silent.” You don't get any real overt warning signs except for the way other dogs are
reacting to her. If you aren't sure, once again, err on the side of caution. Check with
your vet or keep her away from any intact males.

Brought to you by
Kimmy Hoffman of Where you can find the Dog
Kennels and Dog Tracking Collars that you need.