How to Care For a Female Dog in Heat

July 8, 2010

By Suzanne Alicie

Female dogs that aren’t spayed go into season or into heat approximately every 6 months. This can be a real annoyance to pet owners and to all other pets in the household.

The heat cycle for a female dog lasts about 3 weeks. During that time her vulva will swell and she will have a bloody discharge. While she is in heat your dog will be constantly releasing pheromones which will attract all the male dogs in your neighborhood.

Do not leave your female dog alone outdoors when she is in heat. Male dogs will become aggressive and have been known to dig and jump fences to mate. Keeping your female indoors will help eliminate the fear of unwanted puppies or attacks by neighborhood males.

However, keeping the female dog inside while she is in heat can also be inconvenient. The discharge can be not only messy but also quite smelly. The best option is to keep your female indoors and confined to an area where the discharge won’t be a problem to clean up, such as a tiled or concrete area in the basement or garage. Baby gates are an easy way to confine your dog without putting her behind a closed door.

If you crate your female while she is in heat it is important to place the crate where she will be able to spend time with “her” people, and also to let her out to exercise. You don’t want your dog to feel as if she is being punished. Another option is to purchase what are known as dog panties, to contain the discharge and avoid messes.

Your female dog may display several aggressive behaviors with other pets in the home while she is in heat. This includes a pushy attitude, shouldering aside other pets, humping, and basically attempting to dominate the others. This is a temporary problem and will subside when she goes out of heat. In the meantime, separation from the other animals is one option, or letting them figure it out on their own is another. This is nature; animals communicate and display their place in the “pack” the way nature dictates. So if your easygoing female suddenly begins acting like a bully, the other animals will either accept the temporary insanity or they will put her in her place.

A female dog in heat will be easily agitated and may pace restlessly during this time. This is not unusual, nor is the whimpering and panting. These are just some of the symptoms of her being in heat, and if she isn’t allowed to breed can be very frustrating to her and you. If you don’t plan to breed your dog, it is much better for her health and your sanity to have her spayed. Responsible pet owners take every precaution to prevent unwanted puppies.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

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  1. Coopie says:

    This is my first female puppy she is in heat now, your information was so helpful. Thank you

  2. Tatum says:

    Hi I have a 7 month old husky & she is in heat right now I plan on breeding her but wanted to wait until she is no longer a puppy and has her second heat I was told to not breed her on her first heat but never really was told why just wondering if this is a known fact and why

    1. Linda says:

      The breeder of my dog does not breed their dogs until they are two to two and half years old. They don’t breed even after the second heat. They have been breeders for 30 years. I’m not sure why this is but there must be a reason not to do it too early

  3. Uus says:

    Hi there, I am a dog rescuer and several times I have had bitches on heat. A way of solving the problem of the discharge is to buy Pampers (appropriately sized) cut out a square where the tail goes and put this on. change her often and allow her time to go to the bathroom. this I do till the discharge has gone and get her sterilized.
    And if your dog behaves differently during her “period” just look at how you feel during that time. Dogs also have feelings, so just be compassionate instead of worried. This strange time will pass too.

  4. Mary says:

    I have a 10 year old chocolate female lab and a 9 year old black male lab. The male was nutered when she got pregnant, we didn’t spay her because I thought since she had the puppies he was the one to get fixed… But now she goes into heat and my male lab will try with her but he gets really tired. I feel she gets frustrated but he gets overwhelmed and he’s had seizures so I get scared when he looks overwhelmed. What can I do? They’re both so close to my husband and me most nights they sleep on our bed so I can’t really separate her, it would be like a punishment for being in heat. Can I spay her at 10?

  5. Jamie says:

    My dog has been biting above her tail while she is in heat and has made it very red and raw is there anything I can put on it?

    1. Trish Ranson says:


  6. Tashelle Sullivan says:

    i have a large rotti x and shes in her 3rd heat (came on when we moved house 3-4 months since her last) my question is, im getting a bichon frise puppy (girl) in a couple of weeks would this cause my rotti to get aggressive because shell be still be in heat? and is their any advice i could have about introducing and signs of her not being interested in the pup?..

  7. Victoria Kelleher says:

    My Zoe is in her first heat, I noticed some strange behavior. She sleeps all day and is avoiding me and others.

  8. Carolina says:

    I have 2 maltese puppies, a male and female 1 month apart. I want to eventually breed them but in about 2 years or so. For now she is in heat and i keep her dog pants pretty much at all times except when i am supervising her to use the potty… are these female dog pants enough to prevent an unwanted pregnancy?.

    1. Danielle says:

      I have two dogs, brother and sister, so they can’t mate. She’s in heat now so I put her in a diaper. If he wants to hump her he’ll have to bite off the diaper. I keep a close eye out for the both of them. So by then I’d have seen if he actually snatched off her diaper.

      1. Danielle says:

        Edit: would have seen him try to snatch off her diaper and separate them.

  9. Bec says:

    We have 2 cocker spaniel babies- 1 male around 7yrs old & 1 female 1.5yrs old. She has just gone on heat & neither of them spayed. As you can imagine this is a total nightmare. We would like her to have 1 litter & then Have her spayed however we don’t want it to be on the first heat as she’s still young & we’re hoping to move on the next few months. Any tips would be greatly appreciated. They cry when they are separated & it’s proving harder to keep them apart especially the past few days.

  10. Tony says:

    If my female is at the beginning of her heat cycle and we plan to breed her this time will taking her to have her teeth cleaned effect her or possible pups. They are not tying yet it is too early

  11. Pat Loyd says:

    My dog has licked her vulva so much during her heat it is bleeding from her licking. Is there something I can put on it?

    1. Danielle says:

      It’s supposed to bleed, right?

  12. Tasha says:

    “Temporary insanity,” that’s quite demeaning for something natural. I guess you feel the same when a woman might be experiencing such a natural response to natures creation.

    1. Jason says:

      It’s a joke.

  13. Eamonn Walsh says:

    Is there anything I can get to mask my dogs oder,

  14. clark says:

    Hello, I have my six-month puppy in heat for a couple of days now. She just had her 2nd deworming last Monday. Today, she’s just acting not the usual. She used to be playful and active. Now, she’s just lying most of the time and does not want to eat her food. Is this normal?

  15. Breanna says:

    my bella just started today
    shes been on our tile floor all day hasnt been really in the mood for playing at all, seems like she doesnt want to move from that place, should i leave her there? also she does have a weird smell and she isnt hungry as much, is that normal? is there eny medicine you can get at a pet store for dogs when in heat? im just very worried and hope this goes away soon

  16. Ana says:

    my female dog has a swollen vulva, her pee does not smell at all. She uses the bathroom normally, eats normal as well. She just hit her 7 months and her nipples look different as well. She has been acting more aggressive or lets say agitated. Should I put like a warm cloth so the swelling can go down?

  17. Ami says:

    If my female dog is in heat and male dogs are attracted to her scent why are the female dogs also coming around her?

  18. Loraine mitchell says:

    In the first week of my dogs heat she ate like a horse this week the 2nd week she is off her food altogether is this normal ?

    1. lindelwa says:

      My dog won’t eat she is in heat is it normal

  19. Lisa says:

    Is it ok to give dog ibprofen while in heat

    1. Deanna Bifulco says:

      No ibuprofen. I gave my dog one, he became very very sick much more than it was and had to take him into ER and he stayed three days there and cost us $1000 so please don’t give your dogs ibuprofen or at least get your vets opinion but my vet said no that’s what caused it.

  20. Pam Carlyle says:

    Thanks for your advice. I have an 8mth old female lab/boxer mix however, I have been reading conflicting reports,- on one hand there is very supportive evidence and encouragement to have your dog spayed early, then another that advises much later-ie; 2yrs, claiming early spaying gives rise to a greater cancer risk-particularly
    heamangiosarcoma, hypothyroidism,joint diseases- forming of the ACL joints. Now I don`t know what to do for the beat. having read the ” How to care for a female dog in heat” – this seems a very daunting prospect to me, but I certainly don`t want to cause her any harm or problems for the future. I should be so grateful for any help/advice on this matter. Pam

  21. Felice Morin says:

    It’s never fun when the dog is in heat. I’ve definitely experienced the male dogs trying to come into my yard as you explained. I found that the best solution was to make a little dog diaper out of some old fabric pieces that were lying around and let her stay in the house. It’s important to remember that the dog is probably not enjoying the event any more than its owner is. Thanks for the information!

  22. Jenna says:

    Hi I have a blue heeler it seems that she is in heat but she got spayed as a baby can she still be in heat???
    She’s also puking white bubbly and her tail is between her legs I know that I got to deworm her cuz it’s almost the day. I just want to make sure all this is normal

  23. Brenna M says:

    Hi. Thank you for the article.
    My roommate has a puppy (she’s 4, but they’re all ‘puppies’ to me. ;), who is in heat (he obviously has not had her spayed).
    I noticed her vulva is very swollen, and she licks it a lot. It looks like it hurts to me, but maybe it doesn’t. I don’t know.
    I was wondering…is there anything I can do to help her…to ease discomfort or anything? I thought about letting her sit in epsom salts for a little bit. Is this a good idea? Is it a bad idea?
    I don’t know. I just have such a soft spot for the Furry Angels, and I would do something to help her if I knew it was actually helping her, but I don’t want to chance hurting her or making it worse, either.
    I have 2, 11 year old, female Lhasa Apso puppies, but I had them spayed when they were just babies, so I have never experienced this before.
    Thanks for your input,
    A Mommy of 4 Furry Angels

    1. Danielle Nelson says:

      I would also really like to know this. Did you by chance find anything since no-one has posted on here yet? My pup is in heat and I just feel like she is in pain. She whimpers so much and I just cant stand that sound, emotionally… I feel so bad for her and I really want to ease her discomfort in any way possible.