Companion Dog in Heat? How to Deal with the Situation
I love my dogs.
Anyone who has read my hub titled "My Child, My Dog" knows that I'm one of those annoying dog owners who worships their canine companions and treats them as children. Much as new parents are sometimes amazed at the things they must do for their children, so are we dog-obsessed types sometimes amazed at the things we must do for our animals. Case in point: when a female dog (or bitch, if you prefer) goes into heat unexpectedly, her owner must take special steps to care for her. Before I get into all of that, though, let me give you a little more background on how my beloved Diane came to live with us.
A Little Ditty about Jack and Diane...
My husband and I had a pair of black Labs when we lived in Florida. When we decided to move to the Mid-Atlantic, it became necessary to find new homes for them. We didn't want to buy a house in Maryland because we didn't know how long we would live there, and we were unable to find a suitable apartment that would allow us to keep two large dogs and two cats. My inlaws took our male Lab, as he was a frequent guest at their house, and gave him many years of individual attention and love until he passed away. We found a nice family to take our female Lab. The wife worked from home and wanted a mature companion animal. The moment that we visited their home and saw that they didn't care that Abbey immediately dove onto their couch, we knew she would be well loved. I mourned the loss of my babies, but it was something that had to be done.
After we had been in Maryland for a couple of years, we decided to build a new house. As soon as we knew that our days of apartment living were nearing end, we began researching dogs, both feeling as though life was somehow incomplete without a dog in the family. After much research and consideration, we decided that the Vizsla, a Hungarian pointing breed, was the breed for us. A little further research yielded a local professional dog trainer who specialized in Vizslas. We went to his farm and met some of his dogs, and were convinced that we were on the right track. The trainer toured the country with the dogs he trained and handled and partipated in field trials, and we decided we wanted to be involved.
When we had a closing date for our house, we called the trainer, and learned that he had a litter of puppies that would be ready a week after we closed. The timing couldn't have been more perfect!
In July 2005, we brought Jack home. He was the cutest puppy I had ever seen (I may have been biased), and was the fattest in the litter of eight. As Jack grew, we often took him back to the farm to run and play. During one of these play sessions, I learned that one of the females of his litter, Diane, had been left behind by her owners (she had been kept as pick of the litter by the couple who owned the litter's dam) because they had small children at home and didn't want to be bother with a pup. From then on, whenever we took Jack to play, we would be sure to spend time with Diane, as well, and I soon fell in love with her.
When Jack was six months old, it was time to turn him over to the trainer for his first season of field trials. I cried, not wanting to let him go. The house seemed empty for months afterward, until he came home at nine months of age looking like a slightly gangly version of a full grown dog. Having Jack home was wonderful, but a few months later we had to give him up again. We went through this a couple of times, the tears when I had to turn him over, and the joy when he was home. As soon as we moved to New York and bought another house, I decided we needed another dog to live with us full time.
I contacted a friend we had met through the trainer, another breeder who lived in Georgia, to see if she had any adult females that she was ready to sell. She did, and I was excited. Before we had a chance to make any arrangements, however, my husband and I took a weekend trip to Connecticut to see Jack's last field trial of the Fall season and bring him home for the holidays.
It was while we were at that field trial that Diane came back into our lives. Her owners, who also lived in Connecticut, had decided that they couldn't care for her, and brought her back to the trainer. He didn't need another non-trialing dog around the farm, so Diane was instantly ours. And I was thrilled.
We brought Diane home with us on Sunday night. On Monday morning I called our veterinarian and made an appointment for a week later to have Diane spayed. On the Saturday before her appointment, at the age of one and a half years, Diane went into season for the very first time. I guess she was a late bloomer.
Diane in Diapers
I was absolutely mortified about Diane's situation. On Friday night, my husband noticed that her hind girly parts were hugely swollen, and that Jack seemed especially insistent on following her around. On Saturday morning, there were droplets of blood on her crate pad. And more droplets formed a trail behind her as she trotted through the house. Clearly, this was not OK.
In a panic, I e-mailed our friend in Georgia and asked for help. How long was this going to last? Anywhere from 2 - 4 weeks, as this was Diane's first cycle. How the heck do I let her out in the house without her bleeding everywhere? "Bitches Britches."
She told me about these doggy diapers that were designed especially for the female's heat cycle and/or incontinent dogs. When used with a panty liner, they kept things neat so that the poor dog didn't have to spend the entire time locked in a crate.
We drove three hours to the nearest PetSmart that very day. The results can be seen in the picture above. Cute, no? She really didn't mind wearing them, as she quickly learned that the only way she was going to get to run and play was if she had her pretty panties on. We did have a couple of instances where we forgot to take them off of her when we took her outside. Fortunately, they were machine washable.
Diane's heat cycle lasted a full 21 days, during which time Jack had a hard (no pun intended) time leaving her alone. Evidently dogs don't really understand the concept of incest, and all poor Jack knew was that Diane smelled gooooood.
As soon as enough time had passed for Diane's girly parts to return to normal, she was spayed. Best $200 I've ever spent on a dog.
Tips for Dealing with a Female Dog in Heat
- Know what you're dealing with. Bitches generally reach sexual maturity between 6 and 18 months of age. Spaying at or before the six month mark will, in most cases, allow you to avoid having your dog go into heat. If it's too late for that, then you should know how to recognize the different stages of the heat cycle. Proestrus, when the vulva swells and the bloody discharge begins, lasts roughly nine days. Estrus, the period during which the female ovulates and beomes receptive to males attempting to mate, can last much longer. The dog will frequently continue to bleed through estrus. Proestrus and estrus combined can last anywhere from 5 to 21 days, depending on the dog. Diestrus, the period following estrus, during which the dog's girly parts and hormone levels return to normal (as long as she is not pregnant), can last two to three months. Many vetrinarians do not recommend spaying until the diestrus period has ceased. Anestrus is the four to five month period during which the female is "normal" and doesn't like boys.
- Protect your bitch in heat. Never let her outdoors off leash or leave her outside without supervision. Male dogs can smell a pretty girl (or even an ugly one) in heat from a distance of up to five miles, and they don't tend to be very discriminating. Jack and I were both miffed to find all kinds of other boy dogs on our property while his sister smelled nice. My husband thought it was funny.
- Buy your princess some pretty panties. These will let her frolic in the house without bleeding on your favorite rugs, couches, bedding, etc. Lay in a supply of regular human panty liners, and give her a fresh one, as needed. When your dog is crated, she will not need the panties, as most female dogs will tend to keep themselves and their dens clean.
- Be patient. Just like human women get PMS, so do girl dogs, and they can't take Midol. Your girl's hormones are all over the place, and she may become a little agitated. Love her, but watch out for signs of aggression.
If you have any questions or concerns about your female dog in season, contact your local vetrinarian or animal shelter for information and advice.
Also, please remember that, unless you are a professional breeder, spaying or neutering your pet is the safest way to avoid unplanned breedings that may result in unwanted puppies, or puppies who are predisposed to health issues.