The estrus period, which is also known as heat in dogs, is a stage unsprayed female dogs go through. The dog is fertile during the period and is ready to reproduce since the eggs are mature.
Dogs have different responses and behavioral changes during the period, including hormonal and physical alterations.
The period your dog is in heat will go through four stages, all of which have different signs. These stages include the proestrus stage, which is the beginning of the period, and the dog is preparing for mating.
The second stage is the estrus, which is also known as the mating phase, and the dog becomes receptive to the males.
The third stage, diestrus, characterizes the period where the body of the dog either goes back to normal or develops into a pregnancy. The fourth and the last stage is the anestrus, where the dog will exhibit no signs of sexual behaviors or hormonal changes. It is generally the inactive phase.
Several changes experienced through these four stages will help you figure out whether the dog is in heat or not. The signs and symptoms of a dog in heat include:
The vulva of your dog is one of the easiest ways you can tell if it is in heat or not. The vulva is right below the dog’s anus, and when the dog is not in heat, the size is average. When the dog starts going into heat, the size of the vulva begins to increase slightly.
The growth of the vulva’s size will continue and grow to as much as three times the original size when the dog is in full heat. You will also see the swelling vulva developing a reddish color.
Excessive licking of the genital area
In the first stages of the dog being in heat, you may notice the dog increasingly licking her genital areas.
Most of the dogs start licking their genital areas when they enter the heat period. Your dog may not experience or exhibit the licking signs since not every other dog does, and it is perfectly normal.
Interactions between the dog and male dogs
The nature of your dog’s interactions with the male dogs will help you understand whether it is in heat or not. A dog undergoing heat will most likely allow the male dogs to lick her vagina and sniff it for some time without being bothered.
When your dog allows the male partners to mount her, it may be a sign of her submission indicating she is in heat.
It is, therefore, essential for you to read these signs properly. For instance, if your dog is ordinarily aggressive towards other dogs and suddenly becomes welcoming towards the male dogs, it may be a sign of heat.
Another factor you should also be critical about to have the right assumptions is the sniffing behavior of the dogs. It is usual for the dogs to sniff at each other, and if not correctly analyzed, you may wrongfully assume your dog is in heat.
Some female dogs are what we would call silent heaters. These dogs do not show any signs of being in heat even though they still produce hormones but without externally noticeable symptoms.
The male dogs can detect low levels of the hormone and get aroused and interested.
Finally, signs of aggression between the male dogs against each other in the presence of your dog is a sign of your dog being in heat. The males will fight to win the chance of getting her attention.
Vaginal bleeding is a common sign of a dog just before it goes into heat. The blood may, at times, be hard to notice, especially if the dog likes licking itself. If your dog is meticulous, it may be difficult for you to see the blood discharge.
One of the best ways to check for the sign is to check the bedding where the dog sleeps. You may notice traces of blood in them.
At the onset of the vaginal bleeding, the blood is a standard reddish color. When the dog is entirely in heat, the amount of blood will considerably decrease and change in color to have a brownish look. Breeding is best in a dog on the tenth or the eleventh day after you notice the first blood discharge.
Changes in your dog’s tail position
Flagging is a common sign of female dogs in heat. The behavior of curling the tail to one side by the female dog is typical when in heat. The action makes it easier for mating to occur.
One way to test whether the dog is flagging is to give her rump a vigorous scratch. The dog will have her back legs stiffened, and her tail diverted to one side if she is flagging.
How your dog positions her tail is an incredibly easy way to know she is in heat. It is also essential for you not to try anything with the dog’s vulva to check if she is in heat, especially if it is not a medical test. The dog may develop inflamed tissues, which will be disastrous and extremely uncomfortable for her.
Conduct testing at the veterinarian
Visiting the veterinarian is an excellent way to know whether your dog is in heat or not. The veterinarian can decide to conduct a blood progesterone test on the dog to determine the levels. When your dog is in heat, the levels of the progesterone increases.
A blood sample drawn from the dog is for testing is sent to the lab. Medium levels of the blood progesterone indicate your dog is in heat, while high levels will tell you the dog is pregnant.
The veterinarian can also conduct a vaginal cytology test on your dog to determine whether she is in heat. The test is easy to perform and involves the use of a cotton tip being rolled over the vulva lining and then transferred to a microscope slide.
If the examination of the sample displays cornified cells, which are large, including red blood cells, then your dog is in heat.