My female isn't fixed and I don't intend for her to be bred. How do I deal with her heat(s)?

This forum is for dog lovers seeking everyday advice and suggestions on health-related issues. Remember, however, that advice on a public forum simply can't be a substitute for proper medical attention. Only your vet can say assuredly what is best for your dog.

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Proud to be a- kitchen wolf!!!
Barked: Tue Feb 27, '07 1:44pm PST 
It seems there have been a LOT of posts here on Dogster lately regarding accidental breedings. I thought maybe a thread regarding how to deal with having un-fixed dogs might help out so that people can avoid the hard choices that come with accidental breedings.

There are a lot of reasons why people see a female dog through at least one heat. Some of these reasons have a valid base health-wise, some are just plain irresponsible. It seems there has been a resurgence of people who are deciding to let their females reach maturity before spaying, some on the advice of their vet. Some people agree that this is good, some think it's bad, and some are in-between on the issue. There are health issues to consider with both.

If you have decided to wait (or not spay at all) for whatever reason, you're going to have to deal with your female "coming into season". To deal with this in a responsible manner, you need to know what is going on in your dog's body, and what this means to other dogs -- especially in-tact males. I'm not going to write my own account of all this given that there are plenty of books and websites that detail this info. The first step in ensuring that you do not have an accidental breeding is DO NOT WAIT to read-up on the subject. Don't wait until you notice your girl showing signs of coming into heat. By then it may be much harder to make sure nothing happens. Arm yourself with knowledge well before you have to start worrying about it. By knowing what's going in in her body, you might pick up on the more subtle signs of a heat coming on than noticing blood one day. There are many sites that discuss this in varying amounts of scientific terminology. A good webpage that falls in the middle is at http://ledeckgsd.com/articles/bitches-heat.htm.

So, assuming you've prepared yourself with some book-smarts, what about dealing with the logistics of keeping your in-heat female from being bred? It's obviously going to depend on your dog, how many dogs you have, and your living situation what you actually need to worry about. The constant, though, is in-tact males. You have to keep any un-neutered males away from your female. This is oftentimes easier said than done.

If you happen to own an in-tact male, your job is MUCH more difficult than if you only have dogs that can't breed with each other. There is only one sure-fire way to make sure your pets don't breed with each other, and that's to spay and neuter them. It seems that most of the accidental breedings that get brought up here on Dogster involve a household of at least two dogs who still have the "necessary equipment" involved in creating puppies. There are many myths that people have regarding these types of situations. It is important to understand that many of these are MYTHS and not being informed will likely end in an accidental breeding. The ones I can think of now (others help me out!) include:
-- Thinking one or both of the dogs is too young to breed
-- Thinking that because the dogs are related (literally or figuratively) that they won't mate
-- Thinking that because the male isn't showing much or any interest at all at one stage of the heat that nothing will happen later
-- Thinking that the blood is a sign of the heat being over
-- Thinking the end of the bleeding stage means that the heat is over (this is a BIG one!)
-- Thinking that if a "tie" doesn't hold for a certain amount of time that a mating hasn't taken place
-- Thinking that the female not allowing the male to mount means that she's not interested at all and you don't have to worry

If you have an female in heat and an in-tact male dog, they will require around-the-clock supervision OR completely reliable sequestering. It is important to understand that dogs will do ANYTHING to get the chance to mate. Otherwise "good" dogs are not able to go against what is one of the strongest urges in nature -- continuing family lines and ensuring it's YOUR genetic material that's passed on. The dogs need to be separated into spaces where they have NO contact with each other if you are not there to supervise. Supervision in this case means being able to actually SEE the dogs. It only takes minutes for dogs to get "stuck". Once a tie has been formed YOU CANNOT PULL THEM APART. You could cause severe damage and bleeding trying to separate them after a tie has taken place. Dogs have DIED because of people doing this. If your dogs tie, consider a breeding to have taken place.

Dogs have been known to chew thru walls, jump out of windows (even second-story ones if not higher -- I have personal experience with this one), mate thru fences, and go to other seemingly insane lengths to breed. Keeping one dog in a kennel and the other running loose is NOT ENOUGH to ensure a mating doesn't happen. Dogs will break out of kennels -- or break each other out of kennels -- if given the opportunity. It may not be pretty having the dogs separated, but you gotta do it. Males may cry and whine ALL NIGHT and ALL DAY. They will hurt themselves trying to get to a female. I'm willing to bet that a number of "accidental" breedings happen when owners think, "ALL RIGHT! I can't take it anymore! I'll just let him out for a minute and keep an eye on them...."

What if you only have the female dog? You still need to be very careful. You have to assume that there are in-tact male dogs loose at all times, even if you know your neighbors are responsible dog owners or have never noticed any male dogs around before. A female's scent can be smelled by dogs up to MILES away, and they will do what they can to come visit. If a neighbor's dog jumps over or digs under an up-to-now reliable fence, it is ultimately your problem, despite "who's fault" it really is. During your female's heat do not let her outside unsupervised even if your yard is securely fenced. Do not leave her in a crate in a yard. Do not leave her tied up in your yard. Remember that it's not just her you have to worry about. If you assume at all times that there might be a male around, remember a mating can happen in a very short time, and know that even formerly secure areas are not necessarily enough to keep your female from being bred, and act on those assumptions, she SHOULD be relatively safe.

Of course she will need to get out for exercise during her heat. While it's not necessary to keep her confined to your house or yard during this time, you will want to be safe about your activities during her heat. Public dog parks and off leash areas will be off-limits to you at this time. Even if a park is empty and you figure it's OK to let her have a romp around, what happens when someone shows up with their male? Even if you're fairly certain you can prevent a breeding, you can't be certain that fights don't break out either involving your dog or other dogs. It's best to restrict time in public to leash-walks only. Even the most obedient females with the best recalls will disobey the "COME" command when they're in heat, especially if it means doing anything that can help the cause of passing on her genes. This may mean wandering off extra far to mark or search for scent clues left by males, searching out viable "daddies" on her own, the chance to say "hello" to another dog, or disobeying the "COME" command from a distance to get the chance to mate with a dog that just showed up before you can make it over there to break it up. Dog owners of sexually aware males will appreciate you staying out of dog parks so that their dog won't get obsessed with the signs she's leaving them. Even leash walks aren't totally safe. If there's an unsupervised male in the viscinity (perhaps he broke out of his yard to come calling on you), he may not listen to or respect your human authority over what he views only as a prospective mom of his pups at the end of a leash. Keep your eye out on walks and make sure you can get to relative safety before any males get too close for comfort. This is not the time to let her do "meet and greets" with other dogs you may run into on leash -- male or female, fixed or not. If the other dog owner makes a move to come over to you, reign in your dog and just say something like, "I'm sorry, she's in heat. Not the best time for her to say hello."

So, to sum up:
-- Learn about the canine reproductive process BEFORE your female goes into heat.
-- Keep your female WELL AWAY from intact males AT ALL TIMES during her heat.
-- To be on the safe side, go about all activities assuming there is an intact male loose in the area.
-- If there is a slip-up and you catch your female "tied" with a male DO NOT try to separate them. Assume a breeding has taken place and see a vet immediately.
-- If you dont' think that you can do any one of the things mentioned above, have your female spayed. If you are waiting for her to reach maturity for perceived health reasons, remember it's a lot safer and healthier for her to be spayed before her first heat than to experience a spay termination or unplanned pregnancy.

I hope this at least sparked some interest or concerns for those with unfixed females. Let's prevent those accidental breedings BEFORE they happen!!!


Barked: Tue Feb 27, '07 1:49pm PST 
wow Meridian! thanks for taking the time and effort to write all of that up to help educate people. I have fixed boys but I do wonder how people deal with their girls heats. Thanks for being so informative and caring. applauseway to gosmile

Rosie- *FOUND*

www.findrosie.co- m
Barked: Tue Feb 27, '07 2:10pm PST 
Great info, Meridian. I thought long and hard about spaying Rosie at 6 months. I had some good reasons for waiting until she was fully mature. But then I thought about our lifestyle. We live in the city with a tiny yard. Most of the off leash exercise is at the park - we couldn't go there. Our classes don't allow females in heat. What on earth would I do with her?? She would have been bored and probably destructive shut up for three weeks at a go.

Plus I started to think about the physical messiness.

Anyway, it wasn't a kneejerk reaction to spay her at 6 months, but I made the right choice for us and the way we live.

Kaiser - My sweet boy- is gone

The Mister
Barked: Tue Feb 27, '07 2:19pm PST 
The fights that could happen terrify me and it's not only between 2 male dogs.

My friend's grandmother didn't fix her male and 2 females fought over him. He was caught in it... they literally ripped him apart.

When it comes to heats.. intact males... intact females. They are just not predictable. It's a problem I never want to deal with and I never will.

Silent Observer
Barked: Tue Feb 27, '07 2:31pm PST 
A great way to make others aware - tell them.

I was at a show this weekend, which means that Storm (neutered; he is a rescue and not breed standard) and I were wandering around grounds that were positively teeming with intact males and females.

We met one woman with a striking borzoi who, during introductions, told everyone in our small group that the borzoi was in heat - so we all knew to keep our dogs away from her and were extra vigilant in monitoring our own dogs' behaviors.

While I can't gurantee that such an approach will work for everyone, it's certainly worth a shot. Plus, it'll make those of us with dogs who tend to go a little crazy around intact dogs feel a bit better when we start to see our pups exhibit these behaviors.

Another tip - some kennels board intact animals. If you are leaving your intact dog at a kennel, label everything clearly even if your dog is not in heat. It is especially hard to determine an intact female from sight only, and some kennels do not pay very close attention to who is intact and who isn't. I would personally have a special collar made - or even buy a cheap collar and write something on it like "NOT FIXED" or "INTACT". This will let every person at that kennel know that that dog should not be housed with or around intact dogs of the other sex.

Proud to be a- kitchen wolf!!!
Barked: Tue Feb 27, '07 3:00pm PST 
Ooooh good points, guys. I totally didn't even think about the whole boarding kennel thing! It's not totally uncommon for females surrounded by in-tact males to go into heat a little earlier than expected. Hey- if you've got the chance take it, right? If you've got an in-tact female that's even close to an expected heat make sure you tell the kennel. Better yet put off what you're doing and don't kennel her, not only for the sake of the dog, but the kennel employees! I've got a friend who has some dog-sitting clients and one of them went into her first heat while in her care. She didn't even think to ask these people if the dog had been spayed -- she was a mix-breed who came out of a rescue situation so she just assumed, which admittedly in retrospect was not a good idea! Despite the guy being a medical doctor the family apparently had no clue what was going to happen. Argh!

A DOG is for- LIFE.
Barked: Tue Feb 27, '07 3:12pm PST 
Thank you so much Meridian hail

I have had a female who could not be anesthetized, and therefore, no spay. She was small, and because we did not own an intact male, managing this situation was not incredibly difficult, but it did take knowledge and judicious supervision. I would not want to attempt it with a larger dog, but do understand that for various reasons people are doing so.

I have heard sooooo many who believe that the heat is over when the bleeding stops. When bleeding stops is usually when standing heat is just starting, and the absolute worst time to let your girl socialize with other dogs. I am glad you pointed out this myth in particular.

As well, heats can last up to one month. Standing heat lasts 9-21 days, and you do not want to gamble on a few days before or after this time period.

Remember, the males are not the only dogs affected by the females scent. The female will try to find a male. She may whine and cry to be let out. She will try to escape if given the chance. She will have extra spurts of energy, and she will often mount stuffed animals or anything she can think of as a replacement male through this time. If you have another female in the house, she will be affected by the hormones as well.

Also, although uterine infection is rarely an issue in a young dog, it can happen. Your female needs to be monitored for signs of this 6 weeks following her heat.

Again, thank you Meridian. This is such an important topic.applause
Kaiser - My sweet boy- is gone

The Mister
Barked: Tue Feb 27, '07 3:13pm PST 
If I had a kennel, I wouldn't even take any intact dogs. I'd ask for proof of spay.. the boys... well that's usually easy to tell!

I babysat a cat once for 2 weeks that went into heat on me. I was one step away from slipping myself a cyanide capsule. Soooo ANNOYING! Felt sorry for her though, not her fault. But I can tell you one thing.. I was very tempted to invite that tom cat staring in my window in for dinner and dancing.. just to shut her up!

I was told all kinds of crazy things to do! One lady told me to slip a Q-tip into her vagina! GOOD GOD!!!!

So yeah.. don't listen to any old wives tales.. the only thing you can do is let it run it's course.. responsibily!

A DOG is for- LIFE.
Barked: Tue Feb 27, '07 8:50pm PST 
I thought of one more thing, for those who happen to have two intact dogs of opposite sexes in the same home through a heat. Of course breeders sometimes do this, but remember often their males reside elsewhere.

My neighbor owned his male, and not only were the dogs separated by crates and doors when they couldn't be watched, they also constantly wore doggy diapers and belly bands. Even in his crate, the males belly band would remain on, just in case he managed to escape. There were also other times he would take a holiday to a friends house if it could be arranged.

I would hate to think of people just giving up and thinking things could not be prevented, although having intact dogs together is definately problematic and often a recipe for an OOOOPS. shock
Nakita Mae- Angel Girl

Live to dock- dive!
Barked: Tue Feb 27, '07 9:06pm PST 
Hi, one problem with an intact female can also be pyometra, this is when the uterus becomes infected and at that time the dog has to be spayed. We see it quite a bit at the vet clinic, the dogs present either just coming out of heat or has been bred and they are running a fever, sometimes have a terrible vaginal discharge and are very sick. So if you are not going to spay your dog keep a close eye on her during and after her cycles.
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