Every female dog will have a different set of conditions experienced during its heat cycle. Typical signs like swollen vulva and bleeding, not to mention irritability, can easily cue heat is starting. There is a potential of a “silent heat” where the telltale signs are either hidden like a dog is in heat but isn’t bleeding or just unnoticed by a novice breeder. There are bigger issues like age and infection that could play a part in this. You should not be worried, but you should be informed. Let’s investigate.
What is a Regular Heat Like for a Female Dog?
A regular heat starts with estrogen levels soaring and leading to that swollen vulva, excessive licking of that area, light discharge that turns darker as the heat goes on, and mood changes. All the male dogs from three miles away come courting at your door or fence and your precious little girl starts moving her tail to the side for easier accessibility.
Keep in mind these are all general parts of the heat process. No two female dogs go through heat the same and each heat cycle can be a little different for each dog.
You have to keep a very close eye on so many behaviors, physical attributes, and hormone levels of a dog in season. It’s easy to miss some of the cues. If you start counting the estrus (the beginning of the most fertile period) on the day YOU notice blood, you might have missed something the day before and now your calendar is off.
What is a “Silent Heat”?
The term “Silent Heat” means the dog is going through heat but the signs are anywhere from invisible to barely noticeable. A breeder will get worried at this point, wanting answers to find out why the dog doesn’t appear to be in heat. A clueless dog owner will think the dog hasn’t gone through heat yet and won’t worry about anything until it’s almost too late (or actually too late).
A dog’s heat can be messy with all the discharge, but some female dogs are good self-groomers. They are licking away any evidence of discharge to keep their precious parts clean and you’re doing dishes so you don’t even notice.
The part of the heat that isn’t silent will be the hormones. If you are planning to breed, you’ll need weekly hormone level checks in the female dog to see if she’s really in heat or just delayed in her reproductive process.
Is Something Wrong with My Dog Because of “Silent Heat”?
It doesn’t mean something is wrong if the dog’s heat is silent, but something could be wrong if you know by estrogen levels that they are in the heat but are repeatedly not getting pregnant.
Dogs that are sedentary or overweight might be more likely to have reproductive issues or infertility. Prior surgery could impact the heat cycle as well.
Breeders should also be aware that if a female dog doesn’t get pregnant from a mating cycle, it could have something to do with the potential sire’s sperm and nothing at all with the female.
How Long Should I Plan for Bloody Discharge?
Some owners might be concerned when the bloody discharge stops, thinking the dog is no longer in heat. The bleeding only lasts the first 2 weeks and during this time she’s really not into any kind of mountain. The dog is actually most fertile when the bleeding subsides and the swelling goes down.
Don’t make the rookie mistake of thinking since there’s no discharge she’s done with the cycle. This is the time those male callers will literally start sniffing around and they can come from as far as three miles away to get their shot.
During this time, you should not let your dog off-leash (even in your own backyard), go to doggy daycare, or take a fun run at the dog park. This is the time for some indoor and safely restrained play with people.
Is Blood in the Urine the Same as Bloody Discharge?
There’s a big difference in health and safety concerns when it comes to blood secreting from a female dog’s genitals. A bloody discharge is a sign of heat. Blood in the actual urine stream is a sign of a potential infection.
Blood in the urine generally means there’s a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, or bladder issues. Don’t mistake the two just because you see blood in that particular area.
Is the Problem Always “Silent Heat”?
No. There are many other reasons a seemingly reproductive female dog might not be going through heat or showing the appropriate signs of it. There are even some ways you might be part of the problem.
Primary Persistent Anestrus
Due to the unknown length of time for each breed to go into heat, an owner shouldn’t be worried until 24 months without a cycle. That gives the female dog time to reach full size and maturity. It also helps rule out a silent heat has been missed.
Anything from poor nutrition, over-exercising, hormone imbalances, and genetic issues can delay the onset of estrus.
Secondary Persistent Anestrus
If your female dog had a first noticeable and successful heat, yet doesn’t seem to have a second one in at least 18 months, this is secondary persistent anestrus.
It could just be that the dog is too old for another heat or too young to have regular cycles yet. There are infections like E. coli and diseases that impact the metabolic system like kidney issues or Cushing’s disease. Obesity could play a role as well as some kinds of genetic issues. There’s just a lot to check for, so make sure to have an open, honest conversation with your veterinarian.
You could accidentally be causing an issue with reproduction if you have hormone creams or patches lying around or applied heavily to your skin and your dog gets into them. This can mess up their hormones and potentially cause cancerous ovarian tumors. Be sure to keep these items away from dogs.
How long does a German shepherd bleed when in heat?
A German shepherd bleeds while in heat for about one week and can bleed heavily especially during the first three days of her cycle when it is most intense.
The bleeding is also known as “mating bleeding” and it happens only when the female dog is in standing heat or oestrus. It can last up to seven days and will then decrease gradually as the cycle goes on. German shepherd dogs normally have their first mating at 18 months of age but you can conduct early breeding with a younger female. It is advisable to wait at least until 2 years of age when breeding a German shepherd to avoid any possible complications due to an underdeveloped reproductive system.
Watch and Learn Your Dog’s Cycle
You’ve got all the educational tools you need now to prepare for the female dog’s first heat, but you will need to take note of all her behavior from the time she hits 6 months of age (the earliest a dog will go into heat) through the first two years. Write down dates, symptoms, discharge, moods, tail movement, and male callers.
If you’re a breeder, you’ll need to time this like clockwork to get the best results. If you are just waiting for heat so the female dog can be spayed, as is now recommended to prevent growth and joint issues down the road, be super attentive to these times so you are aware when the dog has finished a heat.
It can be dangerous to do a spaying procedure while the dog is in heat as the surgical area is much more vascular and swollen in size. It’s ideal to wait two months after the first heat to spay a female dog, just to be sure, according to Dr. Nancy Kelso, Medical Director of VCA Animal Hospital at Hickory Ridge.