Home General Pet Entries An Explanation of Dogs and Cats in Heat

An Explanation of Dogs and Cats in Heat

Just like female humans have monthly menstrual cycles, female dogs and cats have cycles called estrus. It’s commonly described as being “in heat.”  During this time, unspayed female cats and dogs can become pregnant if they mate with non-neutered males. Cats as young as four months, and dogs as young as six months can start going into heat.

Signs of Going into Heat


  • Some bleeding from the vagina (usually unnoticeable)
  • Swelling of the vulva
  • Increased urination
  • Decreased appetite
  • Male dogs showing extreme interest in your dog


  • Some bleeding from the vagina (usually unnoticeable)
  • Swelling of the vulva
  • Increased urination
  • Increased affection
  • Rubbing herself on you and on objects
  • Spraying her scent on objects
  • Increased licking of her genital area
  • Loud meowing (more like yowling)
  • Assuming a mating posture (crouched, with hindquarters lifted in the air)
  • Rolling around on the floor
  • Decreased appetite
  • Male cats showing extreme interest in your cat

A dog’s heat cycle can last from two to four weeks and she can go into heat every six to eight months (usually twice a year). Cats can stay in heat from a few days to a few weeks, mostly during the spring and fall (three to four times a year).

The only way to stop this monthly cycle is to surgically remove the ovaries and uterus of the animal. This is called “spaying.”

Should You Spay?
Most people prefer to spay their cats and dogs if they are not planning to breed their pet. It can be uncomfortable for the pet to be going in and out of heat without mating, experiencing all the hormonal fluctuations and restlessness of being driven to mate but not being able to.

Consult with a veterinarian and talk about the pros and cons of spaying your pet. It is serious surgery that will require anesthesia. You should talk to your vet about any pre-operation tests that might be needed to make sure your pet can be safely anesthetized. After her surgery, you will have to restrict your pet’s activity for a time to let the incision heal. You should also watch for signs for infection(redness, swelling, discharge, pain) at the incision site. Pets may gain some weight after being spayed.

Something else you might want to consider is that spaying your animal reduces the risk of some types of cancers, such as mammary, ovarian, and uterine cancer.

Some say that the animal should go through heat once or even have a litter before spaying. But, cats and dogs as young as  six weeks can be spayed and it’s not necessary to have them go through heat beforehand. If your pet is older and has gone through heat cycles, the vet will probably wait until between cycles to spay. If your cat or dog has had a litter, you should wait a few weeks after the babies have been weaned before you have her spayed.


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