Is it Bad to Bathe a Dog in Heat?
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For female dogs which have not been spayed, their heat cycle is a part of their life and yours. Occurring an average of twice a year, a dog's behavior will become erratic and difficult for some to handle when they go into heat. While it may lessen in intensity as they age, it is something a dog guardian will have to manage from very early on in the animal's life. Perhaps the most important thing to take care of is preventing unwanted pregnancies. However, there are other practical considerations we need to make when caring for a female dog in heat.
At AnimalWised we ask is it bad to bathe a dog in heat? We see if bathing a dog will exacerbate problems with the heat cycle as well as some other tips to help provide the best care.
The heat cycle in dogs
A female dog will first enter her heat cycle from the age of only 6 to 8 months. The exact time when the dog will reach sexual maturity depends on different factors related oto the individual. Generally, however, small dogs will enter heat before larger breeds.
Although a dog will enter heat young, this does not mean they should start mating. Veterinarians warn that a dog mating too early can harm their development. If a dog should be mated, they should wait until at least 2 years of age so they can reach full physical and mental development.
The stages of a dog's heat cycle are:
- Prestrus: not many physical signs just yet, but hormones are starting to change the dog's behavior. Lasts between 3-9 days and the dog cannot yet get pregnant.
- Estrus: this is the stage where we commonly refer to the dog being ‘in heat’. The female is receptive to males and her high estrogen levels mean ovulation begins. The dog can become pregnant after copulation during this stage.
- Diestrus: this is the period after copulation, but the dog won't necessarily become pregnant.
- Anestrus: period of sexual inactivity after the heat cycle ends.
The heat cycle is accompanied by various other symptoms including swelling of the vulva, spotting/minor bleeding and excessive licking of the genital area. They will present themselves to males they wish to copulate with. Behaviorally, they will want attention and can even howl out of frustration. Inappropriate urination is also common and they may generally appear nervous and/or agitated.
Can you bathe a dog in heat?
With all of the behavioral and physical changes with a dog in heat, it is possible you think this may impede the ability to bathe them. Some dogs love getting bathed, others are particularly averse to the process. This will need to be considered when bathing them, regardless if they are in heat.
The reason we even ask whether it is OK to bathe a dog in heat is because of the myth surrounding it. Many people believe giving a dog in heat a bath can exacerbate the problems related to it. But this is nothing more than a myth. It is not only perfectly fine to bathe a dog in heat, it can be very beneficial to them. When a dog is in heat, it is likely they will bleed a little from their vulva. Bathing the dog can help remove any blood stains, something particularly important for dogs with a white coat.
This doesn't mean there are not considerations to make when bathing a dog in heat:
- While you will always need to use a dog shampoo which is suitable for your dog. If not, this can irritate their skin. If unsure what to choose, speak When a dog is in heat, their vagina is already sensitive, so using anything which can irritate it further is unpleasant.
- When bathing their genital area, ensure you do not agitate it with your hands either. You will need to be equally careful when drying them with either towels or a hairdryer.
- When a dog is in heat, they will feel uncomfortable. Ensure you use water which is of lukewarm temperature. Anything which is too hot or too cold can cause them further agitation.
- Ensure the dog is relaxed by providing a calm atmosphere and being gentle at every stage. Don't be rough or try to force them into situations which make them anxious. On the other hand, a dog in heat may really enjoy the experience, so let them enjoy it as best they can.
- Bear in mind that the dog's bleeding can soil your towels, so don't use anything you don't mind getting dirty.
Once the dog in heat has been bathed, be just as gentle and considerate when drying them. Brush their hair and give them positive reinforcement. Also, if a dog has excessive bleeding, it may be advisable to put a doggie diaper on them.
Something else to consider
While it is possible to bathe a dog in heat, we want to stress that this is not the ideal situation. Shelter systems and adoption centers are full of unwanted and abandoned dogs. Spaying and neutering your dog will not only mean they don't have a heat cycle, but it will prevent unwanted pregnancies which put further strain on this system and means dogs already in need may get overlooked (too many people want to adopt puppies).
Another important factor is the benefit spaying provides for your dog. They will not go into heat and experience the frustration which can accompany it. They are also much less likely to develop various diseases and hormonal imbalances which can occur. An ovariohysterectomy removes the uterus and ovaries of the dog, mean they will not get uterine cancer and other related problems which threaten your dog's well-being.
If you want to read similar articles to Is it Bad to Bathe a Dog in Heat?, we recommend you visit our Heat category.